Cor’s Collarbone

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Cor had to take a trip to the Emergency Department at Akron Children’s Hospital earlier this week to be treated for a broken collarbone. He sustained the injury while doing some backyard stunts in our neighborhood.

It puts a bit of a damper on the summer, for sure, but I’ve actually been surprised to notice that none of us are too bummed about it.

UntitledSome of that may be due to the minimal impact Cor’s broken collarbone has on our lives right now. He’s not in school, so we don’t have to worry about mitigating the effects of the injury on his studies. We’ve got family visiting later in the month, but it sounds like a decent possibility that he’ll be able to take the sling off by then anyway (though he’ll need to be careful about playing sports with the cousins). As far as broken bones are concerned, it’s a fairly common injury and fairly simple healing process. Long-term consequences should be minimal.

The most striking aspect of this situation, however, has been Cor’s own positive attitude toward things. As the “baby” of our family, he tends to be the most demonstrative when it comes to pain, and he tends to “need” help more than the other kids. You would think that a broken collarbone would exacerbate these tendencies, wouldn’t you? But it hasn’t!

UntitledIn fact, I think this situation has highlighted the benefits of Cor’s position as the “baby” in our family. He’s always been a bit more ready to take risks (which is a general tendency of third-born children) — and we (as more experienced parents) have been willing to let him take risks — and we’ve all learned to accept the outcomes that are associated with taking risks. Cor also tends to live in the moment, so he’s chosen to embrace the fun and funny stuff that comes along with an injury like this: extra attention from family and friends, extra ice cream and media time, and stories to tell from the experience.

I’m sure there are still going to be moments of discouragement and discomfort through the recovery process ahead, but I’m proud of how Cor has handled things so far.

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July 2017 Prayer Letter


Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him… soon… (Philippians 2:21-23)


Greetings from Kent! We’re in the midst of a season for travel and adventures. Olivia just recently came back from a missions trip to the west side of Akron, where she worked with a program called Project Shine to bring hope and help to a distressed and disadvantaged neighborhood. Elliot just left for a mission trip of his own in the Dominican Republic, where he will help pave the way for a new church plant in a village of sugarcane farmers. Cor is not going on any mission trips this summer, but (not wanting to be outdone by his older brother and sister) he did take a trip to the Emergency Department at Akron Children’s Hospital a week ago to be treated for a broken collarbone, sustained while doing some backyard stunts in our neighborhood. So many adventures!

There just seems to be something about this time of the year that involves a lot of coming and going, receiving and sending. This is true in ministry life, as well as in personal life. On the “going” and “sending” level, I was recently ecstatic to receive a text message from my friend Aidan, conveying special news of prayers that had been answered: “Friends, it is with extreme delight and humility that I get to say: God has answered our request, and I’ve been offered the PhD position in Stockholm!!”

Ever since I was invited to visit Sweden’s capital city in September of 2015, I’ve been praying for inroads to mission in that city. Shortly after the trip, I wrote a blog post saying, “Stockholm is a really beautiful, interesting city… that seems to be at a really interesting point in history: a surging immigrant population, combined with shifting Swedish perceptions of those immigrants, combined with an uncommon level of openness for American partnership, combined with a sense of supernatural stirring in the hearts of key Swedish leaders and American missionaries that’s brought a team together in a strategic corner of Stockholm… It seems like the stage is set for God to do something really special in Sweden. Especially among university students.” As soon as I returned to the United States, I started sharing stories of Stockholm and the amazing opportunities for the Gospel I saw there.

Within a relatively short time period, my conversations intensified with a small group of Staff and students here in Kent. One couple played a particularly strong leadership role: Aidan and Chelsea Rinehart. Chelsea has been a part of our Staff Team at H2O, and Aidan has been an aerospace engineer at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. They’ve distinguished themselves as “All Stars” in their respective fields here in northeast Ohio, yet they have been compelled by this idea of international church planting. Even before I started talking with them about Stockholm, Aidan and Chelsea had already helped to lead short-term missions trips to Amsterdam and Berlin. They were primed for the opportunities in Sweden.

In May of 2016, Aidan and Chelsea led a team from Kent to Stockholm. They connected with some of the same people I met the previous fall. They spent time exploring the city and praying for God’s direction. And indeed, by the end of their visit, it seemed like God was directing a whole team from Kent — Aidan, Chelsea, AJ, Michelle, Janelle, and Bennett — to step out in faith and start making preparations for an eventual move to Sweden.

I’ve been really proud to see the way the team has approached this venture. They’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting to know themselves. They’ve reached out to build strategic bridges with believers in Stockholm. They’ve prioritized good communication and coordination with us, as their sending church. And together, we’ve all soaked this whole thing in hours and hours of prayer. One of our biggest points of petition has been the provision of visas. AJ hopes to transition from working on Staff with H2O in Kent to working as a full-time missionary in Sweden. Michelle and Bennett are looking into opportunities for higher education. Janelle hopes to find a job with an non-governmental organization, working with the refugee populations that have recently flooded into Sweden. Aidan has been applying both for jobs in the engineering sector and for opportunities to pursue a PhD at the Royal Institute of Technology (knowing that one of these positions for him could also secure a visa for Chelsea). There have been many moments of doubt and discouragement, as we’ve looked toward a prolonged transition period between the summer of 2017 and the summer of 2018.

So: you could probably understand how Aidan’s PhD position at the Royal Institute of Technology felt like a breakthrough. The Rineharts are now planning to move in October, and the rest of the team has been given a new boost of energy and encouragement in their own processes of transition and seeking God’s provision. Would you please pray with us for this team? Pray for Aidan and Chelsea, as they prepare for this big move. Pray for the rest of the team, that God would work out the logistics for them just as He did for the Rineharts. Pray for H2O Kent, as we’re going to have some big shoes to fill upon their departure. And pray for me, too, that I can be a good coach and support to the team, applying some of the lessons learned through our experiences of church-planting in northern Europe.

Thanks, as always, for your partnership in the Gospel that makes all of this ministry possible: here in Kent and around the world! We’ll be in touch…

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Ὁ πατήρ μου

ἢ τίς ἐστιν ἐξ ὑμῶν ἄνθρωπος,

The… who / what / which… is from you… man…” All right: look for the nominative, the verb, the prepositions, and shift the word order around accordingly. “Which of you men…” I’ve been taking Greek lessons from my father for almost a year now: every Thursday at one o’clock in the afternoon. Sometimes, we follow lessons from J.G. Machen’s New Testament Greek for Beginner’s; but more often, we just wade into the text and figure out a way forward, together.

ὃν αἰτήσει ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ ἄρτον,

I don’t know the first two words, so I skip ahead to the part that I recognize: “the son… of him… a bread” Huh? Maybe those first two words would help it to make a little more sense. It’s a bit discouraging that I already need to break out the research materials, after so much study through the months. But my Dad never seems to mind the detours and slow-downs, so why should I?  I look up ὃν αἰτήσει in the anlex and discover that the first word is a prounoun, referring back to the subject of the sentence, and the second word is a verb, αἰτέω (to ask, to demand, to ask for), parsed: Indicative, Future, Active, Third person, Singular. So putting it all together, roughly: “whose son would ask for a bread (or a piece of bread)…” OK. We’re getting somewhere.

μὴ λίθον ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ;

No stone… [something]… to him?” I have to look up ἐπιδώσει — and I decipher a rough translation: “would give.” So here’s my attempt at the whole sentence, from the beginning of the verb up to this point: “Which of you men, whose son would ask for a piece of bread, would say ‘no’ and give him a stone instead?” I confess that I’m playing loose with the Greek a little bit. The final word, “instead,” is not in the original text, at all. But I’m getting a feel for it. The original text is familiar enough that I can fill in some of the gaps from my memory of the English translations. But even if that wasn’t the case, it’s all there. I can see the meaning coming up out of the page. It’s a thrilling feeling for an amateur linguist like me. And my father before me.

ἢ καὶ ἰχθὺν αἰτήσει, μὴ ὄφιν ἐπιδώσει αὐτῷ;

The second sentence goes quicker because it uses a lot of the same structure and vocabulary: “the… and… fish… he asks… no [something]… would give to him?” Look up the missing word, use my recollection of Greek grammar to restructure the sentence in a way that sounds more natural to English ears, and I’ve got it: “And if he would ask for a fish, [which of you men] would say ‘no’ and give him a snake [instead]?

εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὄντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς δώσει ἀγαθὰ τοῖς αἰτοῦσιν αὐτόν.

If therefore you guys… [something] being… you know… gifts good give to the children of you… [something] [something] the father of you… who… in the heavens… give good… to [something] of him.” I look up the missing pieces and check my parsing of verbs and declining of nouns according to the endings of those vocabulary words whose stems I succeeded in recognizing. It’s rough. It takes me maybe twenty minutes to come to a satisfactory translation of these three verses from the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

Which of you men, whose son would ask for a piece of bread, would say ‘no’ and give him a stone [instead]? And if he would ask for a fish, [which of you men] would say ‘no’ and give him a snake [instead]? So, if you guys (being sinful humans) know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give good stuff to those who would ask him!

It’s an imperfect translation, but it’s my translation — and I’m proud of it. The truth revealed in this passage of Scripture is a reason for pride and gratitude, too.

My Dad is a giver of good gifts. He takes time to patiently instruct me in my studies. He regularly tells me that he’s proud of the way my skills are progressing. He equips me with the tools I need to keep learning. And he’s just there, to enjoy the process with me. Our Thursday afternoon studies have become a special part of my week, and as time has passed I’ve become keenly aware of the ways that our Greek Lessons serve as a metaphor for the rest of my life, as well. I’ve received a lifetime of instruction, encouragement, equipping, and personal engagement. What good gifts from a good father! What’s best of all, though, is that my Dad would be the first to admit that he’s a sinful human, and thus he would point me towards our Heavenly Father, who takes all this goodness to another level entirely.

There’s much for me to celebrate this Father’s Day. And for that, I am grateful.

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The Great Plains are great.

For most of American history, the Great Plains have been an afterthought. Early pioneers crossed through the prairies and plains on their way to seek silver in Colorado, gold in California, fur trade in Oregon, or religious sanctuary in Utah… But not many stayed put out on the grasslands. The Great Plains are considered a part of the journey, for sure, but not really a destination. Most people I know talk about the sparsely-populated states of Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas as elements of the westward journey that must be endured, not embraced.

But I just don’t get it. The Great Plains are great.

Seriously! I love driving those roads, witnessing the slow blend from woodlands, to farmlands, to wild grasslands, to the rocky contours of the Badlands and Black Hills. Out on the prairies, I feel fresh and full. It’s open and vast and wild and free and beautiful.

There were a couple of times on this most recent visit to the Great Plains when I felt so happy that my heart was going to burst until I let out a full-throated, deep-chested bellow in the car. At one point, I got off the interstate to drive up into the Fort Pierre National Grasslands, eventually following a small dirt road for a few miles into the middle of “Nowhere” — and man! It was so refreshing to have all that elbow room.

It takes a long time to get across the Great Plains — even driving at 85 miles per hour — but that’s part of the joy of it. There’s all kinds of space: to think… to pray… to listen to podcasts… to soak in silence… to play music, whole albums at a time. It’s a truly lovely place.

My friend Paula says that the Great Plains of North America (and South Dakota, specifically) is like the “solid spouse” of regions. Perhaps not the most dashing, or daring, or debonair. It’s beautiful in its own way, though, and one especially grows to appreciate its beauty — and integrity, fidelity, and solidity — as life rolls along.

I like that way of thinking about the Great Plains.

Driving westward on this most recent trip, I thought about more similes of my own. The Great Plains are like the mini-van of landscapes: maybe not the sleekest or sexiest, but spacious, comfortable, and secure… The Great Plains are like the jumbo-sized Cherry Coke of geography: probably not the most intoxicating or trendy, but oh-so-sweet, smooth, and refreshing…

The Great Plains are great.

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Asp Basketball Championship

I don’t know how much longer my Dad and I will be able to hold them off.

For my Dad’s 65th birthday, our family promised a special inter-generational basketball competition — let’s call it the Asp Basketball Championship (ABC) — followed by ice cream at our favorite local spot. Later on, however, my Dad sweetened the deal by offering a section of hardwood flooring my boys have coveted for several months (it was originally designed to be a wall hanging at my parents’ place, but since it never fit into the final decorating scheme the boys thought it would be perfect as a replica basketball court to be signed by professional basketball players).

So the boys ended up taking our competition very seriously. They designed and practiced several different plays they named “Double-T,” “Flat Earth,” and such. They dressed in perfectly-matched vintage LeBron James jerseys and headbands. They played pre-game pump-up music from speakers set up in our garage. They even got a kid from next door to serve as their “towel boy.”

But still, they lost the Friday evening three-game series: 2 games to 1. It was actually a lot closer than I might have predicted (we honestly did not let them win the second game), yet our experience was enough to prevail. The boys didn’t take the loss very well, and their frustration was understandable. So even though we had the championship — and the hardwood trophy — in hand, we decided to let them try to beat us again in another three-game series on Saturday afternoon.

Of course, you might have guessed what happened. We lost the second series: 2 games to 1. We “old guys” ran out of gas (though, to be fair, I ran eight miles earlier in the morning, and my Dad suffers from exhaustion connected with Parkinson’s Disease). We may have also taken some low-percentage shots when the decisive third game was on the line — perhaps in order to allow for the boys some extra opportunities to taste victory — but the days are coming, and indeed are not so far away, when we will be entirely at their mercy for these sorts of competitions.

I’m not actually upset about that. I think it’s kind of cool to see the way that the “young bucks” are coming into their own. Even when Elliot and Cor are regularly thumping us — and hopefully other peers, as well — in backyard competitions, I’d like to think that my Dad and I will somehow be a part of their success.

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June 2017 Prayer Letter


Give my greetings to all the Christians there. The brothers who are with me here send you their greetings… May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:21-23)


Greetings from Kent! It’s summer time! Are you doing anything special to celebrate this season? A fun vacation? A return to a seasonal hobby, like gardening or camping? Or even just an especially-enjoyable blockbuster at the movie theater?

Speaking of movies, I sometimes think about life moments in terms of scenes from Jim Henson’s Muppet movies. And as strange as that may sound, I mention this to help describe the experience of a summer in collegiate ministry. To me, it feels remarkably similar to the middle part of The Muppets Take Manhattan. In the film, the Muppets decide to try make it big on Broadway, in New York City, after an idealistic college experience that culminated in a successful Senior Variety Show. When the road to fame and fortune proves more difficult than they had expected, however, they are forced to say good-bye and scatter for a season. Kermit stays in the city, in a continued attempt to sell the show. But everyone else spreads out across the country, keeping in touch by writing letters until circumstances allow for a reunion on Broadway. Fozzie writes updates from a cave somewhere in the wilderness. Doctor Teeth and his band write in between gigs at a polka hall in Pittsburgh. And Gonzo, of course, has the most interesting summer — performing daredevil stunts on water skis at an “Aquacade” in Michigan. Again, I know it’s silly to think about life in terms of the Muppets — but these strange, surreal, fictional scenarios resonate with this season of ministry.

Many of our Staff and students have scattered, though some remain: working at the proverbial diner and doing the legwork required to “get the show ready for Broadway.” We continue to make plans for outreach at the beginning of the next school year. Meanwhile, the church maintains weekly rhythms for “House Church” on Sunday evenings, meeting in living rooms around town, since we can’t reserve our normal rooms on campus and since our congregation shrinks to about twenty percent of its school-year size. It’s definitely different, but it’s actually a season of deeper fellowship for everyone here in Kent: slow, informal, and relational.

For everyone else, though, we just get periodic glimpses through text messages and e-mails… Through posts on social media… Occasionally even through a handwritten note, just like the Muppets! But regardless what form the updates may be, they all feel very much like news from the proverbial caves, polka halls, and aquacades across the country and around the world.

Nick is back in the Dayton area, raising support for a paid internship with H2O through his senior year at Kent State; he hopes to parlay that experience into a transition onto our Staff team directly following graduation next May. We keep in touch by phone calls and text messages… Rebecca recently posted a picture to Instagram from a spot called Bible Point, at Estes Park Leadership Training, writing: “So blessed to be living, working, and worshipping God this summer in this beautiful place!”… Tommy and Kairie are in the Canton area, getting ready for a wedding next summer, and Marci and I are hoping to meet up with them again sometime soon to provide some pre-marital counseling… Kaylyn regularly posts photos, reports, and prayer requests to her Facebook page from all her summer abroad experience with Kent State University’s extension site in Florence, Italy… Cam uses Snapchat to share pictures of him eating Chipotle with his girlfriend or swinging in a hammock… A couple of different group chats on the GroupMe app keep me smiling with the latest information from all the different people in our Life Group from last year.

Isn’t it amazing to realize all the lives that are touched through collegiate ministry?!? The people of H2O come from so many different backgrounds, and they’re on their way to so many different futures. For some, the summer is a very encouraging season of growth and development; for others, it’s a dry and lonely time. For some, they need regular accountability and encouragement; for others, they just need a general sense of blessing and continued prayer. Could you please pray with me for all these “Muppets” who are scattered for the summer?

Please pray for our family, too. Our June is filled with a good bit of travel. This week I get the privilege of visiting our network’s Leadership Training program in Estes Park, Colorado, and then spend three days in the mountains planning, preparing, and praying for next school year, in our annual Pastors Retreat. Ministry Team Development (support-raising) will also be an ongoing focus for this month, as well as the rest of the summer, so we’d appreciate your prayer for that. And at the end of this month, we’re also going to get some much-anticipated family vacation time. Thanks, as always, for your partnership in the Gospel! We’ll be in touch…

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Hocking Hills

My first foray journey through the caves and waterfalls of Ohio’s Hocking Hills happened hand-in-hand with a girl. She was 19 years old, and we were in love.

My second journey through the caves and waterfalls of Ohio’s Hocking Hills happened hand-in-hand with the same girl. This time we went there to celebrate our marriage that’s now 19 years old, and we are still very much in love.

The first time around, we had just endured a year of long-distance relationship — maintained by sending three or four letters a week to each other through the U.S. Postal Service — so we relished every opportunity to be together: looking into each other’s eyes… holding hands… sharing experiences, and not just writing about them… Honestly, I think we would have been happy to spend time with each other in a dentist’s office; still, the pristine natural beauty of Hocking Hills only amplified our enjoyment of each other. We explored the caves in the State Park with her sister and her Mom (who also functioned somewhat as chaperones). We roasted marshmallows and chatted around the campfire. We looked up at the stars in the black night sky.

The second time around, we needed to recover from her first year of graduate school and our oldest son’s first year of high school (in addition to lots of other moving parts in our family of five). At times throughout the frenetic school year, it felt like it might have been helpful to send letters to keep in touch — though weekly lunch dates and family dinners fulfilled a similar function — still, we really needed time to be together: sipping coffee and soaking in the hot tub on the back deck of our cabin… taking naps in the middle of the afternoon… hunting for antiques and good barbecue… We’ve had years, especially about a third of the way into our marriage, where we were tempted to the break tradition of an anniversary getaway because of the expense or the trouble involved with making sure our kids had proper care — but we have since recognized the vital importance of this annual rhythm for spending time together.

Hocking Hills was a great spot for enjoying each other, even after all these years. We explored some of the same caves we visited all those years ago (without chaperones!), but we also branched out to try new trails. Kind of a metaphor for life and love, I think: Some familiarity, but also some untapped adventure.

It’s an honor to journey through life with my girl. Our relationship has spanned many delightful decades, still I hope the best is yet to come.

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Henry Wahner’s

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It’s hidden in plain sight, less than a quarter of a mile from the northeast corner of the Kent State University campus. Thousands and thousands of college students pass the place every day — on their way between campus and the closest grocery stores, laundromats, restaurants, gas stations, and a handful of entertainment options — but almost none of them would recognize the establishment by sight or by name: Henry Wahner’s Restaurant and Lounge.

Even if you know that it’s there, however, Henry Wahner’s appearance would never suggest that it’s a hidden treasure.

It’s concealed within an ugly, barnlike structure. The exterior and interior are decorated in shades of beige, brown, and yellow. There are some hints of Bavaria about the place: shutters with cut-out heart shapes on the outside, a wall hanging that appears to depict the Neuschwanstein Castle on the inside… But the appeals to the old German Fatherland don’t quite pull off the “classic” or “timeless” look. In fact, it looks quite dated. I’d guess something like 1972.

Nothing much about the place seems to have changed since the early 1970s. After one finds the entrance, the visitor to Henry Wahner’s is ushered into the swanky lounge. The walls are covered with wood paneling and tin advertisements for St. Pauli Girl Beer. A mountain of cascading bottles, encircled by a silver railed bar, fills the middle of the lounge. Dim lighting betrays a few grey-haired, overweight townies tucked into vinyl-upholstered booths along the perimeter of the room. They glance up from their drinks with quiet suspicion to size up every visitor, but they don’t make much fuss even on the rare occasion when a group of college students stumble in.

There’s a hallway to the left of the lounge, which leads the way through a dining room to the hostess station. A bouquet of artificial flowers sits on the counter beneath a sign that reads, “ALL MEMBERS OF YOUR PARTY MUST BE PRESENT TO BE SEATED,” and the staff is serious about this rule even when the crowds are sparse. Patrons are encouraged to wait in a corner between the three dining rooms, from which vantage point the rest of the restaurant can be observed. The walls are decked out with wood paneling of the sort favored by my grandparents. Decorative spindles, spaced six inches apart, separate the dining spaces and the kitchen area. The tables are all covered in vinyl cloths and paper placemats. Everything from the furniture to the carpet to the wall hangings echo the hues of beige, yellow, and brown, to the point that it feels almost as if one is looking at a sepia-toned photograph from the earliest days of the establishment. The hostess station is the main exception, with the artificial flowers and a large red pegboard listing the rules of engagement for the Henry Wahner’s dining experience:

WELCOME TO HENRY WAHNER’S

CARRY-OUT ORDERS AVAILABLE
EARLY BIRD DINNERS 400 — 600

NO CREDIT CARDS
PERSONAL CHECKS
CASH ONLY

THANK YOU

First-time visitors might be inclined to bolt at this point (especially if they didn’t bring any cash) — so many strange signals seeping out from the surroundings — but the best part of the Henry Wahner’s experience is yet to come.

Upon being seated and opening up the menu, one is greeted with a sizable listing of imported beers and authentic German meals: Saurbraten with Potato Pancakes… Kassler Rippchen with sauerkraut and Bratkartoeffers… Schniztel with Spätzles (my personal favorite). The servers have been practicing for decades to provide explanations of what goes into each of these dishes, so they can help to interpret the German dishes. But there are American specialties as well: Prime Rib… Porterhouse Steak… Lamb Chops. The service is efficient, but it takes awhile to prepare the orders. Cold beverages, warm bread rolls, and salads occupy the interim.

In one part of the dining room, an electric “fireplace” waves and glows. In another part of the room, there hangs a curious, large mural of dogs, dressed in party clothes, enjoying drinks at a bar. The effect is almost medieval, something of a hearth and a tapestry, but more a low-budget 1970s film production of Germany in the Middle Ages. It’s weird, but wonderful. To truly enjoy Henry Wahner’s, one must embrace the surreal setting.

When the food comes to the table, though, any residual awkwardness fades away. Henry Wahner’s portions are enormous. Large cuts of meat hang off the edge of the plate. The food is seasoned and cooked to perfection. It’s so good and so plentiful that I never end up having any room for dessert, though there are a number of tempting offerings (both German and American) on the menu. I’ve taken numerous people out to eat at Henry Wahner’s over the past several years, and no one has ever been disappointed by the food.

The prices and calorie counts are such that most people couldn’t afford to eat there every day. And the ambience is unusual enough that it’s probably not a good place to visit for an important business meeting or a couple’s first date. But it’s definitely worth a visit, for a special occasion of its own. Especially if graduation is just around the corner. It would be a shame for someone to spend several years and tens of thousands of dollars on their college experience without a single meal at the most unique, most secret, most swanky spot in town.

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Bicycling as Transportation

“Are you some kind of die-hard?”

I get variations on this question all the time, as I’m locking or unlocking my bicycle around town. It just seems weird, in this part of the world, for a person to be riding a bicycle if there’s any variance in weather conditions outside of sunshine and temperatures in the 60°s.

I’ll admit: I like being distinctive. “Weird” is not necessarily an insult, in my book. And if I can come across as “die-hard” or “bad-Asp” — so much the better.

Even so, I reject the premise that one must be a fanatic in order to choose the bicycle as one’s mode of transportation in less-than-ideal weather conditions. It’s really not as revolutionary as a lot of Americans seem to think it is. But even if that’s how it’s going to be — I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — Join the revolution! Bicycling is far more healthy, more economical, and more environmentally-friendly than most other forms of transport. So even if bicycling is going to be perceived as making a statement, I’m comfortable with making that statement.

Still, I wonder: Why does it have to be a revolution? Why does it have to be a statement?

For all my “Join the Revolution!” talk, it’s really not a big deal to ride a bicycle. It doesn’t take much more energy or time to take the bicycle instead of the car (a lot of times, it can even save time and energy, when you factor in parking and traffic). Of course the cold and the rain can be hassles, but they’re hassles with other forms of transportation, too. In the same way that they make windshield wipers and heating- and cooling systems for cars, they make jackets, pants, and gloves that mitigate the effects of weather for cyclists.

I don’t mind it if some people like to think about bicycling as “sport” or “hobby” — but, couldn’t we also just talk about bicycling as “transportation?” I’m glad to say that I’ve re-acclimated to American culture in most ways, over the last five years, but this is one of those areas where I’d like to stay “European” in my thinking. Maybe even act as something of a catalyst of contagion for others. Aside from the conspiracy theories put out there about the “Big Three” American automakers re-imagining the national landscape to snuff out all competition and drive up prices for their vehicles, why are people in this country so reluctant to consider bicycle as a legitimate mode of transportation?

When I was looking up the above photo to go along with this point, I found an article in which Brendan Leonard does a good job at dissecting some of the reasons “Why You Should Never Bike to Work,” but it’s still confusing to me why more people don’t give this more careful consideration. Why can bicycling trigger such bewilderment and even anger? Why can’t I wrap my head around this issue as an American, any more? Any other perspective here would be much appreciated!

Posted in Amsterdam, Culture, Culture Shock, Europe, Introspection, The Netherlands, The United States of America | Comments Off on Bicycling as Transportation

May 2017 Prayer Letter


And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)


Greetings from Kent! Can you believe we’re already coming to the end of another school year?!? It’s gone by so quickly! Just as the flowers and trees have been sending out their pollen, we at H2O are also doing a lot of sending these days. We’re graduating another class of seniors and blessing them to enter their careers as nurses… and teachers… and fashion designers all across the country and around the world. We’re commissioning another church plant out of Kent, this time going all the way across the Atlantic to Stockholm, Sweden (there’s a whole other prayer letter waiting to be written about that one!). And we’re celebrating another crop of young men and women having cycled through our internship program.

The interns are on my mind because I took them out for a celebratory meal at a unique restaurant in town last week (you might get a kick out of reading more about this local joint, from a story I posted online at http://www.ericasp.com/2017/05/henry-wahners/). We had some great food and some great conversation that evening, and in the midst of our meal I looked around the table and realized just how amazing the whole arrangement really is. These students work so hard to serve our church, even though this end-of-the-semester meal as the church’s only tangible form of compensation for their labors! Of course, we trust that the experience and equipping they receive through the internship is highly valuable. Still…I’m so thankful when I remember that they’re basically working for peanuts (or schnitzel, as the case may be)!

I’ve loved each group of interns I’ve been privileged to supervise; and even though I recognize there may be some recency bias at play, I have to say that this year’s group of interns was extra-special. We had a total of eight student-interns here in Kent this year. Four of them served for the entire school year, three served for just the Fall Semester, and one served for just the Spring Semester. In addition to that, I supervised one Spring Semester intern from the University of Akron, as well (the leadership team from H2O Akron approached me to mentor this particular intern because of his interest in reaching out to international students).

For our Internship Program, we recruit involvement from any students who are considering a career in full-time ministry (even if it’s only ten percent likelihood of a career in full-time ministry). I work together with each applicant to create a personalized, prioritized proposal for a job description, aiming for 10-15 hours per week. Every internship includes Intern Management and Staff Meetings, plus two to five other points of ministry involvement as areas of focus for the internship. In all of this, we’re basically trying to create an environment in which students can gain exposure to the ins and outs of collegiate ministry, in order to assess (and hopefully stimulate) their interest in long-term career missions.

It’s a win for the students because they receive specialized mentorship and leadership development opportunities. It’s a win for H2O because we get extra feet on the ground and extra hands to help, working directly at the level of those to whom we are reaching out. And it’s a win for Reliant because we gain seasoned, qualified candidates feeding into our team in Kent, as well as other projects and church plants toward which God leads them.

Now, I recognize the way that internships and staff recruitment strategies are more of a “back-end” thing in collegiate ministry, which may not be as easy to appreciate if you’re not in among the interns on a day-to-day basis. Seriously, though, I’ve been awed by everything God has done through our Internship Program over the last several years since I was given oversight of the initiative! When I asked the interns about their experiences from this year, one student said, “I have loved all of the spiritual equipping lessons that we have done throughout the internship (i.e. spiritual pathways, reflective listening, book readings). This has allowed us to grow as beings connected with God and as those who are seeking to serve the church.” Another said, “I enjoy seeing the behind the scenes of collegiate ministry while being challenged in my faith.” I can say with confidence that there has been demonstrable growth in the life of each individual intern, and I’m just thankful to see how God continues to raise up the next generation of spiritual leaders.

Please pray with me for these young men and women: that God would continue to work powerfully in their lives, through the Internship Program and beyond. Pray also for those who are considering Fall Semester internships, as this is a strategic time of the year for turnover. And thank you, in any event, for your involvement in praying and financially supporting our ministry here in Kent, allowing things like this Internship Program to continue! We’ll be in touch…

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