President's Perspective

To the End of the Earth, Literally

1080x540 Antarctica Penguins in Front of National Geographic Ship

Antarctic penguins in front of the National Geographic ship.

Photo by Lisa Maxwell Ryken ’88

512x768 portrait president phil ryken magazine photo

Dr. Philip Ryken ’88

Wheaton College President

 

It’s winter in Antarctica now, but it was late summer when a group of intrepid alumni and other friends of Wheaton College traveled there in February—the final voyage in the Alumni Association’s bold initiative to travel to all seven continents.

The wonders we witnessed defy description: mountains of snow, seas crammed with icebergs, majestic whales, soaring seabirds, and penguins that made us laugh out loud with their adorable antics.

Traveling aboard the National Geographic Explorer with a world-class team of naturalists and photographers, we had remarkable opportunities to learn about the history, geology, ornithology, oceanography, and marine biology of Antarctica.

We also took time to worship, recognizing that few people ever get the opportunity to praise God for works of creation that can be witnessed only near the South Pole. As we traversed the notorious Drake Passage (twice!) between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, the sailors aboard kept telling us that we were enjoying calm seas. It didn’t always feel that way to the landlubbers on the ship, though. As we rested queasily in our beds or lurched from handhold to handhold, some of us longed for something firmer underneath our feet. But we made safe passage and arrived back home.

Sir Francis Drake—the famous 16th-century explorer for whom the southern passage is named—regarded such oceangoing travels as a metaphor for Christian discipleship. A poem widely attributed to Drake demonstrates awareness of life’s stormy troubles but also so much hope in God’s sovereign rule and safe guidance that the poet could commend a spirit of adventure:

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where, losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

Wheaton College, too, sails on wide and sometimes stormy seas. We invite our students to travel part of their journey with us, and then venture for Jesus Christ into this wonder-filled world.

The closing lines of the poem serve as a bold prayer for our intrepid discipleship:

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes,
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

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