The Role of the Mentor on a Christian Campus

by Verlie Ward, 1997 Distinguished Faculty Lecturer

About the Author

Mr. President, Members of the Walla Walla College Board, Faculty, Staff, Students, Educators in this community, my Friends. I thank you for this opportunity to share with you tonight. I want to tell you that when Dr Nelson called to ask me if I would give this address, I laughed and said, "Each time I have sat and listened to this lecture I have done so with the comfort of knowing that I would never be asked to do it myself." After a few minutes of conversation I clearly remember him saying to me, "Now Verlie you do realize this is an honor." At that moment I knew he was serious. But what I didn't realize at that time is that it would become a privilege and a blessing for me. This is possibly one of the most interesting academic assignments that I have ever been given. The timing was good. It has provided me with the opportunity to investigate the meaning, the history, the what, the why and the how of Mentoring. It has also led me to thoughtfully examine mentoring in my own life.
I wish to share with you the process of my research and some of my findings. I began this task by examining the Biblical models of mentoring and looked at familiar stories from a new perspective. I read about Elijah and Elisha, David and Jonathon, Naomi and Ruth, Jesus and the disciples, Paul and Timothy. I discovered powerful stories of men and women who shared not only their wisdom and their passions but their lives. I was inspired by the amount of time mentors invested in their protégés. These mentors cared deeply about those who would follow in their footsteps and sought to prepare them for life and ministry.
I next examined the history of mentoring. The Jews called Yahweh their Mentor. They also turned to priests, rabbis, prophets and wise men as spiritual leaders. The early Christian church fostered mentoring in the form of spiritual guidance. St Basil, who lived 334-379 A.D. wrote to the believers, urging them to find a man "who may serve you as a very sure guide in the work of leading a holy life", one who knows the "straight road to God," and he warns that "to believe that one does not need counsel is great pride" (Leech, 1977, p. 41).
In the fourth and fifth centuries the Desert Fathers in Egypt, Syria and Palestine modeled spiritual
direction. Disciples would seek advice and guidance from these holy men of the desert who helped to shape the inner life through prayer and pastoral care. In the Celtic tradition we find the figure of the "Soul Friend" emerging. The Soul-Friend was essentially a guide and counselor. During the 7th Century St. John Climacus insisted that, "beginners who wished to leave Egypt for the promised land must find another Moses to be their guide" (Ibid, p.45). By the 10th Century there were many Eastern religions who upheld spiritual mentors. Buddhism had medicant ascetics and in China, they turned to sages for spiritual guidance. During the 16th Century we find a woman, Teresa of Avila establishing foundations for supporting men and women in their spiritual life. She encouraged interior prayer which was regarded with suspicion at that time. In 18th Century Russia, spiritual guides were known as the Startsy. To become a Staretz was to live a simple, humble life, devoted to acquiring the Holy Spirit (Ibid. p.47). I found that throughout history patterns of mentoring have been established.
I spent some time examining my own personal history of mentoring. I thought of my parents and their loving guidance in my life. Then I remembered an elementary school teacher named Miss Gilmore, who taught me grades two through six. She shaped my handwriting, taught me my times tables, how to read and write. She gave me a passion for music, poetry, literature, art and a curiosity for life. Best of all she modeled superbly the craft of teaching. A week ago she called from New Zealand to acknowledge the invitation to this address. There she was again challenging me and congratulating me and when I told her that I was going to speak of her as one of my significant mentors, her response was instant, "Young lady, you will do nothing of the sort". For a few minutes I was the child again being mentored by a wise and loving grade school teacher.
I also recalled the college professor who modeled the journey of faith for me. Pr Hefron was a brave man with the conviction that his students would learn to think. While he posed many questions he modeled a deep commitment to God. In those days teachers did not have the luxury of an office and he had a room in his home set aside for students, so that we could come and talk with him.
I thought about the many ways I have been mentored on this campus. I came here as an inexperienced college teacher. Within weeks of my arrival Dr. Ochs suggested that I continue my Doctoral studies. He recommended that I send away for bulletins and he helped me to find the right place to pursue the degree and my colleagues helped to carry the load while I studied. As I look into your faces tonight I see many who have and continue to mentor me in thoughtful and inspiring ways. I thank you.
I recall one mentor who gave me his finest gift, the gift of time. I was writing a dissertation. The data had been gathered, analyzed and organized. Then came the arduous task of writing. My major professor Dr. Milligan from Washington State University met with me daily at 2:00 p.m. to guide me and edit my notes. I learned much from his attention to detail and his ability to ask thoughtful questions.
Next I found stories of mentoring relationships. I read of Plato who was mentored by Socrates, Beethoven who quickly absorbed the example of Haydn into his musical life. Florence Nightingale who turned to Sidney Herbert for support to carry out needed medical reform that she could never have achieved alone. Mendel the geneticist who found renewal from his physics teacher Friedrich Franz. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was influenced by the his college President Dr. Benjamin Mays and the chapel addresses he gave. Mays constantly reminded the students of Morehouse college that, "They may be poor; they may be black; their ancestors may have been slaves; they may be segregated and discriminated against, but still be free in their minds and in their souls" (Colston, 1993, p. 8).
I read the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life, which is studded with mentoring relationships. He mentored his peers as well as his students. Finally in the concentration camp he gave hope to those with whom he was incarcerated. Even the prison guards were changed forever because of what they saw in his personal life (Bonhoeffer, 1954, Introduction).
After investigating these stories of mentoring I turned to current research and found that mentors do indeed make an impact upon lives of protégés, whether in education or the business world. In September of this year the American Medical Association published a study which concluded that high school students who are mentored are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, tobacco or become sexually active at an early age. Other studies show that College Students who are mentored are more successful as students, make an easier transition into adulthood and the selection of a successful career. Business people who are mentored earn higher salaries and move up the ladder of success more rapidly.
What I next uncovered has transformed my picture of mentoring. It has awakened a desire for a deeper connection with protégés. It has also helped me to catch a glimpse of what it is to be a faithful mentor. I have begun a journey and I am eager to share my discoveries with you.
Most students come to college to obtain a degree or to learn skills for a job. On the way to the degree many students discover that the road upon which they have embarked is full of surprises and detours. In exploring these new pathways, they discover goals never considered, questions they have never entertained and satisfactions previously unknown. The role of the mentor is not to fix the road but rather to help the young adult to find meaning, create a purposeful vision and become a competent traveler on that road (Daloz, 1987).
Young adulthood is the birthplace of adult vision and vitality. For vision to be realized the young adult enters a natural, developmental process of re-evaluating his/her beliefs and forming a personal self-chosen set of values. These become the launching pad for adulthood. Very often college becomes the place where young adults begin this process. This experience involves a careful examination of the most elemental beliefs upon which they have built their lives. These beliefs are usually established upon what Parks (1991) calls, "An uncritical dependence on prevailing convention, family, church and peer group" (p. 2). This journey is an honest search to gain richer understandings and a recomposing of faith. A faith that is not static or bound but one that contains a depth of significance and meaning for the individual. To be human is to seek to make meaning to find order and form, to make connections. This process is made clearer in a supportive nurturing environment among individuals who have begun the walk and have sustained their personal faith.
Parks (1991) chooses the metaphor of the canopy which comes to life for us in Fiddler on the Roof. In the musical the second daughter follows her revolutionary lover to Siberia. Remember the scene when father and daughter are standing together on that desolate prairie, waiting for the train. The father acknowledges his deep inner pain because he does not know when he will see his daughter again. It is then, that she responds to him with a tender farewell gift by saying, "I promise you Father, I will be married under the canopy." She is promising her father that the fabric of meaning will be sustained in the next generation. This canopy symbolizes meaning in the faith community. A safe place of shelter where one can unpack the knowledge he/she has accumulated thus far. A place where one can investigate the fabric of meaning about life without unraveling or rending the weavings. A place of honesty and integrity from which the adult will emerge. A place of safety, where one is not threatened by the process, even if it is frightening for them and those individuals who support them.
Erikson (1964) tells us that the test of a culture (in this case the culture is Walla Walla College) is its capacity to nurture and to receive its idealistic young adults and initiate them into the future. It is a place where there is respect for the past and the freedom to allow growth in an interdependent, contemporary society. This canopy is a strong covering offered by all those who work in this institution. For mentoring takes place in the small daily tasks of this campus. It is the careful planting of a tree, the cleaning of carpets, the repair of a door lock, the sorting of mail, the preparation of meals, the struggle to adjust to advanced technology, the thoughtful preparation of classes and the grading of papers, the management of books in the library and the balancing of budgets. These and more our students see and learn from.
To enter under this canopy the young adult needs to sense support and trust. Ericson reminds us that trust is foundational to the developmental process. It is the well from which we draw the courage to let go of the things that we no longer need and to receive what is of worth (Daloz, 1986). When that trust is offered the developmental process continues. If however, young people are unable to unpack and examine their personal values this task is often delayed, sometimes until midlife. In some situations an individual can become permanently frozen in this stage of development and never form that core of self chosen values that give them individual integrity, faith and a sense of worth.
Richard R Niebuhr (1972) recognizes this young adult faith growing experience as a time of suffering where doubt, struggling, yearning and despair become a natural part of the life. Parks (1991) goes so far as to use the metaphor of a shipwreck to describe "the coming apart of what has been a shelter and protection and has held and carried one where one wanted to go, the collapse of a structure that once promised trustworthiness" (p.24). Shipwreck can be precipitated by many events, a divorce in the family, sickness, a poor moral choice, disillusionment or just life itself. However, Parks does not leave us there. She goes on to describe the washing up on a new shore where there is gladness, relief and restoration, a new sense of vitality. And more than this, there is transformation.
I see College as a place where mature Christian mentors provide living models of faith. People who have experienced hope and joy and also of pain, loss, suffering and disillusionment. They have grieved their losses and have washed up on a new shore of peace, gladness and restoration. Students who are seeking receptiveness for their new fragile emerging selves look for this canopy of faith, this shelter where they can find confirmation, acceptance and a sense of community. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit the student is then able to begin the work of restoration and transformation, moving beyond their doubts and losses to a new meaning, and a stronger faith.


The original Mentor is introduced to us in Homer's Odyssey. When Odysseus set off for the Trojan War, he asked his trusted servant, the old wise Mentor to educate and guide his infant son Telemakhos during his ten year absence. This education was to include every aspect of the boys life, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual and social. Mentor faithfully cares for the son and as the boy matures he encourages him to search for his father. Mentor Urges the boy on his journey, finds a ship and accompanies him part of the way, then departs. Later Mentor reappears to help father, son and grandfather recapture their heritage and return home. Mentor is the classic transitional figure in that he is there helping the young man make the transition into manhood and confirming his identity as an adult. He is also available to support the father and grandfather as they make adjustments and changes later in life (Daloz, 1986).
Mentoring comes from the Greek work meaning enduring, it is defined as a sustained relationship.
Anderson and Shannon (1988) speak of mentoring as "A nurturing process in which a more skilled or more experienced person, serving as a role model, teaches, sponsors, encourages, counsels, and befriends a less skilled or less experienced person for the purpose of promoting the latter's professional and/or personal development. Mentoring functions are carried out within the context of an ongoing, caring relationship between the mentor and protégé" (p. 40). Webster simply calls the mentor a wise and faithful counselor.
In the Biblical model a mentor is simply one who is willing to be used by God in the service of others. Throughout scripture two major motifs that emerge. "First the mentor is faithful to God (and to those who are being mentored). Secondly the mentor is one who serves and in turn is served by God" (Mentoring: Philosophy and Practice, 1996, p.1).
It was fascinating to discover the many names given to mentors: parent, coach, priest, host, guide, teacher, sponsor, fairy godmother, godfather, maestro, master practitioner, spiritual director, counselor, friend, role model, advisor, advocate, confidant, scholar and perhaps my favorite Geezer. In fact the article I read began with these words, "Latch on to the old geezer and sop up all you can from them." and concludes by saying, "the more wrinkles they have, the more stories they can tell, the more experience and wisdom they have. They have travelled enough miles to become interesting" (Clark, 1996, p. 40).
Mentoring is not something that can be assigned any more than one can arrange friendships or demand a caring relationship. Friendships and relationships grow when there is common ground, mutual respect, and a willingness to be open to one another. Some of the most beneficial mentoring can occur without assignment or even awareness of the mentor. I found it interesting to discover that some people do not choose to be mentored. This was confirmed in a questionnaire that I gave my students. There are some who can name no mentors and simply choose to make life on their own.
The mentor is a builder, a nurturer who sees beneath the layers into the depth of the soul. A mentor sees the potential in all humanity. Bruno Bettelheim (1975) reminds us that with the support of a mentor we can indeed, survive the terror of the coming journey and undergo the transformation by moving through, not around, our fear. Mentors give us the magic that allows us to enter the darkness: a talisman to protect us from evil spells, a gem of wise advice, a map, and sometimes simply courage. But always the mentor appears near the outset of the journey as a helper, equipping us in some way for what is to come, a midwife to out dreams.
While mentors appear throughout our lives they are more evident in early years and during times of transition. In later years however, they often appear in less conventional forms. I wonder if this is because in later years we are looking toward goals that sustain the inner life. Mentors in these later years come in the form of an artist, a woodcarver, a carpenter, a master gardener, a fine cook, a skilled craftsman or woman, a spiritual guide, a poet or writer. These later life mentors assists us with the work of inner realignment and creativity. The concept of growth is interwoven with role of the mentor. In its simplest terms, "A mentor is someone we feel drawn to who knows things about life that we desire to learn" (Daloz, 1986, p.210).
So what does a mentor do?
The first business of the mentor is to listen to the dreams of the protégé. Bonhoffer (1954) writes "He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too" (p. 98). We will listen to the way our students are living, what do they want for themselves, how do they tell their stories. Daloz (1986) believes that you can tell a good mentor by how much he/she knows about the family and the life of the protégé. He describes listening as the most powerful intervention that the mentor has. Listening for a significant part of the tale, responding to what one hears, reinforcing parts of the story. It is rather like holding a mirror before the student, extending their self awareness.
The mentor invites protégés to observe their own growth and to acknowledge and name the changes, to invite self reflection. This is a deliberate asking for reflection which is necessary for lasting growth. Mentoring is waiting for the student to gain perspective, to see the changes. Virgil knew that Dante could never see the light until he had plumbed the darkness.
Another significant task of the mentor is to provide vision. Tillich says in the Christian context mentors offer a kind of light. This light gives vitality and authenticity to the mentor an inner glow that is discernable. Daloz (1986) writes that "Mentors 'hang around' through transitions a foot on either side of the gulf, they offer a hand to help the protégé swing across. By their very existence mentors provide proof that the journey can be made, the leap taken" (p.213).
Mentors offer hope. No person can exist without hope. The generations who follow us are looking for this. They are not looking for exhortation but for connection, nourishment and hope. They are searching for communities where the humble and the wise learn together, where trusting strugglers lock arms with one another as they walk on together. Protégés need to hear not only of our successes but also of our pain and our sufferings, of the dark night of the soul. Most of all they need to see the quiet working of the Spirit in our lives.
The mentor asks questions. Sue Monk Kidd (1992) talks about her mentor, she writes, "Sometimes when I ask my mentor a question, she responds, not with an answer but with an even bigger question. Sometimes my soul has to get on tiptoe just to hear it" (p. 158). A fellow questioner helps us to live with our questions, hold onto the unknowing rather than rushing into incomplete answers. Anthony de Mello (1989) puts it well, "Some people will never learn anything because they grasp too soon. Wisdom, after all, is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling. ....To know exactly where you're headed may be the best way to go astray. Not all who loiter are lost" (p. 38). It is often the patient act of living with a question that helps us to unravel the answer. Questions bend and reshape us, make our souls malleable. When we offer protégés time to live with questions, not forcing answers, a God given enlightenment dawns from within that is well worth the waiting.
The mentor offers challenge by facilitating the intellectual development of the protégé. Often this is an intense interactive relationship in which both the mentor and protégé benefit This function works best in the context of a caring relationship between mentor and protégé. Affirmation is challenge's twin, students need both in the dialogue. Affirmation with challenge is what gives them confidence and wings.
When I asked college students what they respected most in a mentor they wrote: one who is genuine, authentic, willing to help, one who shows compassion and encouragement. When I asked them what they needed the list was much longer. The item listed most frequently was the need for a good listener. As one student wrote I need a strong shoulder and a large ear. They asked for reassurance and gentle guidance, they wrote, "Guide me as I discover, do not make my
discoveries for me." They asked for mentors who are not judgmental, who look for the good in them and trust their intelligence. While at the same time they want sound advice from one who is knowledgeable. They are looking for mentors who are not afraid to make mistakes and who are willing to laugh at themselves. Finally students asked for mentors who will share their personal spiritual journey and show them that knowing God has changed their lives.
Let us take a critical view of mentoring for a moment. Teaching is a relatively safe occupation. It is the creation of a learning environment, sharing information, inviting participation and feedback. Mentoring is not safe. When you offer yourself as a mentor you are vulnerable, open and observed. Mentoring begins with relationships, it is the giving of one's self.
Young adults are entering a different world today from the world in which most of us grew up. The day of the expert is waning. In the words of Clinten and Stanley (1992), "The relational connection between knowledge and experience givers and receivers has weakened or broken (p.1). There is a disillusionment with leadership - few leaders finish well. We are living at a time when independence and choice are prized. Heroes and wise men and women have been replaced with celebrities. People of television and movie fame who have become the heroes of our time.
Is mentoring still relevant? How can it become meaningful for this generation? I propose the kind of mentoring that offers meaning, purpose and a foundation not only for life but also for a life of faith.
Why would one offer one's self as a mentor:
First the mentor needs the protégé as much as the protégé needs the mentor. Mentoring changes us, similar to the way parenting does. We thrive on meaningful interactions with the next generation. As we accompany our students in an exploration of learning and faith it rekindles our own fires. At this college we see the promise in the next generation and it gives us hope. It also serves to awaken in us our own tired dreams and invigorates us with renewed passion and vision.
In our inmost souls we all have a need to be needed de Saint-Exupery (1979) writes, "Those who barter nothing of themselves become nothing" (p.30). Human life by its very nature has to be dedicated to something. When a life is lived selfishly it lacks tension, form, direction. It is a lonely road leading to nowhere. That is why Erikson (1964) writes, "The adult . . . is so constituted as to need to be needed lest he suffer the mental deformation of self-absorption, in which he becomes his own infant and pet" (p.130). He reminds us that we are all the teaching species and we need to teach, not just for our students but for ourselves as well. This drive to generativity is the antidote for stagnation. The protégé is in essence a fellow traveler and we are sharing our maps, our insights our visions.
Henri Nouwen (1975) speaks of the rewards of mentoring. He recalls a day on which a young man who had been his student returned to pay a visit. When this young man entered the room he made the remark that, "I have no problems this time, no questions to ask you. I do not need counsel or advice, but I simply want to celebrate some time with you". For a time they sat facing each other and talked of work, mutual friends and of the restlessness of their hearts. After a time they both fell silent, not an uncomfortable silence. Nouwen describes it as a warm and gentle silence. A presence seemed to embrace them. Then his student said "It is good to be here" and Nouwen replied, "Yes it is good to be together again." There was silence again and once more the student spoke hesitantly, "When I look at you it is as if I am in the presence of Christ." Nouwen without embarrassment replied "It is the Christ in you that recognizes the Christ in me." Then the student spoke memorable words of healing to Nouwen, "From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground" (p. 45). A rare gift from a protégé to a mentor.
Why mentor? Successful people rarely reach their goals alone. Mc Greevy (1990) writes, "For centuries it has been said that almost always, wherever independence and creativity flourish and persist and important achievements occur, there is some other person who plays the role of mentor or sponsor" (p. 5). This is a real person whose very presence gives us an awareness of beauty, stimulates and challenges potentialities, and provides an opportunity for expansion in the aesthetic and spiritual realm, as well as in intellectual pursuits.
Throughout our lives we need to see growth, to create, to succeed. This is often accomplished through our vocations. Yamamoto (1988) speaks of three stages of growth in our career. The emphasis during the initial stages of our vocational endeavor is on what we can accomplish alone, can we demonstrate our competence for the task. As time goes on however those expectations change. In mid career it matters more what we can do in cooperation and collaboration with others. Finally in the mature stages of our careers an individual is better recognized not for his or her own accomplishments but for what is created through others. For an individual to be able to do this graciously, they need to see things from a higher plane, to have the ability to stand back, to let go and offer their finest, knowing that these protégés will go further than they have ever gone. There will be a recognition that mentors are but the spring board or the bows from which the arrows fly. "Of the 286 Nobel Laureates named between 1901 and 1972, forty-one percent had a master or senior collaborator who was also a Nobel recipient" (Lightman, 1984, p.95). The significant adult exists for the purpose of supporting the next generation.
And so the mentor, in helping one in his/her care to catch a vision and see beyond oneself, is mysteriously helped to fulfill his or her own potential. In the giving of ones self, there is great joy that is returned in abundance as one watches another succeed.
How Does One Mentor?
Mentoring, writes Sue Monk Kidd (1997) is "Mindful Availability". She describes herself in a social setting as restless, her mind sweeping from one to another criticizing, comparing, competing, imposing her own views. She speaks very honestly about the fact that although she is there present with people, at a deeper level she is not available to them at all. She writes, "I have attention deficit disorder of the soul" (p. 9).
Availability has become a discipline for her, a form of spiritual practice, like prayer or scripture reading. This availability is the receiving of another with a whole heart, being fully present with an attentive mind. This is not natural to the human heart we find ourselves distracted and snared into our own agenda and on the sidelines rather than being present and engaged.
This availability leads the mentor to invite individuals as they are without trying to fix or cure their problems. We are simply there with an open heart. Henri Nouwen (1975) calls this open heart hospitality. He writes that "hospitality requires the creation of the friendly empty space where we can reach out to our fellow human beings and invite them to a new relationship" (p.76). This hospitality not only receives others but also confronts them with an unambiguous presence, not hiding ourselves behind neutrality but showing our ideas, opinions and life style clearly and distinctly.
Thoreau describes this hospitality in very real terms. He writes of sitting at a table where the food was rich, the wine abundant but the hospitality as cold as the ices. Even the luxurious house and grounds were nothing more than superficiality. He tells of calling on a King who made him wait in the hall and he compares him with a man in his neighborhood, who lived in a hollow tree but this man had manners that were truly regal. He invited Thoreau in as if he were a king (Cienkus, 1996). To mentor is to offer a place of hospitality where young adults are welcome, to dialogue, question, or sort through the structures they bring.
This is a whole new way to look at mentoring for me. Less the role of advisor and director more the role of a silent support. It means giving up my own wisdom, and self importance. In its place there will be open attentiveness, an acceptance, an offering of a hospitable space where my students and I can learn and grow together. It is a deep sense of respect for others, a recognition that God dwells in every human heart and speaks to each in different ways. It is a willingness to be present and to peer into eyes, the ancient windows of the soul and see what is there. It is a looking past the neediness and asking God to show me my role, if any in this person's life. Faber (1854) calls this the kind of mentoring "a going behind to watch God going before" (Quoted in Leech, 1977 p. 70).
I am eager to listen with a more compassionate heart that waits for the promptings of the Spirit to lead. There will be times the student or protégé will become my teacher and I will be able to hear the creative voice of the learner. Instead of thinking what I am going to say next I will respond to a quieter rhythm, a rhythm that has an ear that hears more than words.
Parks (1991) challenges the mentor. She suggests the re-examination of our dreams that our vision may be transformed and our passion deepened. This new dream would in turn beckon the promise of the next generation. When our dreams have lost their energy we have nothing to pass on. This calls for a reconnection with the Master of the soul. She suggests a coming together of the community of believers, not held together tightly but a network of belonging, trust and commitment in which a positive vision can thrive. This new vision calls for new metaphors which will give form to excellence more compassionately understood, adapted to a more complex society. The mentor will embody a deeper wisdom and be open to both holding on and letting go.
As the mentors of the future we will focus less on serving as isolated individuals and look more at the interdependence of our world and offer demonstrations of a compassionate community. Young adults are tired of exclusiveness, competition and detachment and are looking for connection, responsibility, trust and integrity (Ibid).
When a religious institution, Walla Walla College makes sense as a lived experience, young adults are able to come under the canopy and unpack their faith in the presence of trusted mentors. They will recompose a life that Richard R. Niebuhr describes as a living engagement with God. They will connect the wisdom of the past with the issues of a this present age, racial and economic injustice, changing roles for men and women, personal discouragement, the hunger for comfort, belonging, beauty, challenge and wonder (Parks, 1991, p.198).
Our awareness of the needs of the young adults who enter this institution will awaken us to our own deepest needs. A recognition that we are called to faithful participation in the sacred activities of the everyday. The power of our stories will be seen in the common everyday events. We are together in a vocation that calls for interdependence and absolute dependence. Frederick Buechner (1973) calls this place of service, "A place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet (p.95). This is what young adults are looking for, a beacon to guide their future, demonstrated in the lives of faithful mentoring adults.
Together we will continue as mentors and young adults in a spiritual community, open to question, willing to grow and learn, passionate about a shared vision of the "Commonwealth of God" (Parks, 1991 p. 200).
It happened at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Derek Redmond from Great Britain had dreamed all his life of winning the Gold medal for the 400 meter race. The gun sounded and Derek was running the race of his life. As Derek entered the final stretch he felt a rip of pain shoot up the back of his right leg. A torn hamstring sent him sprawling face down on the hard surface of the track.
Derek was so determined to win the race that he staggered to his feet in excruciating pain and began to hop towards the finish line. He was desperate, it was as if animal instinct had taken over. He knew he had to finish the race. Suddenly from out of the stands a large man emerged and flung aside the security guards. He made his way to the field and threw his arms around the young man. It was Jim Redmond Derek's father.
"Son you don't have to do this," he cried.
"Yes Dad I do," Derek assured him.
"All right then, let's finish this together," said the father. And that's what they did. Staying in Derek's lane the whole way and with the young man's head frequently buried in the father's shoulder, they made it to the end of the race. The crowd rose to their feet weeping and cheering! (Christie, 1993)
As mentors we are there in the grandstand, eyes focused on the runners as they approach the finishing line, cheering as we see the intervention of the Father on behalf of our protégés. Knowing that it is indeed a privilege and an honor to witness the power of God working in young lives.




About the Author

Verlie Ward is the 1997 Walla Walla College Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, a distinction awarded one faculty member each year. Ward presented her lecture "The Role of the Mentor on the Christian Campus" in November.

Born in a remote town in North New Zealand, Verlie Ward spent the first half of her life in the Southern Hemisphere. While attending Avondale College she pursued a teaching diploma in elementary education. Ward began her own career as a teacher in a one-room school with 22 children in eight grades.

After immigrating with her family to the United States, Ward continued studies in elementary education. She completed a bachelor of science degree at Union College in 1971, a master of arts degree in curriculum at Andrews University in 1976, and a doctorate in reading and language arts at Washington State University in 1989.

In 1983 she joined the education faculty at WWC. The focus of her teaching is on reading, language arts and the spiritual nurture of children. This past year she worked with a colleague to create an atrium in Smith Hall where children and college students can worship. In 1993, Ward received the Burlington Northern Award for excellence in teaching.

Foremost among Ward's interests are her children and two grandchildren. She enjoys gardening and the joys of creating a home. She also loves to read, travel, paint, draw and walk. 





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