The ninth four-month Cornerstone class has come and gone. It’s hard to believe we’ve been at this for nearly a decade! Every class is special, I’ll be the first to insist on that. What made 2011’s class so special? I think it was a combination of several things, but two in particular come to mind. Let me share them with you.
First of all, the 2011 class is the first class we’ve ever conducted at our very own facility! Over the years, we’ve rented furnished corporate housing or summer camp facilities from other denominations, but not this year. This year we were in the new ARISE campus located in Jasper, Oregon. The facility, a former boarding academy, is absolutely perfect for our needs and the needs of our students. To be sure, we were saddened to hear of the academy’s closure; there can be no rejoicing when a Seventh-day Adventist institution closes its doors. The academy board, however, was persuaded that the time was right. We did not encourage their decision, but we did support it once it was made.
You don’t have to look very hard to see a gospel illustration in this. One gives up its life so another can live and prosper. We are not rejoicing in the death, but we are certainly rejoicing in the resurrection! And it’s not just us who are rejoicing. The former board chairman is my new neighbor (and a long-time friend), and he is fully enthusiastic and supportive of ARISE’s move to “his neck of the woods.” So while there is still sadness in all of our hearts, that sadness is tempered with great joy.
There is just no comparison to the way it was versus now. It’s a whole new world.
As one of the co-founders of ARISE, it is impossible for me to adequately communicate just how significant it is for us to have our own facility. In the past we’ve had to work around our landlords’ schedules, rules, and perspectives. Not anymore! We can have spontaneous praise services any day and at any hour! We can invite community contacts to come for worship services, to listen to visiting instructors, or for a game of ultimate frisbee. We have an on-site dean (Matt Minikus) who, with his wife Josie, lives literally with the students. This creates ongoing and important opportunities for ministry, mentorship, and friendship. We can take evening, morning, or afternoon walks (or runs!) around the expansive grounds. We can even have class out on the lawn on a bluebird day (which we did several times!).
The list goes on and on. Really, there is just no comparison to the way it was versus now. It’s a whole new world.
There’s a second reason that this ninth class was in a class of their own. It has to do with their phenomenal academic success. First, a little background. The Cornerstone program offers three levels of certification. The most demanding is called the Certificate of Highest Excellence, which requires the equivalent of at least 99% on all reading, assignments, and tests. For example, each student is required to memorize 100 verses in the 100 days they are here. The memorization has to be exact word-for-word in the New King James Version. The students are tested weekly on the assigned verses. In order to attain to highest excellence, a student has to make three or less mistakes total for all 100 verses! A “mistake” is any deviation from the word-for-word text, even the very smallest.
The second most demanding certificate is the Certificate of Excellence, which requires the equivalent of 97-98% on all reading, assignments, and tests. The third is called simply the Certificate of Completion and is still the equivalent of a “B” to “A-” in the traditional grading system. So it’s A+, A, and A-/B. Anything below the “B” receives no certificate status, and does not participate in the graduation/commissioning service at the end of the course.
In fairness to the other classes, we’ve only been employing this system for the last three years so it’s difficult to make comparisons (not that we would want to anyway). Nevertheless, this year’s class is remarkable in terms of their commitment and performance. Of the 39 students, 25 attained the Highest Excellence level! Remember, that’s 99-100%! Nine reached the Excellence level (97-98%), and four received the Completion Certificate (a “B” to “A-”). Furthermore, of the 25 at the Highest Excellence level, 12 scored a full 100% on their Scripture memorization tests. That’s a perfect 100% on 100 verses in 100 days!
And that’s the best indicator of all.
I can say in the plainest of language that I was personally completely inspired by this year’s class. Their academic and in-the-community accomplishments are truly amazing and inspiring. But let me hasten to add that I am sure that this class (or any other!) would take no credit or praise for their efforts. They would give all the glory, honor, and praise to Him who alone deserves it!
And that’s the best indicator of all.
They not only learned the words, texts, books, and doctrines. They learned what (Who!) all of it points to: Jesus Christ!
Thank you class of 2011, you’ve inspired me. And you’ve taught me a great deal about God and His love. I, along with the other staff here at Light Bearers, am indebted to you.
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17).