I was pleased to receive an invitation to attend the Quaker Valley Commencement. It was a very moving and memorable experience. The speeches offered by some of the graduating seniors were filled with heart, strength and emotion.

Our very own Nina Wiggins offered one of the speeches and talked about working through her struggles, as she encouraged others to not shy away from their struggles, but to work through them and to rely upon those who are willing to be a source of support and encouragement.

Another graduate spoke on the subject of pain as he talked about the grief and pain of losing his mother to cancer. He, too, spoke of those who came to him in his time of need. He told of a nurse who was of great help to him when his mother died and who obviously left quite an impression on him. She offered comfort that he so desperately needed in that hour.

Nina and this young man bravely allowed themselves to be vulnerable as they spoke of the encouragement they received from those around them. It was that encouragement that gave them the strength to stand up before an auditorium full of fellow students, faculty, staff, family, friends and a whole lot of strangers and bravely tell their stories and how the encouragement of family, friends and professionals helped them be the people they are today and the people they will yet grow to be.

As each graduate’s name was called and they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, cheers and applause erupted in support and encouragement for each and every one of them.

Some of the graduates were young people with extenuating circumstances who required a little extra encouragement over the years and will continue that need for years to come.

Two of the students are living with Down’s syndrome. They were so excited and so very proud of their accomplishments as they stood before the audience holding their diplomas high over their heads smiling from ear to ear. The audience applause was wonderfully deafening and quite lengthy. I must admit a tear or two trickled down my face more than once during the festivities.

As I sat there, I could not help but think of all of those who have little to no support or encouragement in their lives. How do they do it? Life is difficult enough without someone in their corner to be their biggest cheerleader.

We live in a world full of critics. Like me, you may know the pain of criticism. It tears away at our self-worth. It damages our very soul and leaves us feeling empty and defeated.

Has there been a time when you needed encouragement? If so, you know the importance of a kind word, an encouraging word, a word of affirmation and love.

Paul tells the people of Thessalonica to encourage one another and build one another up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Most people think that giving encouragement is just saying nice words to uplift someone. However, it’s more than this. Giving encouragement to others means to give support and confidence, but it also means to help develop. As we encourage other believers, we are helping them to develop a stronger relationship with Christ. We are helping them to mature in the faith. We are helping them to become all that God created them to be.

We are to encourage others. Not only are we to be encouragers within our church and within our community groups, but we are to also be encouragers outside of the church. When we avail ourselves and look for opportunities to encourage others, God will open opportunities.

I came across the following list which I find helpful:

  • “A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”

  • “Be an encourager, the world has plenty of critics already.”

  • “Never get tired of doing little things for others. For sometimes those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart.”

  • “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.”

  • “God uses broken people like you and me to rescue broken people like you and me.”

It is my honor and pleasure to begin my 14th year as your pastor. Being a pastor comes with a rather lengthy job description—one of which is the privilege of being one of your biggest cheerleaders.

Won’t you join me in being a part of that cheering squad, as we lift each other up, as we encourage one another and join hands in being the Body of Christ.

Pastor Russel