Learning To Be Thankful One Day At A Time

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember. When I tell people this, I generally get a lot of questions asking why. No, it’s not because my favorite food is mashed potatoes (though it definitely takes a nice second to puppy chow) or because I love watching the Lions lose every year. It’s the idea of taking a specific day out of your life to be thankful. I don’t know about you, but I often forget how good I truly have it. I do not lack food or shelter or a loving support system of family and friends, yet, without fail, I never tell my amazing Heavenly Father about these gifts and why I love them except on this one day a year.

Just going through my normal day provides me with enough things to be thankful for to last a lifetime.

I wake up at the cottage that I share with five of my closest friends. I cannot tell you enough how amazing they all are and how grateful I am to be able to live with them on campus. Our cottage, Mayor’s, sits right across the street from Centennial Park. The Park is beautiful during this time of year. There are so many bright and vibrant colors on the tree. I thank God for my friends, a warm house, and the colors that lighten our lives.

Female student jumps in front of wood church doors. As I walk through Hope’s campus towards my first class, I find an abundance of things to be thankful for in each glance. I pass Dimnent Chapel, my favorite place to worship, and the Bultman Student Center, where I always try to study but fail because I always see so many people that I know and love. I arrive at the DePree Art Center, my favorite building on campus. Inside it sit all my friends, ready to learn and make amazing art together. There is no shortage of inspiration here. I thank God for the places on campus that aide in making me a more rounded student and person, as well as a major (Art) that I love so much.

After class, I go to work at Hope’s Public Affairs and Marketing office where I work as a student graphic designer. I enjoy making materials like posters and cards that go out to all sides of campus. It’s so fun seeing my work hanging up places. I am thankful for the opportunities there that are teaching me to become a better graphic designer, the bosses that want to see me learn, and the coworkers that always keep me smiling.

After my day is done, I return back to my cottage. Without fail, I always have at least one text on my phone for one of my family members. Even though I don’t get to see them every day, it’s nice to know that they are one ever one text or phone call away. I’m thankful for a family that is always so present, no matter where we are.

That concludes my day of thankfulness, yet it doesn’t even begin to cover all of the things that I could be thankful for.

A Message of Encouragement: A Senior Witness from a Friend

Everyone has a story. But it is usually not the one that they are telling.

These words were spoken by a good friend, in chapel this past Wednesday.

It was something that I needed to hear. Something the people of Hope College probably needed to hear too.

I’m a junior at Hope. And I by no means have things figured out. But I’m starting to realize that my friend was right. We usually aren’t telling the story we’re living. But why…?

Most often, there is one thing that holds us back from who we’re made to be. I tend to think that thing is fear.

Fear.

Fear of not fitting in.

Fear of being vulnerable.

Fear of not having a good story to tell.

These are all legit fears.

But let me tell you what else my friend told us at chapel on Wednesday…

“God didn’t create you to be like somebody else. He created you uniquely in his image.”  

The point here is not if you believe in God or not. The point is that you are unique. You have gifts, talents, humor, and so much more. So, let me tell you, you were never made to fit in. You were made to stand out!

“I used to feel like I had to be perfect… Becoming vulnerable with others has given me freedom from that.”

I’ll be honest. Being vulnerable with people is hard. Especially those close to you.

I’ve found it easy to be “good.” This is much easier than, “You know, I’m not having a great day,” or “I’m really struggling with this…” Now I’m not saying we should go around telling people all of our struggles and be Debbie downers. I’m all about positivity and the more we can have in this world the better. It is in sharing with those we are close to that is important. It will give you a sense of freedom. Your relationships will be strengthened. And you will have overcome a legitimate fear.

“Don’t ever underestimate the impact you can have on someone else’s life.”

 We tend to believe our influence and story we tell with our life is not good enough. Here me out on this… You are making an impact. Whether you know it or not. You are.

If you don’t think you have a good story to tell, experiment with the following: Walk down the street and give someone a warm smile. Maybe a friendly “hello.” If they don’t smile back, I’ll take the blame! What I’m trying to say is that making an impact is so simple! Often, we think we have to do big things to tell a good story. I’m learning it’s the little things that make the story good.

Most the time we don’t tell our actual story. We let fear win. But fear doesn’t have to win! Remember: You are unique. You are made to be vulnerable. You are making an impact. The way we live our life is the story we tell. So, let me ask you… What story are you currently telling?

Can’t you just tell me?: Musings on Being Undecided

By: Alley LoPrete

One of the most daunting parts of choosing a college for me was wondering if I would make the right choice. How do I know my school is the right one? It brought me back to middle school dreams of my future husband and asking my mom “How do you know he is the ONE?” So, I chose a school where I could find lots of options; Hope College. Perfect! I found a liberal arts school where I can take classes in multiple areas to fit all my interests. It wasn’t a cop-out. Rather, I felt that Hope College would help me stay well rounded and flexible so that I could do all the things I love for four more years.

As a result, my schedule freshman year was a melting pot for my mind:  Basic Painting: yes I love to be creative! Encounter with Cultures: awesome, I love learning people’s stories!, Communication: nice, this is an important skill. Then, the most terrifying email came into my inbox from my advisor. The subject line: DECLARE A MAJOR! A major, as in one subject, one degree, one department. Here I was faced with another choice and I was again too overwhelmed with ideas to make it. My biggest fear was that I would choose a career path that I would tire of, or that my degree would limit me later in life. I also felt that I needed to choose a major that would follow God’s calling for me. Thus, I was forced to turn inward and reflect on what I knew about myself.

This reflection was a large part of my First Year Seminar at Hope and through the class and the Career Development Center I took a StrengthsQuest test. This test is aimed at finding your top strengths through a series of self-reflection questions. Everyone passes this test and ends up with your top five strengths! Mine are: Includer, Adaptability, Connectedness, Empathy, Achiever. These traits pointed to a career in relationship building, so I signed up for a sociology class the next semester. Turns out, I love the social sciences and particularly the study of communities.

I also met with a religion professor after taking a religion course freshman year. I learned about all the careers that one can have in studying humanities and realized how options grow based upon your passions. I also read a book called Acts of Faith in my First Year Seminar class and I learned how much religion effects the world and how the social justice elements of my faith could be used for a greater good. I soon realized that my passions for serving others could be built into what I study at school. I can work for a nonprofit, serve, and still make a living.

In the end, I changed my major at least three times and ended up with not one, but two majors: Sociology and Religion. Through mentors, resources and experiences in the classroom my interests were channeled into potential jobs and the majors to go with. I am now looking forward to attending Seminary or Graduate school and working as a chaplain or for a nonprofit in the future. Even within my majors, I do not feel limited as I feared. In attending a liberal arts school, I can still go in and out of departments and continue learning! But, I do know now that my future is bright and I have a direction for my studies and a plethora of job options in the future.

Here are some points of advice that I will leave you with:

  • Reflect on your life experiences and what brings you joy: these often help you determine what you want to pursue doing in the future, because you loved them in the past.
  • Use your resources: family, friends, mentors, career centers and advisors, Strengths Quest and more can help you make good choices and consider more options that you may know about now.
  • Step out of comfort zone: your major may not be the most practical initially, but in talking to professors and doing research you may find more career possibilities.
  • Mix it up: Try out different classes, go to lectures outside your major. You may run into a topic you didn’t know you had a passion for and may end up with a minor!
  • Think of others: Everyone is given skills that are unique, think about how you will not only be helping yourself in choosing a major, but also keep in mind how what you’re studying can help others as well.

Senior Struggle #3: Saying Goodbye to my Email Signature

Happy Monday, readers! Miraculously, after writing last week’s blog, I feel a lot better about being busy this semester. I feel like writing that blog post put a lot of things in perspective for me and I’m at terms with my workload for the semester. My new goal is to get most of my homework done during the weekends so that my weeks are a little less hectic. All it took was some rehashing to figure out how to do that!

The new thought that has been on my mind since I last wrote is the fact that I am scared out of my mind to leave this safe little bubble of Hope I’ve called home for the past four years. Thinking back on it, Hope has been my safe haven. It has given me an education, put amazing people in my life, and most importantly fostered my faith for the past four years. Everything has been made easily accessible to me and has been extremely convenient. It’s been easy to get involved, see friends when I need to, and go to church without straying too far from campus. The way I tend to think about this convenient bubble is in terms of my email signature. It looks like this:


Hope College, Class of 2017

English Major and Management Minor
Career Development Office, Career Advisor
Student Blogger, Hope College Admissions
Hope College Student Ambassador
Hope College Student Congress Representative
Nykerk Cup Executive Board Member, Treasurer

Adaptability | Positivity | Empathy | Developer | Futuristic

How I feel about my email signature…

To me, my email signature shows that I’m accomplished here at Hope and how easy it was to make those accomplishments happen. Once I graduate though, that signature will disappear and that thought is extremely scary to me. All my accomplishments will be gone! I will have to start from scratch building up my email signature with involvements and activities. How will I even begin to do that if I’m not within the comfortable bubble of Hope? How will I find activities to be involved in and make a new normal for myself?

One way to alleviate some of this stress about graduating and creating a new normal is by preparing for life after graduation. For me, that means to start thinking about it. A way that I’m going to start this conversation is by attending the event series “Life After College” which is put on by the Career Development Center, Campus Ministries, and the Senior Seminar program. Every week the series will be covering a different topic that seniors will have to face after graduation. This week on Wednesday from 3 p.m.–5 p.m., or Thursday from 7 p.m.–9 p.m. in the first floor rotunda of Martha Miller the topic that will be covered is finding a church. As a faith-driven person, that topic is very important to me and something I want to invest in. Other topics range from faith in the workplace to friends and fiancé’s after college – whatever the topic I know I need to start thinking about it!

Hopefully you all have started thinking about what life holds for you after graduation, but if you’re like me and haven’t even started, just know that Hope has amazing resources like the Career Development Center to help you start that conversation.

Until next time!

Time to Rest

Five weeks into the semester and the number on everyone’s mind is three:
Three days stand between Hope students and a long awaited Fall Break.

It’s that time of the school year when papers are due, group projects are in progress, and work is piling up. I know I find it too easy to get off track from where I should be focused and let my time be consumed by work, mindless distraction, and sleep.

This week, like many others during my two years here at Hope, I had a friendly little reminder of where my mind and heart should find rest. This reminder came in the form of a question from one of my housemates. She asked if there was a reason I had stopped going to Chapel. She knows I enjoy it and this was something she felt Jesus putting on her heart to talk about with me.

I didn’t have a good answer for her and I had never had a good answer for myself. I just convinced myself I needed to spend the time elsewhere. Thankfully, I have friends that are willing to chime in and shine a light on my excuses.

Ultimately, none of this school work means anything if I do not focus on my calling to be a disciple of Christ. Hope provides the opportunities to dig in and grow in our spiritual lives as we buckle down and expand our academic knowledge. I’ll never come up with an answer good enough to justify not taking advantage of these gifts.

Philippians verse on wall surrounded by pictures.
Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. Philippians 4:6

As we head into this break, I am reminded that when life gets busy, two days off may not be all we need. Rather, a friendly reminder of where our hearts should be fixed and our motivation should rise might be in order. In Christ, we do not need to worry – whatever we are doing here stems from our relationship with Him.

Thanks for reading,
Erin

Combining Senior Seminar and Sabbath

Hello Readers! Hope your week is going well, I know mine is off to a crazy start!

School is going well. I’m busy, involved, and loving every second of this intense semester, but one of the things I didn’t expect to love so much is the classwork (crazy, I know, since the sole reason I’m here at Hope is to do be educated.) One of the classes I’m in this semester that I’ve found I love is my Senior Seminar. The name of the class I’m in is The Future of Being Human, and it is all about the advancement of technology and humans place in this advancing world of data. It’s really interesting and has made me think about some more in-depth issues that are going on in the world.

The main takeaway I’ve gotten from this class so far is that while technology is helpful in so many ways, it also makes humanity disconnected to what is happening around us and alters the relationships we have with people. This topic fascinates me, and I love to challenge myself in it as often as I can.

During this past summer, I was able to read a book by John Mark Comer titled Garden City. It is about figuring out what our purpose is on this earth and how we can tie that purpose into our day-to-day lives (really good book, here’s the link). There is a chapter in this book that struck me right to the core. It was about trying to implement a Sabbath day into our weeks. For John Mark, this Sabbath day includes him and his family turning off their electronic devices and doing nothing but resting and worshiping the Lord. In other words, they don’t work at all on this Sabbath day and refocus their lives for the week on what is important. Can you imagine the bliss of not checking emails and having the freedom to be spontaneous?

This is my dream of what every Sabbath for me would look like - diving into piles and piles of books and not coming out until the day is done!
This is my dream of what every Sabbath for me would look like – diving into piles and piles of books and not coming out until the day is done!

I could. And I wanted to implement this Sabbath day into my week – so I did. It wasn’t (and isn’t) easy, especially for a college student, but I decided Mondays would be my Sabbath. No phone, no laptop, and piggybacking on those items, the ability to be bored – to be creative. I hadn’t been those things in the longest time, and it is good to be back. I’m hoping that through my Sabbath, I can reconnect with friends without the barrier of a screen and interact with people how they are meant to be interacted with. So far, so good. It’s my favorite day of the week.

The combination of making Sabbath a reality and the technological ideas I’m talking about in my Senior Seminar is such a unique perspective of a topic I never thought I’d care so much about. Even though the semester isn’t even halfway over, I know the topic of this class, combined with Sabbath will make for a semester full of growth and creativity for me. I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going!

Thanks for the read, friends! Enjoy the rest of this week. Until next time!

How To: Church Hopping in Holland

I’m not sure if “church hopping” is common language or Hope College lingo for “I’m trying to find a church that I really enjoy in the area.” This is the only place I’ve ever heard it, so I’m going to go with the latter.

The name is a little misleading, because to me it sounds like you go to a bunch of churches all in one day, but in fact you decide on various churches to visit each Sunday until you find a good fit. Regardless of the cheesy name, church hopping is cool.

First things first, you do a little research. What churches are in the area? What churches do your beliefs most identify with?

My friend Rachel and I took an online quiz to discover where in the world of churches our views fell. It turned out that we had some pretty similar results, so we looked up churches under those denominations.

The next thing is pretty simple. You go to one of the churches. Notice the people around you, how comfortable you feel and whether or not you feel community and a sense of faith here. You might get a good feeling, or a kind of bad one.

If it’s bad, don’t worry; there will be other churches to visit. If it’s good, don’t just jump right in; give some other churches a chance to be hopped to.

Rachel and I visited three or four churches before deciding on the one we liked the best, all were different denominations and not all were the one we were raised in.

Once you feel comfortable with the amount of churches you’ve experienced and feel like you have enough knowledge to make a decision, find a church and call it home.

My friend Rachel and I really enjoy the First United Methodist Church in Holland. We’ve decided to plant our roots there for a majority of our Sundays left at Hope.

The cool thing about Holland is that there are so many places of faith to check out. It can be almost overwhelming. I highly encourage anyone who wants to take the next step in their faith to church hop around. Finding community at Hope can be easy, especially with a chapel filled with 1,000 students. However, finding that faith community outside of Hope is not as easy.

It’s nice to know where to start.

Thanks for reading,
Brooke

What I’ve Learned on Worship Team

As you may know if you’ve read my blog before, I have the privilege of being on the worship team at Hope. I get to help lead music at Hope’s worship services multiple times a week. It is my favorite thing that I do at Hope. When I look back on my time in college, I am pretty positive that this will be the thing that I think of, even though I was only on the team for one year. It has been a privilege and a blessing to work with such wonderful people day after day, all for the glory of the Lord that we love. I am thankful.

Last night, the two worship teams combined our seniors (since this is my last semester on the team due to my early graduation, I count!) and came together for our last Gathering rehearsal (the Gathering is our big Sunday night service, and the final one of the year is on Sunday). It was fun to play with a couple people that I do not normally see as much since they are on the other team, and I am thankful to get to call the people on this team some of my best friends. My team, Team Y (or Ysenhower, as I like to call us), also had our last service together as a full team yesterday at chapel. In light of these endings, I thought it would be appropriate to rehearse the faithfulness of the Lord in this post and to name some of the things that I’ve had the privilege to see him do throughout my time on worship team this year!

Team Y
Ysenhower after our last Chapel (appropriately, on Yndsday!)

What I’ve Learned on Worship Team

  • People you’ve never seen before in your life can become a family with whom you feel at rest, at ease – like you can heave the sigh that’s been growing in the pits of your soul for the past week and finally let it go. It is a gift and a blessing.
  • Meeting with people multiple times a week at 7 a.m. when you just rolled out of bed at 6:55 is the best thing. Few things bond you like, in the words of one campus staff member, “seeing each other when you’re nasty.”
  • Prayer is powerful. When I’ve asked for bold clarity from the Lord this year, I’ve seen it, and I’m thankful.
  • The Lord will sustain us through things we did not think were possible. Last year I had a node on my vocal cords and did not talk for a week in order to treat it. After that, my voice was super out of shape and I would go stand in the congregation at the Gathering, unable to even sing through three songs in a row during worship. Now I sing more songs than that in one rehearsal, and I am able to do so healthily.
  • Being a worship leader is a really cool job that I might actually want on an even longer-term basis. It doesn’t just entail a person who shows up to do music on Sundays; there is room for a worship leader to be someone who shepherds people through life if they have the desire to do so and if the Lord gives them the opportunity (notes from Zac Hicks and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, where this year’s seniors were thankful to help lead some services and attend some sessions).
  • The words we say and sing and repeat in worship are immensely important. They get stuck in our heads and begin to shape our perceptions and our faith lives in powerful ways. We have to be conscious of the things that we are saying and the things that we are leading other people in saying – are they true? Are they good? Do they reflect the character of God? If we are not sure, then perhaps we should pick different words (Christopher Williams reminded us of this in powerful ways).
  • Lemonjello’s and Stovetop Roasters are important. But if I finish my cup of coffee within 30 minutes of starting Chapel, my voice and body both feel shaky. Bonus points if I decided to wear some sort of heels that day.
  • It’s cool to have recordings of music that you made. It’s cooler to have recordings of music that your friends made and that you made with your friends. The recording of “All Thy Fullness” on this year’s worship team CD, Fairer, will always make me cry because I can just hear the love of the team and their love for the Lord.
  • Visual art, dance, sign language, and far more are forms of worship too. It is powerful to be able to partner with people who are practicing worship differently than you are and to come alongside one another and work together in leading (Silent Praise, Sacred Dance).
  • Say thank you often. More things than you consider probably go into any given thing that you do. Think hard about the process. Who set up my microphone at 6:30 a.m. before I showed up to rehearsal? Who printed out my lead sheets? Who wrote the song, and what verses and experiences shaped it?
  • Change and new things are good. So are old classics. May “All Hail Christ” never die.
  • I am confident that I have seen and will continue to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. This team, the chaplains over at Campus Ministries, the tech team, the people who clean Dimnent Chapel, the people who write our music (some of whom, like Sandra McCracken, we’ve gotten to meet and even play with!) and the students of Hope College who worship with us have all had huge parts in helping me to see this. It has been unforgettable, impactful, and glorious to watch heaven come down to the earth around us. As our worship leader, Bruce, often says, Dimnent Chapel has become a thin place countless times this year – where the distance between heaven and earth becomes marginal because the presence of the Lord is so evident. The Lord is near to us. It is a gift to see this so often and to know that he has truly never left us alone. All the fullness of the Lord is here among us.
CICW
Seniors and friends after leading with Sandra McCracken (front row, next to me!) at Calvin’s Worship Symposium in January.

I could go on forever, but I have to get on to some final projects (and I don’t want to cry in Starbucks this morning), so I’ll leave this here. Thank you for reading.


If you’re interested in worship at Hope, tweet me at @hopekathryn17, send me an email at kathryn.krieger@hope.edu, check out this year’s albums, Fairer and Beatitudes EP, and check out the Campus Ministries website!


“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

—Psalm 27:13

A Trip to the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin

The greenhouse at the Downtown Market
The greenhouse at the Downtown Market

This past Saturday night, I went down to Calvin College with one of our chaplains, Lauren Taylor, some other girls from Hope and a faculty member and his family. Calvin hosts the Festival of Faith and Writing every year, which is probably its most redeeming quality. (They’re our big rival, in case you missed that one).

We piled into a Hope van and took off. When we got there, we got to hear Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, speak. She is a self-taught theologian from Canada.

Sarah spoke on her experience with being told that she does not have the privilege to share God’s word or her opinions on God’s word. Before her book got published, she was often told that she was unqualified to do any of this without a degree from seminary school.

She talked about how we are all qualified to share God’s word, no matter what our degree. She asked what qualifications God expects us to have to share his word.

I found this to be a very moving subject. A lot of times on Hope’s campus, faith experiences are compared and analyzed. It’s easy to tell yourself that someone else’s experience is stronger than your own, or that they have a deeper relationship with God than you do.

There are no qualifications for God’s love, besides the most basic things (ie. believing, repentance, obedience to God and His word, etc.).

I believe that as long as you are walking with the Lord, you are in a good place. Sarah Bessey really pounded that into me, even though she wasn’t directly speaking on that topic.

After hearing her speak, we went to the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids for dinner. We discussed some of the things that Bessey talked about, hearing different opinions around the table.

As we ate, I listened to opinions of my peers and sank back. I let their words, some that I wasn’t sure I agreed with, to marinate inside me. Some said that they didn’t completely agree with Bessey, because to have theory on God’s word you must know theology.

I just think that Bessey was talking about something much simpler than that; we all have a calling to live out and spread the gospel. Whether it be through writing, theology, teaching or medicine, we’re all qualified as God’s children to spread his word.

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.

Poverty INC

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:

IMG_2479

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