Unexpected Gifts

From time to time, there are moments that capture the incredible privilege it is to work at Upper Columbia Academy (UCA). A recent encounter with a graduate of a neighboring high school is the perfect example.

Cyrus requested a meeting to apologize for vandalism he had done to our campus in the late 90s. Soft spoken and clean cut, he's a Ph.D. candidate at a prestigious university. His story includes a journey into alcoholism — from his first drink at age 15 to the depths of disgust and despair over his addiction later. Currently on leave from his scholastic program, he's making amends and getting his life right with God.

Though he came from a Christian family and was valedictorian of his class, Cyrus discovered that the knowledge he had about God and all his "smarts" weren't enough to keep him from self-destruction. His wife was ready to leave him. There were days of which he had no memory, and he was in danger of losing his place in the doctoral program.

Attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, he heard God's voice speaking to him through another alcoholic, and finally understood that he needed help.

Cyrus climbed a mountain and asked God to reveal what he needed to do to stop the downward spiral. Various wrongs he'd committed through the years came to mind. He made a list, which included UCA. Estimating the cost of his vandalism, he offered an unexpected $500 gift to the school.

Troy Patzer, UCA principal, and Linnea Torkelsen, development director, immediately knew where the money would go. Cyrus's gift would help a student who very much wanted to be at UCA for an Adventist education — a young man who, just days before, had lost his father to complications of alcoholism. Hearing this, Cyrus started to cry.

Understanding what his gift could accomplish, he wrote the check for $1,000. Torkelsen then invited him to be the young man's prayer guardian, explaining UCA's Prayer PATCH program. With more tears, he said he would be honored to accept.

The meeting ended with prayer — for Cyrus and the journey he is on, for the students and the school, and with thanksgiving to God for His gift of forgiveness and unfathomable love for all who stand at the foot of the cross.

As Cyrus said goodbye, his face was unforgettable — it was glowing.

December 01, 2011 / Upper Columbia Conference