A Michigan Winter

It’s been a while since I have written a blog, but when I do decide to write, there have been multiple consistent themes. Soccer, school, family, etc. However, there is one theme, not as heavily touched on as others, that has always worked its way into my writing one way or another: Michigan winters. From the moment I even considered coming to Hope, I have heard, “Look out for the winters!”, or “Do you ski? They get plenty of the white stuff!”, or my personal favorite, “Why would you do that to yourself?” No, I do not ski, by trade I am the farthest thing from an outdoorsman, yet here I am, almost two years into my time living in Western Michigan, as an advocate for the Winter.

It can be dreary, it can be cold (it usually is actually), and yes, the skeptics are right, Western Michigan does see quite a bit of snow. But when you talk to the locals, above all else, Winter here is beautiful. After all, winter means Christmas, hot chocolate, and Hope Basketball… What’s not to love?

Now today in particular, was a winter day well spent. It started at Engedi for 9 a.m. church service, followed by brunch with my closest friends, a walk on Lake Michigan (the frozen water, not the beach), and will conclude (hopefully) with a Steelers playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, today – today was a good day.

Short and sweet from me tonight, but here’s the deal. Enjoy where you’re at. Even if where you’re at is Holland, Michigan, in the middle of January. Tomorrow has enough worries of its own after all, so take a deep breath and live today. Sometimes, that’s all you can do. If you do it right, you might even find yourself enjoying it. Crazy stuff, I know.

Worried about coming to Hope due to the harsh winters? Don’t be. I can confidently state there’s no other place I’d rather be. And that’s coming from a kid who formerly hated the cold, snow, slush, wind, and anything else that Winter could throw at me. Living in a snow globe isn’t too bad after all, here’s some proof:

And yes, that is the lake. No, none of those good-looking dudes are me, those are my friends.

That’s all from me for now, keep it real, stay warm, smile, and I’ll be in touch soon. Go Steelers!

With Love,
Steve

Another Year, Another Blog

To all my mom’s Facebook friends (and the prospective students that happen to stumble upon this blog), this one’s for you. Just like the old saying goes, I’m back and better than ever. Well, at least I’m back, it’s up to you to decide if I’m better I guess.

Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful time to be at Hope. September is one of the few months during the school year where we don’t have to worry about snowstorms and subzero temperatures so there’s been a lot of positive energy all around campus these first few weeks. New students still figuring out their way around the grounds, the Pine Grove cluttered with hammocks and Spikeball players, and Van Wylen Library somewhat remorsefully reopening her doors as us college-goers come to the realization that summer fun is over, and it’s time to get back to the grind. What a time to be alive.

The bottom line is that it’s good to be back. Last year, as many freshmen do, I spent a lot of time missing home. College is great, but like anything else, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some tough moments along the way. Despite the homesickness, my longing for home-cooked meals, and the straight-up thought of, “What the heck am I doing in Holland, Michigan?” that last year brought about, I missed Hope College during my summer spent in Pittsburgh… a lot. I don’t know where the specific point is that home starts to feel a little less like home, and college starts to feel a little more like where one belongs, but, wherever that point may be, I’m glad I’ve met it. To keep things simple, we’ll just call that enlightenment of sorts, “Sophomore Year.”

So here’s to year two. That being said, whether you’re at year 1, 2, 3, or 15 years removed from college, look at this season as an opportunity to start fresh. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the job, on the field, in a relationship… whatever that looks like for you, everyday is a new day; another opportunity to get after life and do something awesome. Even though it doesn’t always go as planned, (coming from the kid who slipped in the locker room and missed the first week of the soccer season due to a concussion), my encouragement this time around is to keep on, keepin’ on.  After all, a guy much, much, much wiser than me once said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Just for kicks, here’s the 2016 Hope soccer team, come catch a game if you’re ever around Holland.

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I’m sure I’ll have plenty of stories to tell this year, so until next time…

With Love,
Steve

An Ode to Phelps 204

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Oh, if these walls could talk… right? Phelps 204 welcomed my roommate and me in with open arms back in August. Since then, there have been joy-filled moments, tear-filled moments, and many, many, many stress-filled moments. Through it all, room 204 has been there. So here’s to you, Phelps 204, we couldn’t have made it without you.

It started in August, soccer preseason was upon us. Every day we awoke early, never once did it complain. All day long our room stayed here alone, and didn’t mutter a word when we came back sweaty, and reeking of B.O. As Move-In Day came for the rest of campus, its walls were the only ones bold enough to proudly boast a Buckeye flag in a land full of Wolverines and Spartans, and a Pirates flag where Cubs, Brewers, and White Sox fans run rampant.

Then school, soccer, and studying began, nights got longer. Yet, the room was always open to all-nighters, welcoming the smell of fresh coffee at 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 a.m. Never once did it grumble about Ben’s sleep talking, my snoring, or our alarms going off at ungodly hours of the morning.

Its walls heard many conversations. The start of new friendships, the end of old relationships, numerous FaceTime calls back home, and always happily greeting visits from Columbus and Pittsburgh family. It held three birthday celebrations, multiple study sessions, and innumerable FIFA tournaments. The room did not care when our speaker system echoed loud, sometimes ignorant music off its walls. 204 was the first to hear some of Woody’s best poetry, a witness to my sub-par free-styling skills, and housed the mirror that one of us boys checked every five minutes or so.

2nd semester, the room welcomed us back after Christmas as if we had never left. It helped us brave the cold, providing warmth during what most called a “mild” winter. Not once was a question raised to Ben when he returned late at night from pledge events. Likewise, there was never a debate when I rolled into bed before 10. It did not groan about the smell that invaded our room when spoiled milk spilled all over the mini fridge, and accepted the new scent of an air freshener that soon followed. Then, probably unwillingly, the room embraced the stink of shin guards, soccer socks, and sweaty boy that soon reappeared along with spring soccer season. 

These walls heard prayers when things were going well, when things were going not-so-well, and when things were stuck somewhere in the middle. They listened to screams the same way they listened to whispers: silently. Never once did they murmur disapprovals to those too talkative, or to those too subdued. Phelps 204 accepted us as we were, watched us grow into young men as the year progressed, looked beyond our flaws, but was always careful not to handout too much praise towards our accomplishments.

If these walls could talk, I think they would pour out some extremely cliché wisdom to the next two boys that have the privilege of calling this place home. Something along the lines of, “Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it”, and let me tell you…

Those walls would be right. What a year it’s been.

With Love,
Steve

Poverty, Inc.

This Saturday night at the Knickerbocker Theatre on 8th Street, the documentary Poverty, Inc. was shown for any Hope students, faculty, or Holland community members who were interested in attending. Sure enough, there I found myself, on Saturday night, with some friends of mine watching a film on worldwide poverty.

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Over the past few years, as my love for the nation of Haiti has grown, so too has my love for seeking articles, video clips, and books addressing the social issues (specifically poverty) that plague our world today. Most people, like me, and like the producers of Poverty, Inc. recognize that something was seriously flawed with the way our government – and other governments for that matter – are handling the issue of poverty. Now, I am about to offer up some of my own opinions and thoughts after watching this movie; I apologize if I hurt your feelings, but here it goes.

I can remember a friend of mine, David Henderson, asking, (I’m paraphrasing here, Dave) “Why is it that teenagers like to go to third world nation orphanages? I struggle to see any motivation beyond the Instagram picture they’ll post, that well, using an orphan sitting in their lap as a tool to gain more ‘likes’ and attention.” Two things before we move forward:

  1. David Henderson is one of the smartest people I have ever met. He is currently a freshman at Duke, and this summer he interned in Boston for a not-so-well-known guy named Dr. Paul Farmer. David’s father, Brad, is a Hope grad and has been doing mission work in Cap Haitien, Haiti, for about 25 years now. I swear to this day that David and his siblings have more Haitian blood in them than anything else. Point being, David knows his stuff. Side note, I also know Dave as a guy that does not like drawing attention to himself. So, to you too Dave, I apologize.
  2. It’s extremely important to note that that “teenager” David was describing was probably me. Example A:

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That being said, when I went to Haiti in 8th grade for the first time, it completely changed my life. That experience shaped me. It opened my eyes to the world around me, and made me realize that life was A LOT bigger than what my middle school girlfriend thought about me. Not to put my words into their mouths, but I’m sure guys like David, Cole Constantino, Will Petraglia, Rich Rafferty, and many others would tell you the same thing.

We all came back excited, changed, and we wanted to tell EVERYONE about it. Thus, our trip was all over social media. Allow me to make something very clear: I have no problem with kids sharing pictures, telling stories, and posting anything regarding their last missions trip. Missions trips are awesome, they should make you excited, and they should change your outlook on life. I’d be a ridiculously large hypocrite if I tried to tell you that I am not a living example of that.

Now back to Poverty, Inc. A mentor of mine, Daren D’Ippolito (He’s a Calvin grad, but still a great guy), told me I reminded him of a “young Roger Ebert.” For those of us born in the late 90s, Ebert was an extremely opinionated movie critic (I had to look it up too). I am by no means comparing myself to one of the most well-known movie critics of all time, but none-the-less, here was my concise opinion after watching the film:

Overall, the filmmakers did a very good job of simplifying some extremely complex issues on poverty so that the typical movie-goer could understand and grasp the concepts.

Like I said before, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our past efforts to eliminate poverty have not come to fruition. By no means am I saying that it isn’t our place as fellow men and women to come alongside nations like Haiti following natural disasters like the earthquake in 2010. However, it’s 2016. I’ll be in Haiti again in a little more than a month and will still see plenty of NGO trucks, dumpsters and wells branded with the logos of charities and non-profits, and numerous packages boasting the “American-Grade” subsidized rice (rice has been around for a while, the movie will explain that). Not to mention, Cap Haitien is a little more than 80 miles north of Port-au-Prince, where the epicenter of the earthquake was. In its essence, Poverty, Inc. does an excellent job of plainly asking, “Why are we still there?”

Again, I know many American people that have done amazing things all over the world. People that have taken the time to learn the culture, language, and lifestyle of numerous countries and cultures. These people have gone out of their comfort zone, and have truly been an embodiment of Jesus “to the least of these.” I also want to make it known that I am simply a Hope College freshman. I process by asking questions. Compared to the fearless men and women who have given up their sheltered realities and entered into areas of turmoil, I know nothing. Before I say anything else, I am neither bold, nor courageous enough to sacrifice my own time, funds, and family to do the things that many adults I know have accomplished in places like Haiti.

My only hope, as I Lord-willing am able to continue to play some small role in Haiti, is that our minds (specifically this generation of new thinkers and doers) for the poor would grow as great as the hearts we have for them. Those words come directly from Poverty, Inc. That film is going to play a massive role in educating all types of people, and opening their eyes to the harsh realities we have helped contribute to as Americans. Looking back on past events regularly shows us that there are things we would do differently if we could. There are so many small details regarding other nations and peoples that as “first world”, “educated” individuals we simply just do not understand. We’re human. We make mistakes, it’s in our nature. Such is life.

Poverty, Inc. also includes many success stories that remind me of some of my friends in Haiti. There are numerous corporations, non-profits, and charities that are handling foreign partnerships correctly. I believe it is our duty as young people to establish relationships with the “impoverished.” It is then, and only then, that we will realize they’re not the ones in need of sympathy or aid. Rather, it’s us.

Well. That’s about it. Rant over.

To my mom’s Facebook friends, prospective Hope students, or whoever happens to come upon this blog…know this: there are more than enough people who are ready to try and fix the issue of poverty, the right way. I think of a young guy like Ian Rosenberger (very similar to those people interviewed in Poverty, Inc.) who is beginning to establish himself in Haiti as a fellow entrepreneur alongside Haitians, not as an employer over them. Then there’s those even younger like Dave and Jack Henderson, Ben Schweiger, Charlie Byers, and many others who represent the next generation of humble, innovative leaders. Not to mention our current teachers taking the time to educate my generation, so that we would not come in with a great new idea or strategy; But maybe, just maybe, that we could learn from the past experiences of others, and help improve a system that initiated from some “really good hearts.”

There is still an immediate need all over the world. Even in downtown Holland, Michigan there are many who do not have a warm bed to sleep in, or substantial food to eat. It is still our duty to go. It is still our duty to serve. But first, let’s think. And let’s ask. As Poverty Inc. explained, it’s not like these people “are in love with the idea of living in Poverty.” They want to fix their situations as well. It’s our duty to help them accomplish their goals, not achieve their objectives for them.

When I come back from Haiti, and make one of those “all-too-typical videos” set to music encompassing the entirety of our trip, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. At the end of the day, I highly encourage you to watch Poverty, Inc., and before you ask, when it comes to TOMs shoes, I have 3 pairs.

James 1:27.

With Love,
Steve

A Professional Procrastinator

To be honest, I thought my procrastination habits would be a thing of the past upon my entrance into college. Well, here I am, in my second semester, and I will be the first to admit that my procrastinating is at its very peak. That being said, I must apologize, as I have, like you might have guessed, procrastinated writing a blog for a few weeks now. Fear not! Here it is.

As always a list. However, this list will have a title. Without further ado… A few things not to do when you should be doing your homework/writing blogs that I’ve done over the past few weeks:

  1. Play Zombies. As I have mentioned before, my closest friend Zach attends Arizona State University. The distance between us has not at all hindered our friendship, but rather during our time apart, our relationship has blossomed. Zach and I have facetime dates nearly every night, but not just to talk. Because we’re both that cheap (or innovative, depending on how you look at it) that is our method of communication while we “fend off the undead hordes” together over Xbox Live. As Hope soccer coach Steve Smith likes to put it, “Xbox literally destroys my players’ GPAs.” Well coach, to you I say, check my transcript! Read it and weep, I’m doing better than last semester.
  2. Clean your dorm room. I have this not-so-awful habit of cleaning when I get stressed. Some, like my roommate, would consider that a great asset. However, let me tell ya, cleaning is awesome until you put it ahead of that 4-page paper due at 8 AM the next morning. On the bright side, at least you’d get to study all night in a clean room, eh?
  3. Call your parents. Before I say anything offensive, I love you dearly Mom. Yet, when I get on the phone anticipating a 5-minute phone call, those 35 minutes of chatter sure do fly by quickly. Now, don’t get me wrong, keeping in touch with your parents is VITAL… especially during your freshman year. Just try to keep the conversations short and sweet when there’s school work that needs to be completed.
  4. Go Grocery Shopping. Who can study effectively without their favorite snack? Answer: nobody. I completely agree with that notion. But, wandering around aimlessly at Meijer comparing the prices of crackers is not going to bode well for your academic success. Trust me: been there, done that.
  5. Pray. Yes Hope College is a Christian University. And no, there is NEVER a bad time to pray. That being said, it is probably unwise to enter into a 20-minute conversation with the Maker the night before a midterm exam (at least, prior to any studying). Yes, God does work in mysterious and wonderful ways; I’m not denying that. However, of His many revelations I have witnessed, He is yet to reveal to me the exam answers in Sociology 101. Quiet time is the best time, just spend some quality time in your textbooks along with your scripture.
  6. Workout. I’ve never been one to stay at the gym for extensive periods of time. If I haven’t said it enough already; I strongly dislike running. Yet, it was only a week ago that I found myself at the DeVos Fieldhouse eyeing up my extremely averagely sized biceps for a little bit longer than originally planned. I guess my brain needs a workout more than my body does sometimes.

There you have it. Those are only six of the numerous ways that I procrastinate regularly. Hear this, if nothing else: if you’re going to put off your school work until the last minute make sure you like coffee, little to no sleep, and at least be capable of delivering in clutch situations. Enough with all of these buzzer beater shots, walk-off home runs, and game winning goals. The test of a true man comes at 10:55 when that reading response is due at 11.

When you really get good at putting off work, you’ll start writing blogs to stall even more. It’s probably time to get started on that ministry 201 paper…

Have a great week (or weeks) everybody!

With Love,
Steve

If Ya Ain’t Dutch, Ya Ain’t Much

As a first year student here at Hope College, I have had the opportunity to meet some pretty awesome people. From the soccer players, to Young Life leaders, and even the school chaplains; I feel like I know some of the most important people on campus. One of those important people is a buddy of mine named Sam Starks. Sam is the type of guy that everyone on campus knows, but in the good way. He is always quick to lend a smile to anyone in need, and just an outright joy to be around. However, for everyone who does not know Sam, he is one of the most competitive individuals I have ever met. That is why he is one of the distinguished leaders of Hope College’s loyal student section, the Dew Crew.

Most people familiar with Hope College know how much we love beating our Christian friends over at Calvin. Personally I have some experience playing in these infamous Hope-Calvin rivalry games, and trust me, the bad blood is very real. The Calvin soccer players are great guys, honestly. However, in my 16 years of playing, never before have I endured such a great distaste for another team. As one can probably imagine, this rivalry stretches across all athletics, but reaches its peak anytime the men’s basketball teams from Hope and Calvin respectively, square off.

Now, back to Sam. In Sam’s own words, if I was a true fan, this blog would have been completed a week ago while our victory over Calvin was still fresh. Taking this into consideration, Sam, I would argue that there is NEVER a bad time to remind our pals from Grand Rapids what it feels like to be, well, losers. (I mean that in the literal sense… they lost the game… don’t take that the wrong way.) Moving along, I never thought that I’d be a part of any student section that would top that of my high school’s. Yet, here I am, humbly admitting that the Dew Crew last Wednesday night was absolutely stellar.

You see, when you become good buds with a Dew Crew co-leader, weird things start happening. For example, I was in the DeVos Fieldhouse four hours prior to tip-off. Here’s a picture to prove it:

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In addition, I find myself wearing all orange a bit too often, and scarves indoors. Again, some proof in the form of a picture:

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Turns out #20 on Calvin does not have bunions, Blake Johnson’s, (the good looking man holding the sign), resources were off. Nonetheless, due to my friendship with Sam, I had the best seat, (well spot to stand), in the house at my first ever Hope-Calvin basketball game. Special stuff wouldn’t you say?

So enough talk about all of these UNC-Duke, Auburn-Alabama, and Michigan-OSU games. One of the best rivalries in of all of college sports finds its home right here in western Michigan. You gotta be here to believe it.

So that’s all I have. The Hope-Calvin rivalry lives on, and now I get to play a part in it… and so could you. Just remember, whenever it feels like the world is caving in on you, and the end of life as you know seems all but definite… you could have gone to Calvin. It could ALWAYS be worse.

Have a great end to the week everybody! Go Dutchmen!

With Love,
Steve

525,600 Minutes

During my time at North Allegheny’s Ingomar Middle School in Mccandless, Pennsylvania, every single year the 8th grade chorus would sing a rendition of “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent. The idea was that the lyrics of the song, reflecting on what “measures a year”, (in the song, love is deemed the only proper measurement), could sum up our time as the top dogs of the middle school. Why this thought came to my mind today, I have no idea. However it got me thinking, what exactly have I done in the past 525,600 minutes?

A year ago today, January 22, 2015, was a very hectic day in the life of Steve Binnig. It was a Tuesday, and at that time everyone would say the “club was going up” in reference to the ILOVEMAKONNEN song. It’s crazy how terrible the taste in music was a year ago. Anyways, the next day, the 23rd, I was leaving for my second trip to Cap Haitien, Haiti. I should have been concerned that I had a grand total of zero items packed, but that was not on the forefront of my mind. However, what was really on my brain was a question I planned to ask that night. A very important question might I add. We’ll get to that later.

Moving along, the Haiti trip was awesome. That week completely recharged my spiritual batteries, and reignited my passion for missions, and Haiti.

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After Haiti came a dance.

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Then there was this awful time where an oral surgeon removed all of the wisdom from my mouth, a week that I am definitely happy is in the past. A few short weeks after that: another dance. Senior Prom this time, made me feel old.

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Up next came the end of my club soccer career. The last time I would play alongside some of the best athletes I have ever known. Throughout the years, 15 collegiate soccer players were on that team. 10 of those 15 are currently or soon will be playing at a Division I school.

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Quickly to follow was senior banquet, then graduation, a graduation party for myself, a beach trip, some more graduation parties, and then some really tough goodbyes. Goodbyes to friends, family, and home. It all came and went so quickly that I felt like I didn’t even have time to experience it.

Since this is my first blog specifically directed at high school seniors, I decided I’d try my best to relate to them. I know what it’s like being the second semester senior… maybe Mom even lets you sleep through first period every other day! What a privilege. None the less, enjoy every second of it, because before you know it, it’s over. Next thing you know, maybe you’ll be here, at Hope College. The funny thing is, not that much really changes. For example…

Less than four months from today, I’m leading a trip of Hope Students to Haiti. It’s wild to me that I get to share something I love so deeply with people I love equally as deeply.

I also found another team, the only difference is these guys like to wear orange.

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The craziest part is, I still find my self getting asked to dances

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My point is pretty cliche. A lot can change in a year. If I’ve learned one thing its that the best things tend to stick around. So Abby, thanks for answering yes to that “very important” question I asked you a year ago.

 So it goes, the lyrics to 525,600 minutes are somewhat accurate. I haven’t been measuring the past year in cups of coffee, sunsets, laughter, and no, not even strife. But rather, when I look back on the last year I think of my love for the God I get to humbly serve everyday, my love for a small island-nation and its people, my love for a game, and my love for a girl. It’s been a good year.

Next year, you could be here.

With love,

Steve