Unpredictable Impact! By: Ellen Neumann

Below is one of our devotionals from the Lasting Impact! Devotional Book

Everything you say and do has an unpredictable impact! Speech and Debate is no different!

All too often I see students who are practicing and honing their public speaking skills for the competition, winning trophies, or recognition. I know it can be easy to lose focus on why the art of communication matters.


When looking back at ballots I received over the years, some of the most memorable and meaningful ballots for me were NOT the 1st places, “You were so polished! The best speaker in the room” etc. I barely remember those. The ones that I easily remember and am most proud of are the ones that said, “You made an impact on me”, “I’m going home to share this with my daughter”, “This changed my life”, or “I’m excited to see the things you do for Christ”. It is so much more rewarding to know you have impacted someone else’s life for the better than to receive a trophy.

We are here to further the kingdom of God and speak His truth. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

Speech and Debate can be a means to practice sharing His light and truth, which is not just a suggestion, but rather a command. 1 Peter 3:15 states, “But revere Christ in your hearts as Lord; and always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us, but do so with gentleness and respect.”

This means thinking through and knowing what we believe. It means being ready to speak and defend, and it means treating people with respect in our communication. Now, maybe you’re thinking, “Sure, that’s all well and good, but I’m not going to have an impact. I don’t have anything important to say.” I’ve been there. I know how that feels. And I have a story to tell you in response:

In 1963 mathematician and meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, made a mistake while researching weather that caused him to notice that extremely slight changes in weather cause extremely large changes later on. For example, a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in Africa causes air molecules to move, which in turn causes more molecules to move in a different place until eventually a tornado or hurricane could be started in Texas. This theory has been given the nickname the Butterfly Effect. (add endnote) But what makes this theory unique is that it doesn’t only apply to weather, it also applies to people.

A 2004 ABC news program named Norman Borlaug as “Person of the Week.” Many people were puzzled at the choice because they had never heard of him. But even though the name was unfamiliar, Norman Borlaug was responsible for significantly changing the world. In the 1940s Norman hybridized high yield, disease-resistant corn and wheat for arid climates which enabled his plants to grow in places that had never before grown plants. Because of this, it is claimed that Norman Borlaug’s plants saved more than two billion people from starving.

However, it could have been Henry Wallace, the Vice President under Franklin Roosevelt, who saved all those people. Vice President Wallace created a station in Mexico whose purpose was to hybridize corn and wheat for arid climates. And the man Wallace hired to run it was Norman Borlaug. So perhaps it was Henry Wallace who saved the lives of over two billion people.

Or was it? Maybe it was George Washington Carver, the peanut farmer. When Carver was a student at Iowa State University, he would go on botanical expeditions with his teacher’s six-year-old son. During those expeditions, Carver taught young Henry Wallace about plants and their importance to humanity long before he became Vice President. So was it George Washington Carver who saved two billion people from starving?

Of course, this story could go on forever. Who really saved all those people? How far back would we have to go to find out? One thing we can know for sure, everything we do, say, or think has an unpredictable impact. Generations yet unborn will be shifted and shaped by the actions we take today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. How many lives will your actions impact? How many have they impacted already?

Can you see the butterfly effect in your life?

For more encouragement… Check out the Lasting Impact! Devotional