Friday
Sep052014

Red Rock Miracles

From James C. Schaap

Henry Whipple was one of the first students. Don't be fooled--not the Henry Whipple, the famous Minnesota missionary who, in 1862, pleaded with President Lincoln for the lives of hundreds of Dakota braves and won.

This Henry Whipple was a cute little Navajo six-year-old, who no one on earth had called "Henry Whipple" until he came to the new school at the mission, Rehoboth Mission. In 1903, that Henry Whipple was one of Rehoboth's very first students. He's the little guy down on the left.

First crack out of the box, his teachers named the kid Henry Whipple because the Henry Whipple was a missionary hero.

But there was another reason too, that one not so noble. Those very first teachers, all of whom spoke with thick Dutch brogues, didn't stand a chance of pronouncing Henry Whipple's Navajo name--whatever it was--so they simply dropped it and gave him a name rich with honor and a whole lot easier to pronounce.

Thursday
Sep042014

After the Flood

From Thomas C. Goodhart

New York City is a great place. But being the most populous city in the US, as well as an international media headquarters, carries with it an over-emphasis upon itself. Take for one example the weather. Think about it: you may be drinking your morning coffee or getting the kids ready for school almost anywhere in the nation but still be able to follow the weather conditions at Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan brought to you by Al Roker and NBC’s The Today Show. That self-absorption is not only at the expense of the middle of the country, but even for areas merely a few hours away from the City.

On the evening of Saturday, August 27, 2011, residents of New York City were battening down the hatches preparing for Hurricane Irene. I remember that day well, for after some impromptu hurricane parties, I returned home to secure the churchyard and facilities including moving inside to the parsonage basement some outdoor pets—or what others might refer to as livestock or poultry—the first time they returned to the inside location where they had been reared as peeps. Throughout the following hours numerous friends extended prayers for us down here in the City, and especially dear friends upstate—Revs. Becky and Greg Town who serve the Reformed Dutch Church of Prattsville—offered invitation should I want or need to get away to higher ground. Hours later Irene made its final landfall on the coast of Brooklyn.

By the next day New York City had made it through the storm rather pleasantly. There was some high water in certain areas but that can happen during any heavy storm. Real damage is little. Here, Irene was more hype than harm. Upstate however, mere hours away, was not the same story. Some of the very friends who had extended invitations of housing and hospitality had experienced within minutes emergency notice of evacuation, devastation to their communities, and destruction to their homes and churches. The storm that brought inconvenience downstate wrought flash floods with five-hundred-year-flood conditions in places such as Prattsville and Schoharie. Approximately one-third of all the houses and businesses in the village of Schoharie were severely damaged or destroyed due to flooding. There were ten deaths in the state, mostly upstate attributed to flooding.

Wednesday
Sep032014

We begin, again

From Jes Kast-Keat

Yesterday at 2:00 PM it hit me that I am no longer on vacation; I wanted my afternoon nap.

It was my first day back in my office since the beginning of August. I felt like one of the school kids whose pictures I saw on my Facebook timeline holding a picture: "Madeline 2nd grade", "Jack's first day of school", and "Reverend Jes, year 3 pastor."

The first day back after a lengthy holiday is wrought with joy and anxiety. My first day back to school in sixth grade was terrifying. What was middle school? Why did I have to be a foot taller than everyone else? Why is everyone so mean? My first day back to high school my junior year, however, was amazing. My campaign for class president (with the slogan "Cast your vote for Kast") had worked at the end of the previous year, setting this junior year up with a different set of questions. What legacy will I leave as I lead my junior class? We have to have the best homecoming float this year so what will I encourage us to make? How much will I be able to improve the food served in the cafeteria? First days (school, job, volunteering, etc...) are anchored by questions and goals.

Like many of you, books were a big part of my vacation this year. My book list included young adult fiction, novels, biographies and the feminist existential theorist Simone de Beauvoir. I hang out in existential thought often. "What does this even matter?" is a question I find myself asking consistently, particuarlly at the beginning of new years. What value does this bring to me and the world around? How is value measured? What makes this meangingful?

Tuesday
Sep022014

Value

From Scott Hoezee

My son started college last week and a couple days prior, he and I were out and about running last-minute errands to get him ready for the move to the dorm.  In between stops, the news on NPR came on the car radio, including a report from that day's funeral for Michael Brown.   An excerpt of Rev. Al Sharpton's message was played and at one point we heard Sharpton say something to the effect that it says something about our society when local police forces can get decked out by the government with military grade equipment even as local public schools cannot get the funds they need to deliver top-flight education to every child.

That comment prompted my otherwise fairly quiet son to say out loud, "Game, set, and match."

Sharpton's comment reminds me of the bumper sticker many of us have seen (but that I first saw on my niece's car years ago): "Won't It Be a Great Day When Schools Have All They Need and the Military Has to Hold Bake Sales to Buy Tanks."  

There are lots of ways--scores of ways for all I know--by which to evaluate any given society's values and priorities but the old adage "follow the money" works as well here as in many other areas of life.

Monday
Sep012014

What the Ice Bucket Challenge Means for Fundraising

From Jeff Munroe

As the calendar turns to September and the ice bucket challenge seems like so last month, I’m left reflecting on this unparalleled fundraising phenomenon.

What does it mean when every imaginable stripe of celebrity – from George W. Bush to Charlie Sheen – and millions of average folks pour freezing water over their heads and write checks? What does it tell us about ourselves and our culture?

To begin with, in case it wasn’t official yet, social media has changed the world. The ice bucket challenge had to have social media (and the cell phone technology that powers it) to exist. This couldn’t have happened a few years ago.

Social media is bottom up, not top down. It flattens (some like to say “democratizes”) communication. It’s important to remember that the ALS Association did not engineer this – the idea wasn’t original to ALS and the genesis of the whole thing was some people in the Northeast wanting to help a friend. All the charities now trying to figure out how to create the next viral fundraising challenge are wasting their time. You can’t orchestrate this stuff – the minute it looks orchestrated you’ve lost your audience. Social media is grass roots, and guys like me have the same platform as anyone else. Part of the appeal of the ice bucket challenge is that I can do the same thing as someone famous and post my version of doing it on the same platform as the famous person. I liked Benedict Cummerbatch’s video and Patrick Stewart’s video, but I also liked the self-identified redneck who rigged a tarp full of ice water and shot holes in it to douse himself. In the social media world, fame isn’t an either/or thing. All of us our famous, some just not as famous yet as we know we’re bound to be.