Friday, July 27, 2012

The Irresistible Revolution

I've heard Shane Claiborne speak twice, the book was on my shelf for more than a year, I've even had dinner with him! I thought that I'd heard what he had to say and that I didn't need to read the book, until a conversation with one of my students who'd read Irresistible Revolution in High School. After reading the book, he and a few friends decided to honor the lunch ladies at their school with a special dinner, served by tuxedoed high schoolers. So I picked it up and read it over the past month on airplanes and buses. Sure, I'd heard several of the anecdotes from the book in his presentations, but there is so much more. Claiborne refers repeatedly to source material that inspired his own theological reflections on the relationships between Christians and poverty: Martin Luther King Jr, Dorothy Day, Charles Marsh, and others. He wrestles articulately with a lot of the things I've wrestled with in the years since I began college: how should Christians respond to sweatshops, violence, war, the church? His response to these questions is in many ways more radical than mine have been, but they have both encouraged me to persevere in ways that I've invested my life more deeply and challenged me in ways that I've made selfish choices. He reads the Bible as if Jesus really meant what he said, and challenges the reader to do likewise. I'm considering this as a text for a group of students I work with who will recruit volunteers from their residence halls to serve in various capacities, mostly within under-resourced communities. My hesitation comes with the sometimes political slant taken in the book, that may serve to alienate several of the students I work with. However, as I've now finished the book, I'm more convinced that his message and Biblical interpretation are right on. I'm recommending this book broadly, if you are a Christian who is serious about your faith, or someone whose not been convinced that the Christianity we see in America today is for you. I'm also wondering which other writer/speakers I've short changed by assuming that I know all they have to say after hearing them speak for forty minutes.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Urban Experience

Yesterday (Thursday, July 19), 231 incoming freshmen, along with their families, arrived on Calvin’s Campus to partake in Calvin’s orientation program, PASSPORT.  I think I may be feeling some of the same things as these freshmen and their families not because I’m going to college for the first time, or because my kid is going to college for the first time (though that is a really scary thought), but because I will be leading 6 of those 231 students on a special orientation trip today through July 26.

This new orientation trip is loosely modeled after the wilderness orientation trips, but will take place in Grand Rapids’ Creston Neighborhood and has the mission to “introduce new Calvin students to the ongoing efforts of partner organizations in the Grand Rapids area to do God’s work in the word and in Grand Rapids.”  This program has been one of the main projects I have been working on at the Service-Learning Center this summer.  But I’m not the only one to work on this project.  Thankfully, other students and staff have been working on the project proposal and setting up some of the basics for the week.  I only had to pick up where they left off and carry this project through completion.

Only. It’s been a lot more work than I thought it would be.  There are so many little details and logistical points to think through.  This is the first time our office has ever done an extended orientation program and I’ve struggled with trying to remember what it’s like to be an incoming student; to not know anyone at Calvin and to be experiencing Calvin orientation.  I know the Service-Learning Center and reflection materials like the back of my hand, but orienting new students to what college life is like?  Giving them the tools they’ll need to be successful at Calvin?  I can only hope and pray that I can fulfill this part of the trip.

In the S-LC we talk a lot about experiential learning.  I even spent last semester in Thailand as part of an experiential learning study abroad.  I love it.  And I love what this experience has already taught me.  Sure the week hasn’t started, but I have spent the past 46 days meeting with agency partners, Calvin faculty and staff, brainstorming ideas for T-shirts and ordering them, going on walking tours of the neighborhood and creating a reflection/reading.  I can’t wait to see what this week has in store.

Hannah Bechtold
Urban Experience Coordinator