Good morning, my name is Jess Samples and I am a Senior International Studies Major.
Last fall, I stopped out at Taylor. I transferred to the University of Virginia in order to enroll in a study abroad program called Semester at Sea. I flew to the Bahamas on August 28th and embarked on a remarkable journey. I proceeded to live on a ship for 4 months, traveling to Brazil, across the Atlantic Ocean to Namibia and South Africa, then to India, Malaysia, Vietnam, China and Japan, across the Pacific Ocean to Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal and back to Miami Florida on December 14th. I visited a total of ten countries and took class on the ship along with 700 peers from an amalgamation of universities across the country. My professors were all from either Stanford or the University of Virginia.
My journey took me down dirt roads on horseback, it rocked me to sleep in hammocks late into the evening, challenged me to understand violence: from slavery, atomic bombs and HIV to the abandoned, neglected, scorned and forgotten. My journey shook me, it woke me up to sunrises at sea, to the lightness of the ship on the ocean: like my burdens in Jesus' hands. To the futility of life. To white consciousness. my journey took me on reckless rickshaws, quiet catamarans, hurried bullet trains and secluded subways through the hidden cu chi tunnels and the starry Namib Desert, through apartheid and it's remnants, the flooded streets of Ha Noi, the Great Wall, and endless tea fields in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. It taught me the brevity of life: as we lost a precious and dear friend in Hong Kong.
When I first came home, I was overwhelmed. My parents and dear friends were incredible: teaching me patience and gentleness. I cam back to Taylor absolutely distraught. I felt like it was a mistake to wake up for 4 months, asking Jesus to borrow his eyes. I was not meant to see what he sees. The Pain, emptiness and want that I saw, all juxtaposed against those who have plenty, who are known, who are not in need, was all overbearing. But then He told me a story: the precious and powerful story of when he healed the paralytic. He reminded me of how He did it, "Remember? I said, 'Your sins are forgiven' and then, so they would know my authority to do so, I made him to stand'". He gave me His eyes gain, this time not for clarity of sight; but rather, perspective. Jesus Christ is my living and powerful Savior who saved me first from my sin, and now is working on healing me of its effects.
So, I have let Him lead the remainder of this dance: Semester at Sea was incredible, but when Kurt Leswing died in Hong Kong, all the University of Virginia had to offer was its academics. No hope offered, no truth or light to be made evident. The bombastic shipmates who blamed the Christian God for colonization and slavery (and most other suffering in the World) were broken, and too hopeless or perhaps stubborn to allow Jesus to meet them where they were.
But at Taylor, God has supplied some answers, in His time. He has taught me through Dr. Corduan, to learn wisdom and moral instruction and to discern wise counsel. Jesus has taught me through Dr. Lay and Steve Austin, that it does not work to keep humbling myself, that I must cease to seek information bias, and desire a heart that pleads for Jesus to correct me when I am wrong. Through Dr. Seeman: I've learned the beauty of conviction: that he cannot hardly speak truth without it affecting him. Jesus has taught me through my peers here at Taylor, to pursue knowledge insomuch as I am first pursuing the Lord, to not be afraid to learn trust or love through the risk of attempting them in the strength of Christ.
I realized months after I returned from my voyage, that "my journey" was really Jesus. He took me down those dirt roads on horseback, taught me of violence on both macro and personal levels. He rocked me to sleep in hammocks late into the evening in Salvador. He enlightened me on the brevity of life, of cognitive and affective empathy and that in the beginning, was Father, Son and Spirit: in the beginning was love and relationship. Love and relationship have been at the beginning through the Trinity, and I am not invited into this dance, invited to accept as well as offer this love and to accept as well as enter into this relationship.
Thank you Lord,