Parent Blessing service aids transition to college

Left to right, Debbie Schaffner, Amy Schaffner, and Bud Schaffner from San Diego attend La Sierra's Parent Blessing service.
Chris Oberg, senior pastor of the La Sierra University Church speaking during the IGNITE Parent Blessing service.

Sept. 19, 2013
By Darla Martin Tucker

For most parents, letting go of their treasured children as they start college and enter adulthood is a difficult task.

For this reason, La Sierra University’s freshman IGNITE program aims to orient both students and parents to the campus and ensure parents that their children are in good hands. The annual IGNITE Parent Blessing service is a key piece of that process.

La Sierra’s freshman IGNITE events began Wed., Sept. 18 and ended Fri., Sept. 20. The Parent Blessing service took place Wednesday evening and officially kicked off the three-day IGNITE program. More than 500 students arrived Wednesday morning, hauled their personal belongings into dorm rooms and registered. Later that evening, the freshmen, most with parents and family members by their sides, filled the La Sierra University Church for the blessing service. Through presentations and remarks by faculty, students, university and church leaders they received words of advice, doses of humor, and musical and spiritual inspiration.

“Students, you are embarking on an amazing journey that promises to bless you more than you can now imagine. As members of the faculty and staff, we count it a privilege to accompany and support you as you begin your studies here at La Sierra,” said university President Randal Wisbey in welcoming remarks. “La Sierra University is blessed to have you here as students. We look forward to your enthusiasm, your passion, and your commitment.”

Religious studies major Chris Kaatz provided some tongue-in-cheek advice to both parents and students. “Parents, you have dropped your kids off and they are in good hands. You don’t have to call them every day. It’s embarrassing,” he said. “Freshmen call your parents, email, text message, something.”

He admonished parents to let their children have their turn at living life. “They need to learn when to pick themselves up or when they need to call for help.”

Maury D. Jackson, assistant professor of pastoral ministry remarked on what parents can expect of their children’s experiences at La Sierra. “Expect that your child will have great peer mentorship,” he said. “Expect that they will make friends with their teachers.”

In her devotional, La Sierra University Church Senior Pastor Chris Oberg talked about humans’ capacity to care about one another and likened La Sierra to a sanctuary of protection. Some freshmen are far from home, she said, and there are others for whom “packing up a car was an escape. We realize we’re obligated to one another,” and faculty and mentors will speak about the new students as family. “You will hear this word a lot from this moment forward. We’re in this together,” she said.

Yami Bazan, La Sierra’s vice president for Student Life spoke a blessing over the parents after IGNITE staff handed out flower seed packets to the parents and family members in the audience. She asked the families to either plant the seeds or place the packets where they could be seen as a reminder to pray for La Sierra and its work shepherding the freshmen. “You have invested much to get them to this point,” she said. “We thank you for trusting us with your most prized possession.”

Some parents gave insight into their thoughts and emotions as they prepared to send children off to college. “As a mom, it’s very nerve-wracking. I’m wondering if she’s prepared,” said Rebecca Stiff whose 18-year-old daughter, Tessa Rae Stiff, is entering La Sierra’s biochemistry and math programs. “There seems to be so much distraction [in college]. But La Sierra has made us feel very welcome and has been very informative,” she said.

The Stiff family is from Yucaipa. Tessa Rae said she is aiming for a career as a biochemistry researcher. Her father, Ronny Stiff added, “Dads just worry about safety. It’s a big step to know you’re leaving them in the hands of the Lord,” and it should be our first step to trust Him, he said.

All IGNITE freshmen were required to attend the blessing service even if their family members did not. Freshmen Debbie Molina, age 18, and Jesus Ramirez, age 17, are both from Corona and sat together for the blessing service. Molina is joining La Sierra’s social work program and commented on the new world she is entering. “It’s totally different from high school. You meet a lot of new people, you’re more independent, and there’s more responsibility on our part,” she said.

Molina chose to enroll at La Sierra because it is close to home, she said. She is looking forward to college social life. Her greatest concern is juggling work and school responsibilities, said Molina.

Ramirez enrolled in La Sierra’s criminal justice program. “I found out that a lot of people in IGNITE were from Corona,” he said. The La Sierra experience has thus far proven helpful, said Ramirez. “They explained a lot of things to me I didn’t know.”

The Schaffner family, who arrived from San Diego, watched their eldest daughter, Brenda Schaffner, graduate in June. Several weeks later they accompanied their youngest daughter, Amy, to the Parent Blessing service as she begins her academic journey at La Sierra University. “This is kinda’ like take two,” said Bud Schaffner. Brenda, a former history major, is pursuing a master’s degree. “We thank La Sierra for preparing her,” said Bud.

In fact several members of Bud Schaffner’s family have either attended or graduated from La Sierra, including his parents, sisters, and nephews. Commented Schaffner’s wife Debbie, “It feels so comfortable to send our youngest daughter here. It seems warm and friendly.”

Amy Schaffner is entering La Sierra’s two-year pre-nursing program. “I’m really looking forward to the spiritual aspect on this campus. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Pastor Sam,” she said.

To access a photo album of the Parent Blessing service and IGNITE general session on La Sierra’s Facebook page click here:

  • Last update on  September 30, 2013