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Commencement Concert

Written for the 2020 Creative Arts Festival
CRICS: A Caring Community

By Troy Stuart

 

“So, here’s the latest,” Tanya said and sat down on the couch in our living room. She filled me in on the newest idea about having a graduation ceremony for the class of 2020.

I let out a long sigh when she finished. “So, that means siblings can’t go.” 

“Right.”

“Then, I don’t know that I even want to have it.”

“We might be able to have a drive-by celebration in the parking lot after the ceremony,” Tanya said as enthusiastically as possible. 

“The whole situation stinks,” I grumbled.

Days went by, and more conversations took place. Most people agreed that honoring the class of 2020 with an in-person event was the best option. But no way was it an ideal option. I had expectations. My son should graduate in front of his brothers and the community who loves him. I was happy for him and his classmates that they could be together. But, a virus was stealing something precious from us.

Dark clouds of COVID hung over me until I arrived at CRICS for the ceremony. I stepped out of the vehicle, and things started to change. Team Troy, Taran, Thai staff, and Lori had decorated, rearranged, and altogether transformed portions of campus into a venue worthy of honoring our seniors. The IT guys labored so that everyone who wasn’t physically among the fifty people in Kruu Jane’s room could be with us nonetheless. I grinned behind my mask and saw that all the moms, dads, and seniors were smiling too. By now, we had become experts at interpreting the meaning expressed in one another’s eyes.

The commencement ceremony was fabulous, and all I could have hoped it would be. It was nice to have Brent and Greg with us even though they were thousands of miles away. But, I still couldn’t completely shake the feeling of sadness that so many members of our community, especially the brothers, were not physically present. In moments like these, we are meant to be together.

When the ceremony concluded, I filed out of Kruu Jane’s room with everyone else and lined up on the stairs outside the building. Lights from heaven illuminated the darkness. Okay, they were headlights from cars and trucks, but to me, they were like stars that God’s angels had pulled from space and dropped into our parking lot. A line of vehicles stretched out forever, like the final scene in Field of Dreams.

I could hardly breathe as I moved closer to my wife and son and saw tears in their eyes. I scanned the automobiles lined up for the parade. Are Wessel and his children sitting on top of a truck? A cacophony of sounds soon filled the air as one vehicle after another drove by celebrating our seniors. 

A few years ago, I attended a concert in which John Williams conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra as they played songs from Star Wars. That was the best concert I’d ever heard. Until tonight. Honking horns, clanging cowbells, Naomi playing the cello in the back of a pickup, and the brothers cheering alongside a hundred others made the night magical. For an evening, Eric Ebeling, dressed in the garb of a traffic attendant, was a conductor extraordinaire. 

I stood on those stairs, overwhelmed at the outpouring of love. It felt like the agape Jesus unleashed through the cross that vanquished sin, defeated death, and assembled the church. Tonight, the lavish love of the CRICS community had conquered COVID and brought the family together. 

Blood Donation Drive: Senior Project

“I went to Chiang Rai Hospital with my volunteers to assist the nurses in a Blood Donation drive. My volunteers and I worked on getting the word out for people to come donate blood at the hospital on January 27. On the day of the blood drive we spent the day at the blood donation center helping donors with paperwork and getting them through the process. In the end, there were over 50 donors that day. My donors and I were able to help the Chiang Rai Hospital while also learning a lot about the importance of donating blood to help save lives.” — Nathaniel, Gr 12

Akha Youth Development Center: Senior Project

“My project was to go to the Akha Youth Development Center and have a one-day simple skills and English camp. I understand the pain of growing up as an orphan and it is harder when you’re going through teenagehood. While growing up living alone in various cultures, I’ve learned many lessons through my mistakes and experiences. Therefore I wanted the share with them something that will aid them if they apply it. I also wanted to let them express themselves and have fun. The best part is that my volunteers and I also got to exchange and learn something from them too.” — Marisa, Gr. 12

Community Healthcare Service: Senior Project

“My project is about reaching out to illiterate stateless tribal immigrants from Myanmar that have settled in Ta-Pho village (about 2:30 hours away from Chiang Rai) . My Community Healthcare Service project provided basic medical needs and knowledge. The basic health check-up includes weight and height,blood pressures, blood sugar and respiratory check-up. Most of the people in the village do not have Thai citizenship so it is difficult for them to get health care. I also provided home based medicine boxes to each family in the village. The love which God has given to me inspires me to give back. Since I have lived a life full of great blessings and love from others and from God, I want to share my blessings from God with those that are in need.” — Gaylada, Gr 12

 

Teaching Budgeting at the Chiang Rai Juvenile Detention Center

“I worked with the Chiang Rai Juvenile Detention Center to teach the kids about budgeting through games. The kids in the center got to interact and play games as a fun activity and also learn new knowledge that will be profitable in the future. The project benefited everyone who attended and brought smiles and laughter to the teenagers as well as much needed variety to their everyday lives. I decided to work with the Chiang Rai Juvenile Detention Center because I want to improve people’s perceptions and attitudes of juveniles in these facilities and to underline that they are just teenagers like everybody else.” — Ariela, Gr. 12

Play Day: Senior Project

“For my senior project, I had a morning camp for kids in the surrounding community at CRICS. The goal of the project was to reach out to children within the community & enable them to be themselves for some time just doing crafts,playing games, face painting, and other fun activities.The project involved 11 stations and I was able to have 39 kids attend my project. The project turned out well because I was able to see all the cute faces and the smiles on the kids faces.” — Foon, Gr 12

Blessing a Preschool: Senior Project

“I took half of the 8th grade class to a Lahu village about one and a half hours from CRICS. Pii Lynchee’s mother in law runs a preschool for kids in need in that village. For a day, we worked on adding concrete to the school’s entrance steps, setting tiles, and planting flowers. My goal was to give back to Pii Lynchee’s family who has given so much to CRICS as well as to bless some younger kids’ lives. I was inspired to support those who are helping with the education of children in need.” — Jadon, Gr 12

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