Delivered by President David Moore at the 2016 Graduation Ceremony: I want to begin by telling you a story about a man who was raised in traditional Navajo culture, and who searched in nature and other places for answers to the meaning of life until one day when he was confronted with the reality of Christ. This happened during the summer after his graduation from high school at a boarding school where students from several different tribes attended. An Apache school friend invited him to visit the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. He was talked into attending the Assembly of God church in San Carlos. It was there that he encountered a vibrant form of worship. While in San Carlos he became very ill. So the people of church prayed for him and he quickly and miraculously recovered. He noticed that the people in the church joyfully lived their Christian faith and was impressed by the Pentecostal approach to Christianity. This led him to commit his life to Christ on New Year’s Day, 1948. Upon returning to his home community on the Navajo reservation he became intensely burdened for his people. He saw poverty, sickness, alcoholism, and family dysfunction that all contributed to the general attitude of hopelessness that prevailed. The strong burden he had for his people caused him to long for a way to help them so he began to dream about building a church in his home community of Shiprock, New Mexico where his people could come and find the same hope he had experienced by accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. In this man’s lifetime he was able to accomplish this and much more. In his search for more of God, he eventually received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This gave him power and courage from God to help him to accomplish his goal of building a church in his home community. But he also knew that he needed formal preparation so he enrolled as a student at and eventually graduated from Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri in 1951. AIC did not open until 1957 or I’m sure he would have attended here. After his marriage to Coralee he spent some time evangelizing on many reservations in United States and Canada, but he soon returned to  Shiprock and established Mesa View Assembly of God. The Navajos, bound by superstition, alcohol, and other problems, were slow to respond to his message. After 18 months of preaching to small groups of people who might show up at his church he still could not claim a single convert. As time went on, however, his preaching began to bear fruit and soon the church began to grow, eventually reaching over 300 in Sunday attendance. This man ministered for 36 years at the church he founded. His was the first Assemblies of God church on a reservation pastored by a Native American. One day he learned about a college similar to the one he attended that was starting in Phoenix, Arizona for American Indians. This was in 1957. Because he wanted his young converts to have the opportunity to grow in Christ and prepare themselves for ministry he started sending them to this school. He knew that he alone could not do all that was needed to bring his people to Christ. He knew he needed to send others into harvest field. Over the years of his ministry this man sent some 100 students to American Indian College from his church to become educated. In 1989 he retired as pastor, and turned the church over to his son, Eric, who had recently graduated from AIC. Eric continues to pastor the church which today is called Four Corners Community Church. After his retirement, when I previously served as president of AIC I invited this man to join the faculty and he continued here at AIC until shortly before his death in 2003. In 1994 he was honored when a building on our campus was named after him – the Charles Lee Academic Building where you graduates have taken almost all of your classes. Why am I telling you this story? Because it illustrates HOW ONE LIFE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. At least 40 of the graduates from the church Charley Lee started are now serving in ministry. Some are lead pastors of some of the largest Native American congregations in the nation. Marvin Begay, who serves on AIC Board and pastors in Canyon Day Sharon (Funston) Cornelius who serves with her husband in Tuba City Eric Lee who pastors in Shiprock, NM Lloyd Lee who pastors a Native church in Oklahoma And many others who are pastoring are who are engaged in other forms of ministry Several others are teaching school in reservation communities, or serving as school administrators or in other key positions of influence Dr. Debra Lee who is supervisor of elementary schools on the eastern side of the Navajo reservation I could go on and on about AIC graduates from this one church started by a man from a small, insignificant community by the world’s standards on the Navajo reservation, who has made a significant ministry impact on his own people and on many others, including me. You see - I learned a lot of Charley Lee. He taught me To respect elders To believe in myself To be willing to accept difficult challenges To trust in God, and many other things AND THE WORLD AWAITS YOU GRADUATES FOR SIMILAR EXPLOITS ISAIAH 49:6 “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah is sharing God’s message to the nation of Israel. They had received an incredible education in the school of learning about God’s ways and they were getting ready to graduate. God had made a promise to their tribal leader Abraham that they would become a great nation and bless all the nations of the world. God delivered them from bondage in Egypt and brought them back into their land of promise. God provided for them miraculously on many occasions. God gave them political leaders, judges, prophets, and priests to help them find their way during difficult times. Why? Because God had massive plans for them. But in spite of these massive plans that God had for them, they pretty much only want one thing. They were doing an internship in Babylon during the time of their formal education. They were getting very close to receiving their graduation diploma. And what do they want to do with their lives? They just want to get back home. But God says, “YOU WANT TO GO HOME? THIS IS A SMALL THING TO ASK. I HAVE MUCH BIGGER PLANS FOR YOU. I WANT TO GIVE YOU THE WHOLE WORLD! THINK BIGGER! THE WORLD AWAITS YOU!” Graduates, you may think that your life and your home area is not all that significant. BUT GOD WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE SIGNFICIANT HE HAS MUCH BIG PLANS FOR YOU THE WORLD AWAITS YOU! I constantly ask and think and wonder, “when will the next Charley Lee emerge?” Someone who knows that GOD HAS BIG PLANS FOR THEM. It is easy for us to fall into the victim mentality. We think our problems are unique and the problems that people have who are around us are unsolvable. BUT GOD HAS PLACED WITHIN EACH ONE OF YOU A SPECIAL GIFT THAT NO ONE ELSE POSSESSES. WHY DEPRIVE THE REST OF HUMANITY OF YOUR PHENOMENAL GIFT? The problems of SIN are everywhere in this world. These problems are not isolated to your home communities and to your sphere of understanding. YOU MAY WELL GO HOME, BUT KNOW THAT GOD IS THINKING OF SOMETHING MUCH BIGGER THAN YOU JUST GOING HOME. HE IS THINKING OF APPLYING YOUR UNIQUE GIFT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND CHANGE NOT ONLY THE COMMUNITY WHERE YOU CHOOSE TO SETTLE BUT TO USE YOU AND THE UNIQUE GIFT YOU POSSESS TO CHANGE THE WORLD. Parker Palmer said - “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” Because, Palmer continues, “Each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up.” GRADUATES, THE WORLD AWAITS YOU – ARE YOU READY?
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