First off, I want to say a BIG “thank you”!!  Thank you to a group of 33 wonderful students who explored Northern Ireland, Evansville, Guatemala, Washington D.C., Fraser Lake Camp, The Early Church, Highland Retreat, Orange County, Philadelphia Praise Center….well, I could go on with the list of many places you served this summer, but I won’t.  You were part of the summer 2009 Inquiry Programs (Camping, Ministry, Service) that dared you to ask the “big questions” of life, faith and vocation as you developed a variety of skills that often stretched you. I thank you for the courage you demonstrated, braving dangerous endeavors that may cause you to alter your life paths (or affirm your current direction).

Clearly you 33 IPers engaged in your surroundings with wondrously joyous spirits in which you learned from your hosts, listened to the lives of others, and offered your hospitable selves–at least that is the feedback that I received from your host supervisors!  Clearly you have realized that that there is more to this world than your own sphere and eagerly desire to be affected by that reality…at least that is what I heard you say to me in our reflective debriefings.  Clearly you responded to a God whose workings can be unknown, mysterious, and awe-inspiring, even if that came through from the eyes of a little child, the struggle of homelessness, or the joy of authentic community.

Even though my IP experience was from the confines of my office in AD 12, the stories you sent me throughout your experience were wonderful!  I liked hearing some of you say “this fits with me” or “I didn’t know ministry/service could be done in this way.”  At the same time, knowing that a military coup was happening in Honduras seemed to exhaust my prayers for your safety–Julia, please don’t cause such upheaval again or you’ll give SIP a bad name!  And I know that some of you had some genuine struggles in your host site or even with your mentor, and for this, I commend you for sticking with it, making the most of it, and posturing yourselves with humility and desiring to learn from your reality.

But what really strikes me is how you, God, and I worked together throughout the past 11 months to dream up and carry out this potentially life-changing/affirming experience.  I think back to when you first applied last winter and hearing what your references said about you, and then doing an initial interview with you where I first heard of your dreams and hopes for what this experience could do and be.  Then came the time to find a place for these dreams to be lived out.  Now, for some of you, finding a placement was a “slam dunk”–to all the CIPers, thank you!  But there were a few of you who helped to gray my hair! However, what I have learned in those particular experiences is that God is faithful even if sometimes things move more slowly than desired or fall through unexpectedly!  Yet, our collective persistence eventually paid off, even if a site wasn’t finalized until just a few weeks before you were to begin.  Right, Tori, Daisy and Breanna?

To you Hannah C., Seth, Krista, Patrick, Kara, Katelyn, Sarah Ro., Anna, Laura, Isaac, Maria, Jordan, Lauren, Arienne, Scott, Hannah M., Annali, Jennifer, Ana, Greg, Crystal, Julia, Deanna, Allyson, Andrea D., Daniel, Daisy, Andrea K., Melody, Breanna, Elizabeth, Sarah Ri., and Tori–I thank you for your courage, for the ways you represented Goshen College, and selfishly, for the ways you fueled my own faith!