Labor Day weekend brought the campus back to life. After a quiet summer, hundreds of jammed cars, SUVs and trailers hauled in the stuff of our 1,200-plus new undergraduate students. Some parents were sending off their first, some their last, some their only. Other than the usual emotional carnage, it was a sweet few days as families underwent the holy stewardship of handing over these new students to the Biola University community.

I remember a letter a mother sent me three years ago, just days before she brought her son to Biola. “I rejoice with my son about this wonderful, exciting time in his life right now,” she wrote, “and when I’m alone, I shed tears. ... Thank you for accepting my son to your college. I hope you get to meet him one of these days. He’s an incredible young man.”

I kept that letter, and I took this to be the shared sentiments of parents entrusting their children to our care.

The next year, she sent another letter, and this year another. Her third epistle was a thoughtful reminder that what we aspire to do when students come happens as they remain. Rather than my extolling a Biola education, I thought a mother could do even better. Here’s most of what Marilee Armstrong wrote in August.

    Dear Dr. Corey,

    Yesterday I was cleaning and organizing when I came across a notebook with the prayer I wrote out on August 18, 2016 — just before taking my son Trey down to Biola to start college.

        As it is with so many of life’s situations that are difficult, it’s fun now to look back and think about, see and appreciate what God has done with that heartache of mine three years ago.

            My husband Randy and I are grateful beyond measure at how both our sons, Trey and Jack, have grown up, matured, gained confidence and embraced college life at Biola. What a gift we’ve all received from our experiences there. 

            Trey is about to start his senior year. How did that happen?! I get a bit teary thinking of the Biola chapter in his life coming to a close. Crazy, I know. That mom thing. With God’s grace, he will graduate in May.

            When Trey was a senior in high school, he decided to apply to Biola, and to try to get into the music department with an audition. I told him, if we were going to drive all that way, we were going to do “the whole thing.” So I signed us up for the official tour, sitting in on a class, lunch at “the Caf” and meeting with an admissions counselor. We got to campus early to attend Dr. Joanne Jung’s class at 7:30 a.m. We were welcomed by name and integrated comfortably into her curriculum for that class. It made a lasting impact on both of us.

            Fast forward to today. Biola. Dr. Jung. God. His work. His plan. Definitely not one I could have even imagined.

            And then Jack ... entering his junior year. He is equally as engaged, committed to and plugged in to Biola culture. As a film student, his year included missions projects and people, Coachella, a photo shoot with Jon Bon Jovi, Disney, adventure club activities, surfing and many late nights in the Production Center using the amazing equipment the Biola professors allow him to use.

            And on it goes. Story after story, challenge after challenge, blessing after blessing. Dr. Corey, these two boys are shining examples of Biola’s educating them to go out into this world to make an impact on it for Jesus. They are truly making an impact. Biola is doing amazing things with them. Randy and I get the gift of seeing that happen.

            This year, I will again help them both pack up and I will return them to you. Again. They are both ready to resume their lives in La Mirada, to tackle this upcoming year of classes, and to live out the life that God has planned for them.

            I find that I’m still not ready to send them off. Each time I say goodbye to them, my heart pulls apart a little. I’m not the mess I was when I did this the first time in August of 2016, but I still fight the tears and I still have to take a little time to regroup after they leave. But the regrouping quickly turns into rejoicing, as I know, still, that they are both right where God wants them to be.

            And that, Dr. Corey, is what mends this mom’s heart.