*cino Work, Event, Organization, People

Accepting applications for three AmeriCorps summer positions

*culture is not optional (*cino)/The Huss Project is looking for three compassionate, creative, hard-working people to join us full-time for 10 weeks this summer as Americorps VISTA Summer Associates! Applicants should be 18 years of age or older, with a passion for serving our Three Rivers community through urban farming, event planning, and youth engagement. The term runs from June 3 – August 11, with a living stipend of $2,361.10 and choice at the end of the term of an education award of $1,289.95 or a cash stipend of $346.80. Housing is not available for Summer Associates. Applications are being accepted until noon on May 13 or until all three positions or filled, so apply today through the AmeriCorps web site!

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*cino Work, Leadership, Organization

2017 *cino community retreat coming up this weekend

Each fall for the past several years, the *cino core community members have gathered at a cozy house outside of town to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next. In the past, we’ve invited in a friendly facilitator to help us explore our personality types and how they work together, and engage good questions about the interaction between our work and our selves.

This year, we’re keeping it simple with a self-guided retreat. As we’ve noted on the *cino web site and Topology Magazine, 2018 is going to be a year of slowing down, for Rob and Kirstin specifically, but that will have ripple effects for our entire group and the organization’s work as a whole. We’ll be discerning what to maintain in 2018 and what to let lie fallow, including what kind of community we need to build for the year to sustain the things we are committed to with a sense of healthy balance and wholeness.

Surrounding the discussion times will be plentiful amounts of hanging out, reading, eating, walking, and playing together. We always look forward to this time of renewal for our work and our relationships, and greatly value your prayers for discernment, wisdom, and joy as we head into some important conversations this weekend.

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Education, Organization, People, Three Rivers

Meet the 2017 *cino interns!

Pictured above (L-R): Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma (*cino staff), Danielle Rendulic, Jerry Moreland, Deborah Haak (*cino staff), Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma (*cino staff), Annelie Haberman, and Mariana Perez

We’re excited to welcome a new group of summer interns to the *culture is not optional volunteer staff! We kicked off the summer with a weekend orientation, as well as walking in the Three Rivers Water Festival parade: we handed out over 1,000 flyers to the community with information about our summer events at the Huss Project.

Our Community Engagement team is headed up by Danielle Rendulic and Jerry Moreland. They’ve already started posting on our social media sites, sending out emails, hanging up posters, and cooking up creative ideas for the Huss Project. Danielle heard *cino’s co-founders, Rob and Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, when they spoke at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, this past winter. Jerry got connected to *cino through a professor at his college, Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, who is good friends with *cino volunteers Derl and Karen Keefer.

Mariana Perez and Annelie Haberman are leading our Agriculture team, and they are quite busy at the ever-growing urban farm at the Huss Project! Mariana, who hails from Wisconsin, just graduated from Calvin College and heard about *cino through its partnership with Calvin’s Service-Learning Center. Annelie learned about *cino from her friend Lauren Otto—one of our interns from last summer— and joined her on a cross-country road trip from Oregon to be with us for the summer. Lauren joined us in May and June and was a great help getting Project Farm prepared this spring.

With the fresh talent, new ideas, and helping hands of these individuals, we believe that have a great summer in store at *culture is not optional and the Huss Project. Stay tuned!

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*cino Work, Building, Education, Organization, People, Three Rivers

Spend a summer (or a year) in Three Rivers!

Join us for our 10-week summer internship program in Three Rivers, Michigan! We’re looking for folks who are self-motivated and interested in the cross-section of social justice, local food, community, and deep-rooted faith values to join *culture is not optional (*cino) in Three Rivers as we work toward the flourishing of our rural city.

The 2017 summer internship runs from June 1 to August 12. Interns live together in our community house, work alongside our core community on our community development work, and learn together through an embodied curriculum. Interns are expected to contribute an average of 20 hours of work per week for *cino. Interns can also work up to 20 hours per week at local partner farms in the area to earn additional income. Here are the practical benefits of the internship:

  • Housing
  • Living stipend (up to $1,000)
  • Up to $2,000 at partner farms

If you have an interest in farming and gardening, planning special events, communications and promotion, or small business, read more about the intern positions we’re looking to fill this summer. Do you have a different set of skills that you think would benefit *cino and Three Rivers? Apply! Want to know more about what *cino interns actually do? Read reflections from last year’s interns: ChelseaLauren O.Lauren A.Tess, and Aubrey.

If you have have any other questions about the internship, please peruse our Internship FAQ or get in touchApplications are due April 30!

We’re also excited to announce our Yearlong Residency Program! Start as a Summer Intern and then continue as a member of the *cino community until the following summer. This program is a unique opportunity to experience the rhythm of intentional community throughout the year, allowing for deeper engagement with our neighbors and with the work. See our Residency FAQ for more information.

Send us an inquiry if you’re interested in our Yearlong Residency!

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*cino Work, Building, Leadership, Organization, People

Annual *cino retreat yields 2017 priorities

On October 7, those of us who currently comprise the core *cino community gathered at a retreat house near Three Rivers to spend time growing in friendship, sharing good food, and reflecting on the year past and the year to come. Like our past retreats, we enjoyed times of intense, meaningful conversation interspersed with rest and play.

This year, our time together helped us get organized around some specific priorities for 2017 and some new ways of working together to achieve our tasks and goals within those priorities. The four things that rose to the surface that we want to work on in 2017 are:

  1. Grow *cino’s food efforts.
  2. Grow our core community in both quantity and quality.
  3. Cultivate relationships—with our neighbors, city, downtown, donors, partner organizations…
  4. Make tangible facility improvements.

We’ve identified a number of measurable goals within these overlapping categories, including existing programs and new efforts, as well as discerning some things we’ll leave behind for now in order to make space to grow in other areas and be open to the gifts and interests of new core community members. We’ll continue to organize our work through weekly meetings on Mondays, and also to grow in relationship with one another and our neighbors through things like Monday nights at the Riviera Theatre Bar and Friday night potlucks. We’re also looking to support each other more as a community through collaboratively developing and sharing our own personal care plans for the coming year.

Forming the foundation for our work conversations during the retreat was a time of reflection on several readings that touch on the theme of work: how we do what we are called to do with deep joy and gratitude. The readings included a couple of essays from our online publications (one by Brother Abraham and one by Gary Guthrie), a poem by Marge Piercey, and a quote from Thomas Merton that I find to be particularly cautionary for our busy, committed group:

There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist…most easily succumbs: activism and over-work. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work… It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her)…work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

We also considered a quote from Kahlil Gibran that echoes Merton’s warning:

Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is
better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the
temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter
bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you drudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge
distills a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing,
you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of
the night.

With this balance in mind, we reviewed a first draft of a design for the Huss Project property, sharing questions and feedback. We know it will take a lot of work to move forward with this design, but we’re excited about the prospect of seeing some major progress happening in the coming year. To learn more about the design, visit a more detailed post with an image of the first draft over on the Huss Project web site.

If this all sounds like something you’d like to get involved in in some way, please let us know! We are very open to the participation of more volunteers and new core community members as we head into a new year full of good work alongside our neighbors in Three Rivers.


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*cino Work, Organization, People, Three Rivers

Come and see: Lauren Anderson’s reflection

We asked each of our 2016 summer interns to respond to their time in Three Rivers. Below is Lauren Anderson’s reflection:

It is so interesting to look back and think that the first time I learned that *culture is not optional even existed was nearly one year ago. I was introduced to this community when we at the Service-Learning Center at Calvin College began our annual training with an overnight retreat to Three Rivers in August of 2015. After that initial introduction, I was enthralled. It was the first time I witnessed young adults choosing to live radical, counter-cultural, creative lives that were inching towards something so much greater than their personal or family benefit. The people involved with *cino are interested in a much bigger picture of shalom, which includes the wellbeing of the Three Rivers community.

When the call for spring break trip leaders went out and there just happened to be a trip to Three Rivers, you can imagine my excitement for another opportunity to be near such a life-giving community. Then, while on spring break, I learned about the summer internship with *cino. The more I prayed and let the idea bounce around in my head, the better I felt that this was the place for me this summer.

Looking back, I have not been disappointed. Especially after a difficult year of school, I am very grateful that I was enveloped into such a tight-knit community of visionary, educated, earth-loving, and people-loving human beings this summer. One part I appreciated was the unique rhythm of work and rest here; I even found some of the work to be restful in and of itself. Weeding, painting, and harvesting were all tasks that kept my hands busy, but gave my mind the freedom to pray, ask questions, and dream — something often forgotten in the busyness of the school year.

The hardest part was conveying to others unfamiliar with *cino both an accurate and a concise snapshot of my summer here. Lumping the summer into the phrase “community development” is true but also is vastly incomplete. Yes, I have had the opportunity to live and share daily dinners with seven other beautiful humans. Not only that, but I have also participated in “Garden of Your Mind” meetings to discuss and live into *cino’s core values; I have helped coordinate Community Fun Nights and Summer Lunch volunteers. And as Huss Future Fest rapidly approached, I was able to help beautify the photo booth, make a display of all the photo booth props, help with signage, and help with whatever else needed to be done.

The best explanation I have is one I learned from Jesus, which has also been implemented by other good teachers: come and see. Come for a potluck; come to a work day; come to the Huss Project; come to Future Fest; come to Three Rivers. Come and see for yourself the ways the upside-down kingdom is evident here in this beloved community. Come.


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*cino Work, Organization, People, Three Rivers

A full plate: Aubrey’s reflection

We asked each of our 2016 summer interns to respond to their time in Three Rivers. Below is Aubrey Laubenthal’s reflection:

When I arrived, it was instinctual for me to go into a state of stress and anxiety about nearly everything to do in the summer ahead. However, I now look back and find that there was an incredible balance of sweat AND play, elbow grease AND rest. In the midst of busyness and mess, I found myself stable and determined. The ever-so-brief amount of time that I spent in Three Rivers was unexpectedly full and uniquely good. I found myself surrounded by people who pour themselves into each other, their work, and this community. I experienced the unified mission of neighbors who collaborate. I couldn’t have made it through the summer so peacefully and joyfully had it not been for the beautiful community here, especially my fellow *cino friends. I learned so much about committing to a place and pursuing good things by doing good things. That includes eating good things… a LOT of good things.

Living with the other interns, I noticed and appreciated each person coming with amazing passions and quirks. Each person taught me something valuable, which I believe will increase in value as time goes on. I saw how to be shameless in the unconventional, vulnerable in receiving, cheerful in the mundane, humble in boldness, adventurous in the rain, and genuine in honesty. Today I am thankful for it all, and someday I will be more thankful than I could today imagine.

There is something simple here, and there is something deep here. At *cino, there is no static or lukewarm. There is heart, mind, soul and strength, all woven together in a really cool tapestry which is continuously being sewn. So as brief as it was, I leave knowing that the impact we shared was anything but brief. My heartfelt thanks, everyone!

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*cino Work, Education, Organization, People, Three Rivers

A sense of place: Lauren Otto’s reflection

We asked each of our 2016 summer interns to respond to their time in Three Rivers. Below is Lauren Otto’s reflection:

How can I possibly explain how my internship changed my sense of what “place” means to me? Place used to be simply a collection of geographic data. My home town of Newberg, Oregon is not so different from Three Rivers, Michigan if you describe it geographically. Both towns are distinct for being centered around waterways and railroads; both have a manufacturing history and are surrounded by farmland; both have historic theaters, local watering holes, and a handful of residents usually described as “characters” (although that is often not a fair description).

Three Rivers had so many geographical similarities to Newberg; the only difference was that it was a new place. Despite this sameness, uprooting myself and moving to a new place made me reevaluate. And yet, in Three Rivers I felt a connection to its landscape, places, and characters. This was novel, since I regarded my own town with affectionate apathy. Three Rivers was not my town, but it was a town that embraced me with such kindness that I wanted to move there immediately and settle there forever.

This left me wondering what on earth my town was doing wrong to make me feel so ambivalent towards it. But as summer went on and I kept spending my days working in Three Rivers, growing food, playing with kids, and interacting with the local communities, I realized that the problem was not my town: it was me. My town has good communities, it has gardens, it has characters, but none that I invested in. My internship has prepared me to connect with a community and build relationships. At home, I had to work at it, and I had failed to invest in my own community and as a result had not reaped the benefits of a connection. I resolved to go home at the end of the summer and approach my town with new eyes. I would not look at my place with apathy, but would resolve to work in it and for it, for its good and my own.

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*cino Work, Organization, People, Three Rivers, Uncategorized

The sum of its parts: Tess’ reflection

We asked each of our 2016 summer interns to write a reflection on their time in Three Rivers. Below is Tess De Jong’s reflection:

Over the course of interning for *culture is not optional in Three Rivers, Michigan, this summer, I met plenty of new people. As is natural, they would usually ask me where I’m from. “Kalamazoo,” I would say. “Oh, so not too far at all!” they would respond. Outwardly, it was easier just to agree. But what I wanted to say was, “Actually, this is an entirely different place.”

When I am here, present, in Three Rivers, it does not seem like I can just hop in my car and be in my bedroom at home in thirty minutes. Going back and forth between the two places takes more than a block of down time between activities and an eighth of a tank of gas: It requires a total mental shift in the way I view living, and it’s difficult to keep switching.

Here in Three Rivers, I am living more intentionally than I ever have before. We think about our food sources, consumer ethics, community vision, the environment, local businesses, and take time and space for rest and contemplation. We try to make our lives visibly different because of what we believe about these things. An example would be cooking only with vegetables that are in season at the time, or manually pulling weeds instead of spraying them all. At first, it was hard to get used to. It felt exhausting and a little limiting. But it turned out to be so freeing and empowering. By living daily with more hospitality, simplicity, and imagination, I felt like I had more agency and a wider platform on which to live out my faith.

I have never felt more tied to a place after a time as short as 10 weeks. This is not in a “tied down” sense, but in a way that makes it sad to leave, and easy to come back to, even if a few years have passed. I guess that is what happens when you see the mayor at the bar, play board games with the Downtown Development Authority director, meet new people for the first time at a children’s-book-themed dinner party, get invited to pesto-making night with your bosses, have your house “mom” be the pastor of a nearby church, help plan the highest-fund-raising Huss Future Festival yet, eat meals with incredible flavors you have never even tasted before, and share a house with 6 other amazing interns who share your experiences and bring them all to life.

This summer I painted dozens of signs, sorted a hallway of heavy and dusty rummage, played my fair share of kickball with kids, became really good at washing dishes, and weeded for infinitely more hours than I had in my entire life combined. And somehow, the sum is so, so much more than its parts. What a truly indescribable and pivotal summer I had.

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Organization, People, Rectory Stories

Welcome to our 2016 summer interns!

After a full weekend of orientation, an al fresco potluck, and an outdoor workday, we’re excited to welcome six new summer interns to Three Rivers! Each of them comes from different places around Michigan and the country and brings enthusiasm, a fresh perspective, and an array of skills to our group.

Our Community Engagement team is headed up by Lauren Anderson and Chelsea Smith. Lauren has visited Three Rivers a handful of times through Calvin College (including the most recent spring break trip), and is eager to stay longer this time. Our word-of-mouth network is growing, as evidenced by Chelsea, who got in touch through a good friend of *culture is not optional. They will be coordinating events such as Community Fun Night, summer lunches at the Huss Project, Friday night potlucks, and Storytelling Nights.

Tess De Jong and Aubrey Laubenthal will work together on communications and event promotion through social media and website posts, as well as business support for World Fare, a fair trade store and sister organization to *cino. Tess will soon be the sister-in-law of Joel, a former intern. Aubrey was introduced to *cino during a class that *cino’s Director, Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma, taught at Calvin College and is looking forward to learning more.

Much of our work has at least something to do with food (which is the way we like it), and Jordan Moore and Lauren Otto are working together as our agriculture interns. They’ll be the point people for Project Farm (at the Huss Project as well as a new location!), Community Gardening Nights, and the Huss Project table at the Three Rivers Farmers Market. Lauren, who got connected through her father, traveled the farthest to be here—all the way from Oregon! Jordan, a recent graduate of Spring Arbor University, heard about happenings in Three Rivers from a former intern.

And finally, we’re happy to welcome back a married couple who first met at their internship two summers ago! Alexandra (who invited Jordan to check out *cino) and Nate Harper-Brees recently exchanged vows, and they will be spending five weeks in Three Rivers before heading out to Kazakhstan, where Nate will teach at an international school. We’re glad for their leadership at the Rectory, where they’ll share the intentional community household with the six interns.

With these helping hands on deck, we’re confident that there are many good things in store for this summer, and we hope that you’ll stay tuned!

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