There’s a park at the end of the east side of campus in the square that makes up 10th, 12th, Central and River. Its name is Centennial Park.
I know that now. But freshman year, while trying to find the Pine Grove (and inadvertently walking directly through it to instead find Centennial), I sat down at a bench and stared at the empty park, wondering “where the students might be.” But I fell in love with the park’s beauty.
The fastest way to get there is to walk through the Vander Plaza and across Central Ave., but if you walk to the east, you can’t miss it.
And if you walk through the Vander Plaza, you’ll see it: the statue of Albertus C. Van Raalte, founder of Holland, Michigan, an individual who played an integral role in the founding of Hope College.
It’s taken me two full years to see it. It wasn’t until late one night, while standing under the streetlights behind the statue, that it became clear to me.
Where the statue of Van Raalte stands, there lies a pathway that gives a deep view back into campus. With his right arm outstretched and his left hand resting on a book, his statue in the park looks back to campus he created.
And when I saw it, I began to ponder: as Hope celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, we have stumbled into a 150-year vision.
On a sign underneath the arch of campus, it is written that Van Raalte once said, “This is my Anchor of Hope for this people in the future.”
His vision was not short-term when he created it. His vision was for now, 150 years later. His vision is for 150 years to come.
Great wonder surrounded me as I began to consider that when this college was founded, Van Raalte founded it with us in mind– for many of us, over one hundred years before our birth.
I think of the hope he dedicated to this place (no pun intended) and the great faith he pursued to create the space we now know as Hope. I think about the way I have become entangled in that vision.
An excerpt from a letter Van Raalte wrote in 1846, shortly after landing in New York, reads:
“I hope that a large colony can be established here in America which will focus its work on the Kingdom of God.”
And my hope is that, if Van Raalte were here today, that he would look at campus and consider us to be the colony he envisioned. My hope is that he would not only look at campus, but also the community of Holland, and be pleased – that he would feel his hope is being fulfilled.
I want to remain entangled in that vision. I will seek first the Kingdom of God. I will seek its advancement. And I am both grateful and blessed by the prayers of many who have come before me, who do not know me and likely never will, for their prayers have come to life within the faith community of Hope.
As I wrap up this semester and enter into my final semester of Hope, I realized something important: when I leave, others will take my place. They will take my place next year, and the year after, and in 150 years to come. And I pray for them although I do not know them, because I know there are many who have done the same for me. My heart wishes to advance the vision Van Raalte had at first, in hope that the Lord will raise up others to continue to work of the kingdom.