As one of our Humanities assignments, we have to research an American soldier who gave his life fighting in Italy during World War II. My soldier was William F Jones from Kentucky. After our research, we visited the Florence American cemetery where William and many other American soldiers are buried. I was very unsure of what the cemetery visit would be like, as I have never visited a national cemetery before. When we arrived, our professors handed us flowers to place on the graves of our soldiers. I took a white carnation and walked slowly to section B, row 4, plot 5. I gently laid my flower on the ground and said a prayer for William and his family and how thankful I was for the sacrifice he made for America and Italy: 2 countries now very close to my heart. The temperature that day was probably in the upper 20's. As I was walking to the top of the memorial, the cold wind cut through my clothes and I was provoked with the thought "How did these soldiers fight in such harsh conditions, worse than today?" Personally I would never be able to do such a task and I am filled with gratitude for those who did. We sang the national anthem, had a word of prayer, and then listened to stories of other soldiers buried in the cemetery. Be the Difference: Never Again is the name of our humanities project. It is solely designed to remember the soldiers who fell so bravely, tell their stories, make connections with people, and show love so that peace may fill our world.
-Hannah Jones, Spring 2018
Christian Mendez, a Christian at Harding University Florence.
To the saints that showed up to HUF’s chapel yesterday.
Blessings to you and victory from God our Father.
Ever since we departed from the United States, you have been in my prayers and will remain there indefinitely. I am exceedingly glad that each of you as individuals elected to spend a semester abroad. I continually thank God for giving me the opportunity to know you. I am fortunate to call you my brothers and sisters. I have experienced first hand the characteristics of contagious joy and endless care that each of you possesses. I observe the light of Jesus in you all and am overwhelmed by the exponential quantity of love that is shared in our amazing HUF group.
I want to present to you all a perspective that often goes untouched or avoided. What is really going on? What are we doing? Is this all a huge waste of time? In Ecclesiastes 1:2, the teacher points out that all things are vanity. This word cannot be simply rephrased as “meaningless,” it goes beyond that. As humans, we torment ourselves in an attempt to unravel the mysteries that we will never possibly comprehend. We try to justify that life has to have some sort of greater purpose. Life is unpredictable and unstable. Life is an enigma.
Everything will soon be forgotten. Everyone dies. These two points are habitually presented by the teacher in Ecclesiastes. You all saw the Abetone Mountains when you went skiing. Do you suppose that those mountains care about what we do in life? Those mountains have been there for ages, and so they will continue to stand there for the generations to come. No one will forget those mountains. We, on the other hand, are just a vapor in the wind according to James 4:14. Our lives are inconceivably minute. All people succumb to death’s grip.
The teacher in Ecclesiastes convicts the actions men take to reach some sort of fulfillment for their endless self-gratifying desires. Great wealth will have to one day be abandoned. Careers may lead people into a spiral of anxiety and long-suffering. Social status will not matter if everyone you know dies with you. The joy found in pleasures is a misleading one that leaves people feeling empty almost immediately. Even obtaining wisdom is paradoxical. Bad things happen to the wise all of the time. If this is the case, then what is left?
As humans we tend to get enthralled by the physicality of the world. Often times we fail to recollect ourselves to recognize the abundance of blessings bestowed upon us by our God. As soon as we abandon the human urge to be significant, we can fully appreciate what is given to us. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us that there is a time and place for everything. Because of this, it is best not to worry. Take everything in. Our conscious experience is our own and is one that is God given. Have faith in Him and enjoy every experience, not as how you want or wish them to be, but for what they actually are. Give credit where credit is due. God is amazing and allows for us to pursue lives of experience and memories. Robbie, a beloved brother in Christ, challenged us to “aggressively seek beauty every day.” I feel that the most beautiful things in life are those given to us by God: friendships, good days, delicious meals, and a family.
Existential thoughts are often overcome by ego boosts. With that said, I want to extend a congratulations to you all. It just so happens that we are all experiencing these gifts of God. I urge you to acknowledge them and to never take them for granted. I want to thank each of you for building incredible friendships with me. Thank you for being alongside of me, sharing these gorgeous days in Italy. Thank you for sitting at the table by my side and enjoying flavor filled food. Thank you for providing family-like support and for being my brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a time for everything under the sun, and these are spectacular times, no doubt, thanks to our Father in Heaven.
May God continue to bless you and may you always have victory in Him.
I had never been skiing before this trip, despite living two hours away from the ski lodges in the mountains of Virginia. I had been told by former HUF students that this was one of their favorite things they were able to do, I was also told that some people regretted skiing and just wanted to sit in the hotel with a good book. I had no idea what to expect!