Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sara Schifferdecker gives state reporter's retiring address

Sara Schifferdecker, state FFA reporter, Girard FFA, delivered her retiring address, "Fuel," during the opening session of the 83rd Kansas FFA Convention on June 1.

Everyone has a dream car. Some want a shiny new Camero, or maybe an old Mustang. Some want an incredibly fast Viper, or even a flashy Corvette. I wanted a… pickup truck? You know the kind I am talking about: loud, 4-wheel drive, jacked-up, park-on-the-curb type of truck. My love of trucks began long before I was old enough to legally drive. From the age of five, I knew I would be a truck girl. I still distinctly remember the one-ton cherry red dodge ram I created in kindergarten when asked to draw a picture of my dream car. Fourteen years later, I have the same “bigger is better” mentality and rule the road from behind the wheel of an F150 affectionately known as “Betty.” Betty has some pretty cool features, but my favorite is the fact that she is a FlexFuel truck; she can run on regular fuel as well as e-85 ethanol. Her engine is built to use either substance, but there are downfalls to each one. If I fill Betty up with e-85, I pay much less, but my fuel is slightly less efficient. We all know how expensive regular, unleaded fuel is. A tank full of this might require me to sell a kidney, but makes Betty as fuel-efficient as possible. I wish there was a happy medium between the two.

Faith: the world’s most powerful fuel. Constantly renewable, incredibly efficient, completely irreplaceable. Unlike the gasoline we put in our vehicles, we do not have to give up natural resources or our first born child when we use faith ; it is “the perfect fuel,” and it does not cost a thing! There are no restrictions on faith, it can be used in virtually any situation and always scores great mileage. There is also no substitute for faith in our lives, we need it like we need the air we breathe.
What does the word faith mean? Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” As Landon said on a the movie A Walk to Remember, “I can’t see it, but I sure can feel it.” Countless forms of faith surround us every day, but can be summed up in three parts: belief in others, trust in ourselves, and loyalty to our purpose.

I love it when my Dad fills Betty up with fuel because I do not have to swipe my own credit card. In the same way, belief given by others is that much better than if you were to try to fill up by yourself. In grade school, I was “Sara Schifferdecker.” With the help of a speech therapist, I straightened out my S’s and R’s, but my impediment left a deep scar on my ego. So, when my advisor Mr. Boultinghouse asked us to rank what CDE’s we wanted to try as freshmen, public speaking and creed speaking both went to the very bottom of my list. I even left several spaces below my second-to-last contest, entomology, just to prove my point. I would much rather look at gross bugs than have to suffer through delivering any old speech.

After class Mr. B pulled me aside. “Sara, I want you to consider representing our chapter in creed speaking. I think you would be very good.” I told him that I would consider it, but in my mind I thought, “yeah, I will consider that when pigs fly.” I did not end up giving the creed, he still did not get the point, when it was time to write prepared speeches, he pulled the same stunt! The only difference this time was he decided to call in some back up. My friend Brandon constantly nagged me to do speech and my other friend Tyler told me that if I wrote a speech, he would do it with me. After being attacked from every angle, I gave in to their pressure. My first speech was rough. But despite my struggles, I found a huge adrenaline rush in the speech room and public speaking became my all-time favorite CDE. All because my advisor and friends believed in me.

It must be an advisor thing to make us do things that we would rather not. Mr. Boultinghouse could have easily just accepted the fact that I did not want to participate. His immense belief in my potential did not let him give up, and caused even the most stubborn freshman to believe in herself. Belief in others has a huge impact, even if it is only brief. It does not matter what form the belief takes: a short compliment, heartfelt gift, or stubborn resistance, belief from another, having faith in them, is the quickest and most effective way to impact a life.
How would we react if an upperclassman offered to help us with our interviewing skills? Or tell us how awesome our SAE ideas were? Invest time in helping others with their speech, a shop project, or just life. There are millions of possibilities to encourage others every single day. Be that source of faith for someone else. Do not let a single opportunity slide through your fingers.

If I thought the fuel that I put in Betty would ruin everything under her hood, I would never start her engine and give her the chance to run on it. I would not dare trust that fuel. In the same way, we have to run the engine of our lives trusting in our talents and abilities. On a family vacation my dad and sister convinced me to scuba dive. Before we were allowed to dive in the ocean, we were first required to pass a basic diving test, which consisted of a short walk-through of procedures and a practice dive. As the guide rambled on about the weights, hoses, and hand signals, I thought to myself, “This will be cake, the guide controls everything for me!” With all of my equipment secured on my body and the regulator, or mouthpiece that supplies oxygen in my mouth, I was set. Simple enough right? WRONG! I slowly sank into the water. As soon as I tried to breathe from the regulator, I had a moment of panic. If you have been scuba diving before, you know that the oxygen released through the regulator is controlled, and you must breathe very slowly. My mistake was gasping for air as soon as the regulator became my supply of oxygen, which of course did not release as much air as I was asking for. Instead of calming down, I reenacted one of those slow-mo tv commercials in which someone launches out of the water, convinced that I simply could not breathe from the oxygen tank. The guide quickly rushed to my rescue, probably rolling his eyes at my drama, and explained what I needed to do. “Diving is as simple as trust. You must trust yourself to just breathe, and you must trust the oxygen tank to continue supplying the air you need.” I love those “so maybe I was a little too dramatic” moments in life. Why did I not allow my lungs to do what they were meant to do? I doubted in their obvious ability.

Ralph Emerson once said, “Self-trust is the first secret to success.” We can be our greatest cheerleaders, or our greatest enemies. For this reason: if we hold ourselves back from what we are capable of, we are selfishly refusing our God-given talents and abilities the right to be used.

Why are we hiding our abilities from the world? We may tell ourselves, “I am not good enough. I am not old enough. I am not powerful enough. I am not smart enough.” These are, as my mom would say, “Excuses, excuses, excuses,” for not trusting in what we know we possess. Making up excuses is exactly how we DO NOT trust in ourselves.

Maybe we shy away from running for a chapter office because our excuse is that we are afraid of an interview. We may have to overcome a fear, or even greater obstacles, but the truth is, we can overcome these with the incredible powerful substance of faith in the form of trusting ourselves.

As Jenny, my flower shop boss loves to say, “ You are the designer, only you know what works.” This is true for anything we choose to use our talents in. Trust ourselves by giving our talents room to breathe.
Before faith can run efficiently in the engine of our lives, we must be loyal to our purpose. Eleven years ago, family friends Dr. Jim and Sandy Wilkins packed up their entire lives to move to Grassier, Haiti to serve as medical missionaries. Their purpose was simple: to share God’s love with the people of Haiti through medical care. They provide full medical treatment, including pharmaceutical services, surgery, optometry, dental care, and other services though a modern health clinic to the rural community that surrounded them. In 2008, I traveled with my family to visit the Wilkins for a week. Clarification: I had to travel to a place with no cell phone coverage, no air conditioning, no indoor plumbing, far, far away from all of my friends, very few English speaking people, no Dr. Pepper, and a moderate to high risk of violence everywhere we went. I was not a happy camper, and it blew my mind how content the Wilkins were without the conveniences we are used to. I left Haiti with a new appreciation for everything I take for granted at home, but more importantly a new respect for the immense loyalty they had to their purpose. After eleven years of faithful service, their loyalty to their purpose was tested more than ever before when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the island on January 12, 2010, devastating their clinic, leveling their community, and nearly taking their own lives. The poorest country in the western hemisphere had taken a fatal hit, and Jim and Sandy were right in the middle of the action. Instead of letting the horrors of the situation shake them, Jim and Sandy remained loyal to their purpose by setting up a makeshift hospital in a soccer field. Day and night they worked, never even pausing to rest, attempting to heal the people they knew and loved. With their world literally crashing around them, surrounded by death and destruction everywhere they turned, Jim and Sandy changed up their usual way of living to find other ways to live out their life purpose. Their loyalty managed to shine through the darkness of a devastating natural disaster.

The final form of faith, the universal fuel of our lives is loyalty to our purpose. When the earth shakes, will we be loyal to our purpose? The best way to stand firm in our faith is to understand what our purpose is, and then cling to it like flies on a pig.

Above all, what matters to us the most? Single those things out and remember them, because THOSE things are our life’s purpose. A purpose can be a single element or have many parts. Personally, my purpose is to share the grace by which I have been saved with others and serve God in all that I do. Above all else, each decision I make is determined by where it stands according to this principle. My friend Joshua’s purpose is staying true to himself. Sometimes when we are put in difficult situations, taking the easy way out and abandoning our purpose looks like the best decision. My friends, do not give in, for this is the same as giving up. No matter how we define the purpose of our lives, do not underestimate the power of sticking to it.

Thankfully we usually do not face earthquakes every day, but the loyalty we have in our faith is put to the test daily. Maybe on the way to class, we pass several upperclassmen picking on a freshman. If our life purpose is to serve others, we would remain loyal by stopping and sticking up for them. We are constantly tested, but remember this: No matter what faith looks like to us, remain loyal even when under pressure, because we will not be crushed because our purpose cannot be taken away. Make it a rock solid foundation for our lives.

Betty the truck wishes she had fuel as powerful as faith. Fuel that is constantly renewable, incredibly efficient, and completely replaceable. Never, ever, underestimate the strength of the world’s most powerful fuel. Faith is the fuel of everything we do, especially as FFA members. We place faith in our abilities in CDE’s, faith in our future goals while applying for awards, and faith in our fellow teammates and members. Our advisors have an unbelievable amount of faith in our potential as future leaders. Follow in the example of past and present members, supporters, and advisors. We know that the skills and lessons achieved as FFA members will help us later in life, but the ultimate tool to fuel our future world is faith. Take advantage of the cheapest fuel around! Let your belief encourage others. Do not drown and simply trust your talents and abilities. The testing of our purpose produces endurance: remain loyal to that purpose no matter what. Even the smallest amount of faith can move mountains. Kansas FFA, fuel up with faith!

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