Alfred Lord Tennyson, in his famous poem “Ulysses,” spoke of the virtues of perseverance and optimism. After the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, Tennyson struggled through a period of deep despair (which he eventually overcame) to begin writing again. Many of his poems are about the temptation to give up and fall prey to pessimism, but they also extol the virtues of optimism and discuss the importance of struggling on with life. The need to persevere and continue is the central theme of “Ulysses.”

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Both Tennyson and Paul penned words about challenges and forebearance. And both of these writers wrote from experience. Paul wrote this letter at the end of his Roman imprisonment and, despite facing death himself, he wrote about the goodness of Christ, and how hardship ultimately leads to joy! We all have experienced, in some way, how COVID has squeezed the joy from us. Our shoulders slumped and our heads bowed, and we found some days—or months—very difficult to get through.

This year continues to be filled with twists and turns and it’s hard to keep up! In fact, in the time between my writing this and you reading it, there is a good chance something involving your plans, my plans, or your student’s plans have already changed. In this seemingly never-ending season of the unknown and disconnection that is sprinkled with hope and paths forward, some of us may still be far from feeling joyful. Yet, through it all, there is a light at the end of this long tunnel.

I just want to assure you that we have not forgotten about you. In all this time apart, we have been praying for you, for this ministry, and discerning what will be best for our students and their families moving forward. God is doing a great and new thing and we can’t wait to see how Student Ministry plans unfold. The Student Committee, George, and I are ready to meet God with openness, creativity, and intentionality so that what is best for our students is reflected in our planning. And because things don’t all unfold at once—we encourage you to stay connected to us through the student website and social media, which will be updated constantly with the most current and accurate information. – Dane

“As we continue on this journey together, may we know that God goes before us and with us, granting us grace and peace. It may be that the gulfs will wash us down: It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, and see the great Achilles, whom we knew. Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” – Tennyson