What Matters Most…

Maple seeds and other miracles of hope

     Milagros! Miracles! During the fall semester, 19 students took Professor of Art Judy Wenig-Horswell’s last official jewelry class before she retires in June and experienced the power of milagros. In Latin America and in other cultures, a milagro is a pendant that represents either a miracle for which the wearer is thankful or a miracle for which she or he hopes and prays to come to pass.
     Students were asked to design and create personal milagros using a “found object” that could either be worn as a pendant or displayed in other ways. One student designed his milagro using two rocks he brought back from his Study-Service Term in Nicaragua in thankful memory of his experiences there and as a prayer for the well-being of people of that poor and conflicted nation. Another student designed a “tree of life” milagro to symbolize “growth” and “renewal” in which each branch contained a personalized symbol representing her mom, dad, brother, two sisters and her. The milagro or miracle in her life for which she was most thankful was, in her words, those “who make my life what it is – my family.” I wish I could recount for you all the “found objects” and miracles experienced and miracles hoped for by these students. To do so would not only fill these pages and many more, but also fill your heart and soul beyond measure.
     If I were to design a milagro for Goshen College my “found object” would be, no doubt, a maple seed – you remember, that whirly-gig, helicopter-like seed that is itself a miracle of design and playful wonder. For me, the maple seed symbolizes the miracle of hope, which echoes this year’s spiritual life theme at Goshen College: “Sensing God’s Hope, Claiming God’s Hope.” For me, hope, like a miracle, isn’t mere “wishful thinking.” Hope is “confident expectation” based upon past or present signposts of God’s participation in our lives. Hope is a mighty unstoppable force. For me, these days, that’s what matters most.
     To mix seed and nut metaphors a bit, Ralph Waldo Emerson likened hope to the power of one acorn to create a thousand forests. Or put less eloquently, another sage mused, “Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” I am so hopeful about the future, in part, because at Goshen College our students are a bit “nuts” – holy, thoughtful, mighty nuts holding their ground. Our students are maple seeds, the source of a thousand future forests of miraculous possibility.
     Milagros! Miracles! Seeds of hope! Recently, I received a letter from a stranger to Goshen College, that is until he and his wife hosted four of the GC Women’s World Music Choir members in their home. He wrote, “The music was absolutely fantastic. But, it’s not because of the music I’m writing you, but about the extremely fine group of women we hosted in our home … Truly, if these ladies are representative of the students at your institution, you are more than extremely fortunate.” Indeed, we are fortunate.
     Our sports teams are competitive in the conference, but even more, they are seeds of hope in a hurting world. Our Athletic Department sponsors a child from Rwanda with HIV, the basketball team recently offered a free basketball clinic at a local elementary school and went on to play at the Ionia Maximum Security Correctional Facility in Michigan as part of the inmates’ rehabilitation. “I was in prison and you visited me,” Christ said to his disciples – affirming words to our disciple-athletes.
     This issue of the Bulletin is full of reminders of miracles that have sustained Goshen College through 114 years of its existence – countless individuals who planted “maple seeds” of hope. We also see in this issue, future miracles unfolding, lives transformed at Goshen College, maple seeds, Maple Leafs, who have and will heliport and whirly-gig by the wind of the Spirit in service to God and others all over the planet. Our students and alumni are miracles-in-the-making, the plantings of a thousand forests of dreams and possibilities. They are, you are, divine signposts of a hope-filled future. Miracles! Milagros!

Dr. James E. Brenneman
President of Goshen College

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