Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell once said, “I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
A little bit of Liddell’s legacy lives on in Parker Mindel, whose final track season at duPont Manual High School was canceled due to COVID-19.
Southeast Christian Church Student Ministry Leader Derry Prenkert said Mindel has grown, not in spite of, but because of the coronavirus.
“Part of what he’s done is gone on runs with God,” Prenkert said. “It’s pretty incredible.”
Prior to COVID-19, Mindel didn’t think he would run competitively after finishing his senior year at Manual, but he will now compete in track and cross-country at Biola University in La Mirada, California, in the fall while studying Bible theology and ministry.
“I never really would have thought my senior season would end so quickly,” he said. “I wouldn’t be running at Biola University if none of this had happened with COVID-19. I had kind of been done with track and when my season got taken away, my heart got stirred toward wanting to run again. I had previously told the coach at Biola, ‘No.’ Then, he called me and was like, ‘If you want to run, this is your last chance.’ It was really awesome. The high school door closing opened up a new opportunity for next year.”
Mindel has been a part of a High School Ministry C-Group, which has continued to meet online during the COVID-19 quarantine.
“Madison Latter, my small group leader, has been amazing,” Mindel added. “I look up to him like I do a dad. He’s been helpful in navigating all of this and finding the silver lining. He really helped me with my perspective from what I’m losing in this season and shifting that toward focusing on what I can do to make the most of this. I’ve really been spending a lot of time in prayer and the Word instead of being at school from 7 to 2 every day.”
The senior sendoff will look unrecognizable this year because of social distancing.
As someone who has worked with students for 23 years, Prenkert said his heart is broken for the class of 2020.
“It’s such a significant transition moment,” Prenkert said. “I think seniors have every feeling in the world. It’s the first time they can fully feel two opposing feelings: fear of the unknown and absolute excitement about stepping into the unknown. Throw in all this anticipation for these experiences coming, and my heart is just broken again and again. Whether it be the last spring break, prom, those last moments in their classes or their graduation, they are all pulled away.”
Prenkert said some are avoiding this painful reality while others continue trusting in God.
“I think that’s where we as a church, as parents, as leaders investing in seniors, one, can grieve. To say, ‘This isn’t the way this was supposed to be, and I’m sorry for that’—to sit in that grief and empathize,” Prenkert added. “But then also say, ‘What’s the way we move forward and how can we still celebrate?’”
Southeast organized Adopt-A-Grad as a way for people to encourage high school and college seniors with a care package.
“The Adopt-A-Grad idea came from, ‘How can we make the most of this opportunity?’” he said. “Well, we can still celebrate grads and do it in a unique way where we can get a gift to them. It’s a great way to connect the church body to a senior.”
More than 300 high school and college graduates at all Southeast campuses will receive a care package that includes items such as books, restaurant gift cards, “grad” themed items, snacks and notes of encouragement.
Looking to the future
As high school comes to a close, Prenkert offered four questions parents can ask graduates to get them thinking about the future.
1. Why are you doing what you are doing?
“A high school senior gets asked all the time, ‘What are you doing next?’” Prenkert said. “The question is, ‘Why are you doing what you’re doing? Is the Great Commandment and Great Commission really driving what you’re doing?’”
2. What do you believe? When your convictions are challenged away from home, how will you respond?
3. Who will you surround yourself with? Your friends will impact your future.
4. How will you finish?
“If I picture a relay race where the baton from high school to the next phase gets handed off, if I stumble and drop it, I won’t be set up for the next phase of the race very well,” Prenkert added.