*culture is not optional is a wild and wooly organization with tendrils of work reaching near and far from our base in Three Rivers, Michigan.  Summer tends to be a time that we focus on our local community development work through the Huss Project, but learning and serving with visitors and temporary transplants to Three Rivers continues to be a big part of what we do.

For the past five summers, much of our energy has gone into our summer internship program.  Through various connections and for widely varying reasons, college students and recent graduates find their way to Three Rivers to become part of our intentional community for ten weeks and to come alongside our year-round volunteer staff in the work of growing friendship and imagination through art, food and play.  This year, we were grateful to welcome Nate, Alexandra, Seth and Kate, each of whom brought so many gifts to our collective learning, living and work.  They all returned to their studies this fall in four different corners of the country, though we wish we could have kept them all here forever!

As part of the internship program, but also for the sake of ongoing learning with our resident volunteer staff, we set aside time each week to read (or watch) and reflect around one of *cino’s core values.  Affectionately dubbed Garden of your Mind, these sessions engaged us all in the background, application and critique of how well we live out these values together.  We began with “compassionate listening,” and then made our way through all of the others, including:

As a community, we also welcomed a service group from Palmerson, Ontario into our exploration of what faithful presence looks like in this time and place.  With an abundance of youthful energy, they helped give us a huge boost as we worked to make the Huss Project ready for the annual Huss Future Festival.  Alongside their physical labor, they also engaged in the work of figuring out what it looks like to serve a community well as a person of faith, bringing their insights back to their own rural community.

The interns and the Palmerston group were not our only visiting volunteers this summer.  Several friends, including *cino spring break alumni, joined us to help coordinate the massive community effort that is Huss Future Festival.  Together we cleaned, painted signs, sorted backpacks, priced rummage, (wo)manned various stations and danced our faces off to celebrate five years since *cino’s purchase of the old Huss School here in Three Rivers.

Looking back at this summer, I can point to moments that embodied each of *cino’s core values in a unique way, in large part because of the many creative, compassionate people we are privileged to serve alongside.  Whether nearby neighbors or visitors from afar, I hope we can continue to extend hospitality to one another as we play, eat, work, learn and grow together!

Last modified: March 4, 2020