“From the altars of the past, take the flame and leave the ash.”
It all began one cold day in March when 46 year old Francis A. Johnson decided to do something about the annoying bits of baler twine clogging his manure spreader. He had always been a compulsive collector of old tools, farm machinery, and just about anything that might be valuable someday. By his own admission, he was so busy collecting things he never had time to date. All his life he was single until he died in his mid-eighties.
On that day he began tying those bits of baler twine together. He wrapped his lengthening string together into a huge ball of twine. By the time he finished over 30 years later it was 13 feet tall, 44 feet in circumference, and weighed 21,140 pounds. It was long enough to go from his front yard in Darwin, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
He made it into the Guinness World Book of Records. Tourists still stop in to observe this odorous tribute to his frugality and eccentricity.
From time to time, Mr. Johnson pulled up his lawn chair just to look at it and contemplate his accomplishment. Before he died he was quoted, “I still like to look at it. It’s the greatest thing I ever did.” He lived over 80 years and the high water mark of his entire life was a smelly ball of twine that could be gone in a moment with one match.
I thought of Mr. Johnson when I read these words by Elton Trueblood, “A college must, sooner or later, justify its existence.” That’s why Valley Forge Christian College has our mission statement. We all want to leave a mark. We all want to make a difference.
During the 2013-2014 college year at Valley Forge Christian College we are celebrating our Dodranscentennial, the 75th year. This Diamond Jubilee or what some would also call the Semisesquicentennial Year will be marked by a series of year-long activities designed to highlight the College’s history, values and achievements, and will use the occasion to honor the thousands of persons who have contributed to helping fulfill its mission.
The college was chartered in 1939 as Eastern Bible Institute (EBI), Green Lane, PA when several small schools here in the northeast consolidated. The oldest of those small schools was Beulah Heights Bible Institute, North Bergen, New Jersey, which began in 1912. With additional mergers and growth, EBI expanded to Northeast Bible Institute (NBI) and, when a fourth year was added, it became Northeast Bible College (NBC).
In 1976-77 NBC moved to the site of the former Valley Forge General Military Hospital, Phoenixville, PA and the name was changed to Valley Forge Christian College. In recent years the campus has experienced a metamorphosis with the removal and remodeling of old buildings and the construction of many new structures.
But the legacy of VFCC will not be found in its facilities. As Pericles said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” The 48 flags in the Flower Chapel represent the 48 countries where VFCC alums are serving as living reminders of the VFCC legacy.
You can find the DiTrolio’s in Argentina and the Robertson’s in India. Rachel is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Dociah is in Zambia. From military chaplains to church leaders and from the court room attorneys to the board room business people, VFCC alumni are daily changing the world. They are also around the corner where David is an administrator and Manny is a teacher next door at Renaissance Academy.
For 75 years it has been about the mission: To prepare individuals for a life of service and leadership in the church and in the world. With 57 undergraduate majors and six Master’s degrees, VFCC’s brightest days are yet ahead.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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