Mississippi College Journey for Life Stays on Course
September 3, 2009President Lee Royce recounted his near catastrophic boat trip from the Florida shores to the Bahamas decades ago.
Looking back at that near death experience amid the Atlantic's stormy night seas, Royce spoke of life's lessons he learned from the trip with his parents aboard. He urged Mississippi College students at chapel services Thursday to be prepared for life's many unexpected twists and turns by following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
"We all need faith for life's journey," Royce told hundreds of students packing the sanctuary at First Baptist Church Clinton. He also encouraged students to read the Ten Commandments, study the Bible and come with a map for life's adventures as they begin a new academic year at the Christian university.
As MC launches its 184th academic year, Royce says students here can expect some "unexpected storms" will arrive during the upcoming months on and off the Clinton campus.
Royce admits he wasn't prepared for the boat trip that went wrong from day one and almost ended in disaster like the Titanic. Inundated by water, his father's tiny vessel was full of bugs, and only one of its two life rafts would inflate. Fortunately the boat managed to avoid getting crushed by a freighter the size of a football field. "We brought the wrong kind of things," he recalled.
During the scary night, Lee Royce sang Baptist hymns for at least four hours to calm the fears of his family, including his father, a decorated World War II airman. Eventually, the stormy seas of night turned into a morning of sunshine with dolphins leaping all around as the boat slowly made its way to its destination.
A Miami native, Royce told a compelling story and also managed to tie it into MC's theme for the new academic year "The Journey for Life: Walking with the Lord." It was the theme for 2008-2009, but MC leaders are sticking with it for another season. The theme comes from Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."
After exiting First Baptist Church, MC freshman Dylan Grant, 17, of Shreveport, La. said he appreciated the president's message and solid words of advice. "I enjoyed the story - I believe it is correct to be prepared," he said. "It was a lifechanging event," Grant said of the Royce family boat trip many years ago.
MC is also using its theme to encourage students, faculty and staff to get involved in events at the Baptist-affiliated university - from the arts to sports to community service and academics. MC's vision is "to be recognized as a university known for academic excellence and commitment to the cause of Christ."
The spirit of volunteerism is already alive and well at MC. At the Clinton church, MC junior Ariss King, 23, said she will become a volunteer for a Jackson animal shelter at Saturday night's MC-Millsaps football game. She will walk dogs around the MC track at half-time in an event to raise awareness and funds for Community Animal Rescue & Adoption or CARA. "I'm a dog lover," said the graphic design major.
Lindsey Terrebonne, 20, a music education major from Jackson said she and family members search their clothes closets each year and donate to a homeless shelter in Jackson. She also gives to causes to help children purchase school supplies.
Being a volunteer, she said, is a way for people to help others in time of need. "Sometimes it takes a little extra to get them going," Terrebonne said.
In the audience as Royce relayed the lessons learned from sea saga was Shari Barnes, director of MC's Community Service Center. Her office brings MC students together with dozens of local agencies for volunteer work.
Barnes is always encouraging students to sign up and help the needy of the metro Jackson area at her office at the B.C. Rogers Student Center. Working closely with Royce, she's also the campus leader of MC's United Way campaign that reaches out to faculty and staff to serve others in the capital city area.
Photo: MC President Lee Royce