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THE COMMENCEMENT MESSAGE

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By Ken Begley

 

WCHS had its graduation last week. There were many moving words spoken, full of hope and promise for the future. 

However, the most meaningful message to me personally came not from these beautiful words. 

It came from a special- needs student that graduated at the age of 20, who did no more than slowly walk across the stage to receive his diploma. My son, Will, who was an usher for the graduation, had the great honor to assist him onto the stage. I was thankful Will received that chance to do so. 

The former student’s name is Mr. Christopher Powers. He is a most remarkable young man that has been on a painful journey that has required discipline, inner strength and a remarkable faith in God Almighty to reach the point of getting that diploma.

I first heard about Mr. Powers when he was 13. I followed his story over a small Christian radio station in Danville. They have a daily call-in prayer hour for suffering people.  Christopher was always on their prayer list. They would give regular updates on him. 

What a tough life this young man has had to endure. It sounds like the Book of Job. I listened to one regular commentator on the station fight back tears as she related his story.  Christopher’s never- ending health problems started with his first operation when he was 30 days old. Chronic physical problems are always the worst and when they involve young people, they’re heartbreaking.

He is now 20 and has battled cancer and other medical problems since birth. It is mind numbing to know the number of trips he has made to doctors and hospitals over the years.

Nevertheless, that’s where the sad part ends on this story. No, he hasn’t been healed.  Something greater than that was revealed. It was a love and trust in God Almighty.

I was stunned to learn how much he cared about Jesus. Once, he wanted his treatments to hurry up so he would be sure to get back to church for services. Tell me the last time you met anyone, tested or not, that truly felt that way? How many times have we looked at our watch during church and wondered how much longer it would take? How many times do we look on worship services as a chore instead of a treat? I know I’ve been guilty on all counts.

It intrigued me to listen about someone that young. Someone not shaken or bitter by all the hardship his body has had to endure. Painful chronic illness does not develop character. It reveals it.  Truly, he must be one of God’s own with an unshakeable faith. I envy that.

Christopher is continuing his treatments by visiting several hospitals and doctors as our vast medical system struggles to battle these devastating illnesses. He continues in his own faith in God despite suffering something he didn’t deserve.

Many times as we go through life, we will suffer and struggle through problems and crises that were not of our making.  Sometimes, the results are very bad indeed. We look upon our situation and say, “I didn’t deserve that.” We come to doubt the goodness of a God that lets it happen. 

Why would a good God let some people suffer so? 

Because sometimes God uses suffering, those involved and those that watch from the sidelines, to guide us to Him. The true Christians learn to trust and rely totally upon God, no matter what. It’s something you must be able to do if you expect to spend an eternity with God and it still be heaven.

Christopher may not know it, but he is an apostle of God. You see, apostle means messenger. He brings his message not by pretty words that anyone can say, but by actions that truly reflect his heart and soul. 

You know, I may be 54, but to this day, I listen very closely to what my father tells me. I have come to recognize the wisdom of what he has to say and I value his thoughts when I have a tough decision to make.

When I was young, Daddy would frequently point out men he admired around our county, meekly look me in the eye and say, “He’s a good man.” Somehow, those few humble words carried meaning far beyond the syllables uttered. The admiration my father felt never centered on accumulating wealth or honor in this world. 

No, it always centered on making the most out of what God gave you. It involved fighting off adversity in all its forms. It was the ability to never give up, no matter what cards life has dealt you. 

I would pray for Christopher, but what I really hope is Christopher prays for us. 

We need it much worse and I’m sure his prayers go much higher.   

Take care, Christopher. 

I love you, buddy, and I can give you no higher honor than to say as my father would say.

You are a “good man.”