Non-Traditional Graduate Gives Testimony to God’s Grace

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Non-traditional graduate Deanna Hampson-Saint Laurent on Commencement Day

In lieu of a keynote speaker at BJU commencement exercises, graduates share testimonies and challenges. Below, Deanna Hampson-Saint Laurent—a non-traditional student who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree—shares her testimony of faith, perseverance and thankfulness.

The Lord has given me the unique opportunity to share the classroom with a younger and very different generation than what I grew up with in the ‘70s.

Having attended five different colleges before transferring to Bob Jones University, I can vouch that there is no other school in the world that has the type of students that are here, as a whole, with love, friendships and camaraderie. Students share one main thing in common—knowing and trusting in our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, as most of us will go our separate ways, I would like to address fellow graduates and share something personal, which I hope they will always remember.

In this building, we have had wonderful opportunities to hear some of the best messages that we will most likely never hear again. They have been messages spoken with love, compassion and caring by men talking to us, pleading with us, to not follow the world after we leave here.

May I share with you—not as a preacher, not as your mother, but as a co-student and friend—my story?

I was the perfect example of what these godly men have stood here and begged you not to do. As a newborn, my first breath of life was on the campus of Bob Jones University. Both my parents graduated from Bob Jones University and joined the faculty. Our family moved to California after I was born. I became a Christian in my youth and grew up knowing the Lord as my Savior. I struggled for guidance as a youngster, however.

Soon the world became my god and I followed it. I looked good and I was successful doing it. I had beauty, education, the most expensive clothes and jewelry. I ate at the most expensive restaurants and drove expensive cars. I traveled the world first class. I thought I planned my life just the way I wanted it, not knowing I was headed for disaster.

I quickly learned I was living a life of fantasy and not reality. You see, the Lord loved me so much that He showed me how fast He could take it all away. He put me through horrible tragedies, took away the people I loved most dear, leaving me the most broken heart you can ever imagine. Not only that, I lost all my material possessions. I had to sell my jewelry and many of my belongings just to survive. Life became a horrible struggle.

On my knees, I had nowhere to turn but to God. He had to continually break me for the longest time. No matter how hard I tried to pick up the pieces and move on, I still continued to fail. In terrible desperation, I finally and totally submitted my full life to Christ and only follow Him. I had to completely give up my pride and my own desires, and tell the Lord that He can do whatever He wants to do with me. I always knew I was very special, that I had talent and many gifts. But I never asked God to direct me and show me what He wanted me to do with them.

Then, one day my loving Aunt Joyce called from Texas, saying “I just bought you a one-way ticket to Greenville, you’re moving in one month.” And you know the rest of the story.

Not only do I have the Lord close to my side, leading me every day, but He has helped me achieve goals I never dreamed possible. I’ve been able to refine my art talents and I have learned how I can serve the Lord with them.

Every decision you make after graduating will have a profound influence on the rest of your life. Proverbs 3:5–6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Life is uncertain. You can’t put your hope in people and jobs, because they may all fail you. Our God is the only one we can depend on and, after that, everything will follow.

I would like to share a brief word with women in the audience. I encourage every woman who, for one reason or another, has put aside their personal goals and aspirations, to really consider this. You have only one life to live. Please don’t look back and regret what you didn’t do. If you have family and responsibilities that you feel have prevented you from achieving personal goals, pray and give it to the Lord. Ask God to work it out for you.

You might not be sure if you can deal with the challenges of going back to school, again; give it to the Lord and have Him help you. Use Philippians 4:13 as a guide: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” He will give you the power and direction if you ask and put your trust in Him. You have only one life to live, and I encourage you to make the most of it.

See Also: Beneth Peters Jones, Lady of Talent and Grace

Lastly, I would like to say thank you to Bob Jones University. I can truly say that after attending five other colleges, there is definitely no other school like Bob Jones University. Here is where the best of the best are. The Christian love and compassion, guidance and direction of Dr. Steve Pettit, Dr. Sam Horn, Alan Benson and others, who have poured out their love to all the students, cannot be surpassed.

Every instructor I have had has gone over the call of duty in their classroom. It’s not just a job for them; they are here because they have a true Christian love for their students and care about their learning. My Bible Doctrines teacher, Mr. Mark Vowels, received a standing ovation the final day of class from all the students. All the staff members in every department I have associated with—Student Services, The Hub, Student Development—just to name a few, have not only been very helpful, but they offer over and above what you need all the time.

My only regret is that I wish I had come to Bob Jones University years ago when I was younger. But more than that, I thank God so very much for giving me the unique opportunity of being a part of the most awesome Christian school in the world and finally graduating from the best of the best.

See Also: Faculty Spotlight: Dan Turner

Watch the archived webcast of the commencement service to hear other graduates’ testimonies.