By Sara Foss.
Patrick Henry College
Justin Knepper, graduate of the class of '02, speaking to students in Friday's Homecoming chapel message
It had been 10 years since Justin Knepper stood on the stage at Townhall, so when he walked up to the podium to deliver Friday’s special alumni Homecoming chapel message, he took special note of the stage itself. It turns out that, as a member of the PHC graduating class of ’02, he had actually worked with team of students that built that stage and carpeted the floor.
Interestingly, Knepper had also been on the committee that wrote PHC’s very first student honor code, an undertaking that triggered yet another fond memory looking out over the packed Townhall chapel audience.
“It didn’t really pan out for certain wings of dorm 4,” he said with a grin, alluding to the shortcomings of honor system-inspired chapel attendance. In his days as an RA, he recalled, he often went room by room, pulling kids out of bed, frequently getting punched and hit with shoes. And, yes, he’s still friends with most of those former combatants.
“We’re a close-knit group, so you’ll remember people for years and see them all time,” he assured Friday’s chapel attendees. Then he said that, for him, the close relationships forged on PHC’s intimate campus setting were his best memories of his time at college.
Speaking to students from John 6, he cautioned them against getting caught in the struggles of life and losing focus on the end goal. Picking up the narrative following Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, when He put his disciples on a boat to Capernaum, Knepper paraphrased, “It’s time for you to go to the next area of our ministry and prepare it for when I get there.”
Later, when Jesus looked down from the mountain where he had retreated to pray, his disciples had made no progress.
“They were down there toiling and rowing away,” Knepper said, observing a fact found only in the gospel of John. “He didn’t just calm the storm. He got in the boat, calmed the storm, and immediately transported them to the other side.
“Jesus has a specific mission for each of us,” Knepper said, “It’s very easy to get bogged down in the rowing.”
He offered another cautionary note: after the disciples had witnessed that miracle and Jesus sent them on to the next step, they commenced rowing and promptly forgot the amazing intervention.
“Don’t let the rowing part be your end goal,” Knepper cautioned the students sitting in seats he had occupied a decade before, reminding all to keep their eyes fixed always on God’s kingdom and His eternal goals.
“It’s essential that you do your work, the rowing part,” he concluded, “but keep your eyes open for where he’s taking you.”