*cino Work, Building, Education, Event, Fundraising, Hospitality, Leadership, People, Rectory Stories, SUSTAIN *cino

Summer snapshots at a glance

May 11 – *culture is not optional finishes up remodeling of 208 with the help of Florence Church members and other volunteers.

May 25 – Ale and Annelie begin AmeriCorps VISTA training. *cino is working to partner with AmeriCorps over the next three years to better build capacity for the organization as a whole. A few weeks later, the summer associates join for ten weeks.

June 10 – Summer lunches begin. The Huss Project has partnered seven summers so far with the Three Rivers Public Schools through their lunch program, Meet Up and Eat Up.

June 13 – The Huss Project joins the Three Rivers Water Fest Parade for to promote our work. This event gave AmeriCorps VISTA members a feel of the neighborhood and chance to meet the neighbors.

June 14 – *cino convenes with Camp Tavor over dinner at the camp. This year, Camp Tavor counselors stayed on rotation at 208 each week night.

June 15 – Summer work days begin at The Huss Project. For six weeks, we worked with volunteers from the neighborhood in preparation for Huss Future Festival and several other projects including the renovation of the Imaginarium and the pavilion.

June 20 –The Huss Project has its first Farmer’s Market of the season. Snap peas, strawberries and smiles!

June 21 –Malachi Carter comes all the way from Indianapolis to teach a photography class for kids at summer lunches. We had 12 kids participate and learn grow their visual art skills through practicing photography.

July 2 – Camp Tavor kids come out to volunteer with us at The Huss Project Gardens for Tikkun Olam. We had over 20 volunteers from the camp help weed the garden and plant tree saplings.

July 15 – Aundrea Syrie and Great Dane teach a creative workshop for kids in the neighborhood so that they can develop their love for words. We had 5 kids participate and stretch their confidence in making art with words.

July 23 – Anna teaches summer lunch kids the magic of compost. We had 8 kids participate and gain knowledge about the cycles of food from the soil to our plates and back into dirt through compost.

July 25 –In thanks to all of those who participated in the Big Steps Campaign, *cino hosts a soiree at the renovated Imaginarium.

July 27 – HUSS FUTURE FESTIVAL 2019 ARRIVES. We raised over $7,000 dollars with the help of volunteers and community members. Over 1,000 people from the community came to the festival to make art, get free school supplies for kids, eat delicious food, listen to local musicians perform, and connect with over 15 community resource organizations in our

July 30 – Tikkun Olam round two!

August 8 – Our summer associates’ last day on the job.

August 9 – Storytelling night commences with our wonderful host, Emily, prompting us to wonder about inheritance and legacy.

August 24 – Longtime community members, Alek and Deborah celebrate their love at the Imaginarium. First wedding ever hosted at Huss!

To summarize:

– At Huss Future Festival, we raised over $7,000 dollars this summer in support of the Huss Project.

– We built the pavilion and the Imaginarum.

– Our partnership with AmeriCorps began in efforts to keep this organization sustainable and joy-filled.

– We produced and distributed 2,353 pounds of vegetables this summer to the local food bank and the Three Rivers Farmers Market.

– Summer lunches were a success as we served and enjoyed food with a total of 1,454 children.

-*cino’s 100 Friends of Huss Campaign, launched this summer, partnering with long-term, dedicated lovers of food, art and play.

– Over 74 volunteers dedicated a total of 1,104 hours to Saturday Work Day projects, Summer Lunches, special education events, The Huss Project Farm, the Imaginarium and The Huss Future Festival.

Many thanks to our volunteers for contributing the time, financial support, gifts and love. This summer was filled with so much business, and your presence made all of the difference.





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Education, Hospitality, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

Food and community: Chelsea’s reflection

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

My summer in Three Rivers gave me a glimpse into community life and left me eager to experience more. During my time with *cino, I stepped into a community that overflowed with creativity, joy, work, and rest. My role in the community manifested itself in many ways, mostly revolving around time and food. I grew food, cooked food, and shared food. I co-planned community events and enjoyed time with community members.

In college, I studied community development, so I came into this internship with some expectations of what I would learn and do. In many ways, working with *cino exceeded and reconstructed those expectations. Prior to this past summer, I would have said that I desired a lifestyle without rhythm and regularity. I liked switching things up and not falling into the same weekly routine. But I have grown to miss Monday night gatherings at the Riv, Tuesday “Garden of Your Mind” meetings, Wednesday communal work and pizza nights, etc. I realized during my *cino internship that rhythm is a sacred part of community. Gathering together regularly and sharing time (and food!) together is essential for building relationships and connections, especially when spending time in public spaces. These predictable gathering times were refreshing and restful times of my week.

When I studied community development in school, I dreamed of an exciting life as a “community developer” (or however that work would manifest). I thought the day-to-day life would be filled with inspiring actions, important decisions, and influential conversations. I learned this summer that those things do happen, but much more sporadically than imagined. The day-to-day role is filled with smaller moments of connection, commitment, and creativity. The details matter much more than I realized. Somewhere between planning kids’ crafts, cleaning the soon-to-be wood shop, and sewing countless feet of bunting, I discovered that there’s a sacredness in the details. After all, it’s the details that make the larger picture come together.

The connections I made during the ten weeks in Three Rivers were richer than connections I halfheartedly formed over double that amount of time. I felt more present working with *cino, where my priority was to invest in the community. This reflection was somewhat difficult to write, because I don’t feel like my time in Three Rivers is over. There is more to learn working with *cino, and I am still processing the impact of this summer internship. I am filled with gratitude for my experience in Three Rivers and still feel connected to the rich community there. I have a feeling this won’t be the end.

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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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*cino Work, Building, Education, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Publishing, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

2014: Year in review

With hearts full of gratitude, we say goodbye to another year and anticipate 2015 with hope and discernment. Please enjoy this review, written by the members of our core community here in Three Rivers.  Thank you for the many ways you’ve supported *culture is not optional in the past year!  Our work is sustained by generous donations of all kinds and we thankfully receive your gifts of time, money, prayer and encouragement.  Please be in touch about how you’d like to be involved in the coming year, and if you’d like to make a financial contribution, you can do so here.  Peace be with you in the coming year!

COMMUNITY: Volunteer partners come and go, while friendships remain

by Jay Howard

The Rectory, *cino’s community house, was full of good food and laughter in 2014. Jay, Liesje and Deborah endured an exceptionally snowy, cold winter, looking forward to summer when four amazing interns joined the household: Seth, Alexandra, Kate and Nate. They were a wonderful addition to our group, bringing many gifts to the work of a prosperous community garden, exciting and creative Community Fun Nights, a glowing Future Festival and lovely Friday night potlucks. In addition, we hosted visitors from Project Neighborhood, a Calvin College spring break group and a service group from Palmerston, Ontario, who all helped out at the Huss Project and explored the Three Rivers community.  Now as we make our way toward the end of the year, the Rectory will be losing one its inhabitants as Jay is heads to Grand Rapids to pursue new adventures.  Deborah and Liesje, along with Rob, Kirstin, Julie and David, continue to gather regularly as a core group, sharing and discerning the focus of our work for the coming year.


SHARING: Telling tales and tasting treats

by David Stewart

Preparing and eating food and telling stories has become central to what *cino does. This year we hosted Underground Supper Clubs on monastery grounds at St. Gregory’s Abbey and in the heart of downtown Three Rivers in one of the beautiful storefronts along Main Street. We told stories about our origins, local haunts, our favorite books, and about our love of food during storytelling events at the Huss Project. We want everyone to experience these sacred acts as fully as we do, something that has become clearer to us over the past year. There are stories in food, and stories in turn are food for the soul. It is our hope in 2015 to make more stories and to find more amazing ways to serve excellent food to the people who love it.


PLAY: Growing friendships with our neighbors at Huss

by Liesje Brouwer

Once again in 2014, Huss served as a site for a summer lunch program in partnership with Three Rivers Community Schools. School-aged kids in our neighborhood enjoyed over 700 lunches throughout the summer, gathered around the new picnic tables we built in June. In addition, the Huss Project hosted weekly Community Fun Nights where friends of *cino gathered for baked goods, garden goodies, games and crafts. 40-60 kids, parents and other neighbors attended each week—more than ever before! *cino invested in flag football gear, which was put to good use every week as we worked together with our young neighbors on building respectful relationships. We cranked up our jammin’ play list and ran around with kids and had conversations with adults and basked in the sun and learned a little bit more about one another. On the final fun night, all the kids gathered around and held a string attached to a homemade piñata, then collectively pulled their strings to break it open. The most popular piñata find: bouncy balls! Community Fun Night and summer lunches help us to stay connected to the neighborhood, and our neighbors. A big thank you to everyone who participated!


CELEBRATION: Creative connectivity at Huss Future Festival

by Julie Keefer

The fifth annual Huss Future Fest on July 19 was a day full of activities that brought in over 600 visitors, community partners and volunteers — that’s nearly double the attendance in 2013 and it’s encouraging to see the festival grow as a fun, creative and safe place for neighbors to gather.  Future Fest is the pinnacle of our summer for *cino staff, interns and volunteers who put in countless hours full of blood, sweat and, yes, even sometimes tears to clean, plan, paint, fold, mow, imagine, and clean some more. A highlight this year was partnering with TRAFC (Three Rivers Area Faith Community) to host their annual Back-to-School Celebration.  We saw lots of families coming to the festival to join in the fun and get backpacks full of school supplies. In addition, volunteers from the Huss Project’s community garden sold quinoa salad and grilled veggies and brats, while the locally-famous Weenie King added his hotdog stand to our food options.  This year we hosted our second Coin Carnival partnering with local organizations: Three Rivers Public Library, Red Cross, Save the Frogs, River Country Resilience Circle, Congo Cloth Connection/Florence Church, St. Joseph County Department of Human Services, Pregnancy Helpline, St. Joseph County ISD/Great Start, Animal Rescue Fund and Flowerfield Enterprises.  Many local farmers also donated generous amounts of produce for our mini farmers market: Triple Ripple Community Garden, White Yarrow Farm, Bair Lane Farm, Corey Lake Orchard and Butternut Sustainable Farm.  Dozens of volunteers also helped coordinate many activities for kids, a rummage sale, art vendors, workshops, art installations, a bake sale and live music.  It was a joy to witness such incredible collaboration, which is a primary value we hope to cultivate at the Huss property.  At the end of the festival, our *cino community, friends and festival attendees took the opportunity to celebrate in gratitude for the Huss Project’s fifth anniversary with a five-song dance party!


FLAVOR: Sharing fresh, local food with our community

by Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

Working alongside our neighbors, we continued to produce food at the Huss Project this year in our wild and wooly community garden. In June, we hosted a compost tea workshop where several of us learned how to create organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer for our gardens. Even as we struggled with a streak of vandalism, we distributed the garden produce to individuals and families in need through several agencies in our county. Beyond just our own garden, *cino helped publish a local food and recycling guide for our region.  We also partnered with several local farms this summer to sell their produce alongside our own at the Three Rivers Farmers Market. After the market closed for the season, we gathered additional farm partners and opened the Downtown Harvest Market in a downtown storefront on Saturdays in September and October. Through these efforts, we shared and sold fresh, local food to a wide variety of people in our community, raising over $3,300 for continued food production at the Huss Project in the future.


REFLECTION: Pausing to consider with catapult and the daily asterisk

by Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma

The question has come up with increasing frequency: what happened to catapult?  With many changes in the lives of *cino community members over the past year, 2014 seemed like a good time to pause for a little while and re-imagine the function, look and structure of this longstanding online publication.  We initiated a survey that gleaned rich feedback from both new and veteran readers and contributors and we look forward to digging into those ideas in 2015 to see what seeds show promise of germination in the spring.  In the meantime, the daily asterisk has continued to be a provocative resource, drawing from many voices past and present, who speak insightfully to the pressing issues of our time with celebration and lament, encouragement and repentance, joy and critique.  If you’re not receiving the daily asterisk already, you can sign up for the e-mail list here and dig into the archives here.


CONVERSATION: Discussing our core values, our community, and our future

by Deborah Haak

For all of the hustle and bustle of the year, the *cino staff also made concerted efforts to sit, read, discuss, and dream. We gathered each week over the summer with interns to explore *cino’s core values, and that conversation has continued this fall and winter with a discussion of Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging. At the staff retreat this fall, we reflected on 2014, discussing *cino’s successes and shortcomings, evaluating roles and duties in light of staffing changes, and brainstorming where to focus our energy in 2015 and beyond — all while sharing delicious food and enjoying each others’ company!

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*cino Work, Education, Hospitality, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

Space to celebrate: Kate’s reflection

I’m back in Maine for the final year of my undergraduate degree. It still seems to me that I only just left Maine for Michigan, full of the nervous excitement I felt about embarking on an adventure in a new-to-me place, with new-to-me people, doing who knows what.

I had very few expectations for this summer, which are not to be confused with low expectations. Having procrastinated on finding the internship that I needed to do before graduating, I took to the internet to find somewhere to live, learn, and love. *cino appeared ala le Google and I sent in a wordy application with fingers crossed.

Weeks later, I was welcomed to Three Rivers with radical hospitality. I arrived road weary, frazzled and a day earlier than anticipated and the Rectory folk cleared me a corner, found me a bed, and fed me; they took me in and gave me space to rest and settle. I was quickly swept into the rhythms of the work we do here and the embrace of the communities we’ve built.

In the ten or so weeks I spent in Three Rivers I helped *cino host the Meet Up Eat Up lunch program (daily lunches for school-aged children), co-created new signs for the garden, planned Community Fun Nights, and organized and created signage for Future Festival. I was the million-questions, bread baker, granola maker, laugh generator. Through the fast paced groove of this summer I was a friend, a listener, and a dish-washing tune crooner.

It took me a while to adjust to my new environment. I had come from the location of the earliest sunrise in the U.S. and found a place where our mosquitoey, wonderful porch dinners were lit via that same sun until ten at night, but soon I was nestled into life and work with *cino.

That summer sun watched over me and kept me warm all throughout this “thinking” summer, as one new friend called it. It was a relatively cool Michigan summer versus those summers we all dread where the sun beats down as we struggle to even gather our thoughts. As I reflect on the ten weeks I spent with the *cino gang, I struggle to articulate how much I’ve learned this summer and how it’s changed my idea of what I’d like to see in the future for myself and the world I inhabit and how to get there.

Those mosquitoey dinners eventually moved indoors; I was welcomed by a web of wonderful new friends who made me feel loved  and appreciated; we had long, rich conversations on how to live the “good life” and what cartoon hottie captured our adolescent hearts; and I found a space to celebrate my own contributions and talents: I have lived, learned, and loved this summer with *cino.

Above: Kate working t-shirt stenciling, one of the many projects she took on this summer in her work with *cino.


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*cino Work, Organization, People, Rectory Stories

Seeking 2014 summer interns!

Although I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into when I moved to Three Rivers as a *cino intern, I had a good feeling about it: I had spent a week in Three Rivers a few months before, and I had gotten a glimpse of what this whole *cino thing is. I saw people doing their part to live simply and to work in community with each other, with their neighbors, with the earth, and with God. I got hooked by the compelling vision and values of the organization.  I was invited into those moments that every non-profit experiences — moments that make the heart sing and moments that make the stomach turn. I’ve been able to utilize my gifts, and I’ve been challenged to improve my weaknesses. I’m happy to say that, over two and a half years after moving here (and after graduating from “intern” to “volunteer staff”), that good feeling remains.

We welcome flexible and committed individuals who wish to embrace community, simple living, social justice and spirituality in everyday life. Interns who are independent self-starters, have some experience living independently away from their parents’ home and work well under little supervision are often best suited for *cino internships. The 2014 summer internship runs officially from June 1 to August 15. Interns live together in a house, alongside the more permanent resident community of the organization, and are asked to contribute an average of 20 hours of volunteer work per week for *cino. Interns can also look for part-time employment in the community if necessary.

If you have an interest in farming and gardening, planning special events, or communications and promotion, read more about our intern positions! Do you have a different set of skills that you think would benefit *culture is not optional? ApplyWant to know more about what *cino interns actually do? Read these reflections from our 2013 interns GinnaJonathanChelsea, and AinsleyWondering what you’ll get out of the internship after two and a half months? Glad you asked! What about jobs, loans, fundraising, and other details? Find the answers to these questions and more here.

If you know someone who would be a good match, please pass along the encouragement to apply!

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Building, Event, Hospitality, Organization, People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

The end of another *cino summer

Summers are a busy time for *cino folks. We tend to cram as much as we can into the good weather, and this summer was no exception (or perhaps it was as we crammed in more than usual!).This is a short list of what we did during the hottest months of the year:

  • Paid off the mortgage on Huss, making it official *cino property!
  • Planned and executed Future Fest, our biggest summer event, designed to demonstrate what’s possible at Huss and build community through creativity and food.
  • Hosted Family Fun Nights every Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 p.m. to enjoy snacks, games and crafts with our neighbors.
  • Continued our series of Underground Supper Clubs, a brand new fundraising effort in Three Rivers that is definitely making waves.
  • Hosted storytelling nights for potential storytellers to come out to Huss and share their tales.
  • Added to our Huss Stories series, with pieces on Gail Walters, Carol Boulette and Luther Channey.
  • Worked on the school every Friday during the afternoon because there’s always something to be done.
  • Hosted school lunches four days a week in partnership with the local schools because kids need food!
  • Attempted to raise more money for the Huss Project through various grants and activities.
  • Hosted the Calvin College Service-Learning Center staff for a day of training.
  • And, of course, we continued to publish catapult magazine and the daily asterisk this summer before taking our traditional August publishing break.

With the end of summer upon us, we enter into a different phase of *cino’s work, one that is perhaps less stressful, but every bit as important. However, this particular year it is a bittersweet respite we face, as the end of this summer of 2013 has brought with it a host of goodbyes. The farewells began in the early summer with our first interns, Jonathan and Ginna, a pair from Costa Rica who came into the *cino community and infected us all with their enthusiasm and creativity. We then saw the arrival and departure of the other interns, Ainsley, Chelsea, and Jonathan (affectionately dubbed Jonathan #2), who brought with them new ideas and a willingness to explore the values and work of *cino. Interns coming and going is something we’ve grown used to at *cino, though we never relish the idea of their departure (and will often persuade them to stick around, if only for just a little while).

We also said goodbye to two longstanding *cino members in Stephanie and Chad, friends who have been integral to *cino’s development both as individuals and then as newlyweds. We know they will do great things in their new location, and their presence will positively impact all those they come across. Our final goodbye came recently, and it was with heavy hearts that the *cino moving crew packed up the belongings of one Emily “Battleship” Ulmer and docked her in her new home, where she will seek the degree she so richly deserves.

These are bittersweet farewells, certainly, but they are also hopeful ones because the connections we find and cultivate at *cino are the kind that last lifetimes, and we know that these goodbyes are temporary things. So we say ‘so long,’ though it may be with heavy hearts, and we take heart from a great human who once wrote, “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

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Publishing, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

My summer at Muggle Hogwarts: Ainsley’s reflection

The people around me heard me reference my semester in Budapest, Hungary at least a jillion times, so it’s only fitting for me to mention it once more as I reflect on my summer in Three Rivers. While in Budapest, I made friends with fellow Calvin College students who worked at the Service-Learning Center back on campus. They essentially forced me to sign up for a Service-Learning spring break trip and I wrote my name down for “Three Rivers, Michigan,” when I heard the other, more far-flung and admittedly more exciting-sounding trips were full. So I spent my senior spring break in Three Rivers and realized I really liked it. Basically I hauled around large sticks behind Huss, weeded in some hot crusty soil, met community members, got the giggles around a dinner table heavily-laden with alarmingly good food, squirmed through the “strongly-encouraged” daily quiet hour, and took walks around the Rectory neighborhood. It was a genuinely good time. When I found myself abruptly unemployed (fired) and in need of a summer (or any) job, I remembered Three Rivers and its knack for welcoming students, thinkers, dreamers and even awkward post-Calvin stragglers. I was drawn to join *cino, knowing the people involved are working toward intentionality, health-full living and meaningful question-asking. And they’re fun and nice. Their food tastes really good. We can make each other laugh.

I came at the end of May ready to join in on the Huss Project, since I saw it as an artsy Muggle Hogwarts, and any Harry Potter fan can understand why that sounded good to me. I helped put on Family Fun Nights and loosely supervised many of the weekday lunches distributed to kids at Huss. My new friend Ginna taught me about permaculture and guided me in my first gardening experiences. I volunteered at World Fare and learned about fair trade while eating chocolate and drinking coffee — a prime way to learn.

Joys hit me like runaway filibuster fireworks as I listened to Ginna gush about goats and how to sew together trapezoidal fabric segments, saw Huss come brilliantly alive for Future Fest, watched Jonathan demonstrate his knowledge of the weirdly-good tight pants song, witnessed Rob bike over a child’s skate ramp, and walked in on David celebrating the completion of that kitten puzzle. Hats off to him for that.

It was tricky adjusting to a new pattern of eating and to the lack of formal structure of class schedules and a consistent job. I didn’t know what to do with certain produce or how I would pay my rent come September. The stress of the unemployed unknown was often dissipated by friendships — a wacky variety of them — among housemates and neighborhood kids. Chelsea and I spent a good amount of time with two kids in particular, and traded funny, funny stories (like when one kid thought his mom was an alien), blunt advice (we adults need to stop being so obsessed with our cell phones) and bewilderingly hilarious comments (“one time, I mashed up some flies and made them into a goopy paste”).

I remembered that I can live on far less than I think, that kids are smarter and wiser than most people give them credit for, and that concepts like “radical hospitality” and “faithful presence” will never become clear-cut directives for living, but will take daily thought, trial and error. I want quick answers and comprehensive understanding, but I learned to let go of that a little more. I learned that I need to be braver and take more initiative and I learned that when I put myself out there, it’s usually worth it. I learned that clover roots lock in moisture and aerate the soil and they feel awesomely soft on your feet, so don’t weed them out of your garden. I learned it’s imperative for me to drive less and take more walks and more bike rides because that’s how you find the cool stuff.

I hope *cino will continue to be a place that invites and welcomes new people and I hope that *cino will keep growing into a place where individuals of different ages, races and backgrounds can hang out in one room and feel truly comfortable together. I hope the Huss Project will continue to keep its doors open to children (and forgive them when they sprint through the halls and interrupt prayers), support neighbors and local businesses, and value learning and friendship above material gain and expediency.

I write this having just gotten back to my home in Grand Rapids. I’m going to do what I can to save some money (find a job — any job!) as I spend time with friends and family members and try to decide if teaching in Hungary and beginning midwifery school are life routes I will pursue next. I will also be trying to send snail mail more regularly, since I’d like to combat transience in small ways, because I have a box of totally fantastic envelopes from Harriet E. Jackson, and because I’m downright attached to the beautiful people who made these weeks so worthwhile.

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People, Rectory Stories, Three Rivers

What to expect: Chelsea’s reflection

I made the decision to go to Three Rivers in an end-of-semester panic, and entered the town in a post-grad daze. Interning with *cino had been in the back (and occasionally in the front) of my head since spring of 2012, when I visited the organization through Calvin College’s Service-Learning Center. However, living a half hour from my hometown was far less exhilarating than the traveler’s life I’d long dreamed of for myself.

With the end of school approaching, I scrambled for an answer to the question we anxious, indecisive students hate most. (Though this question persists throughout one’s college career, for me, it wasn’t until senior year that I actually let it tangle up with my romantic thoughts regarding the future.)

Dialogue that included said question went as follows:

Relatives I rarely see, acquaintance-classmates, dental hygienists, etc.: “So, what are your plans after graduation?”  


Chelsea’s Mouth: “Yeah. Um. Yeah. I’m not really sure yet. I’ve thought a lot about teaching abroad, so that’s a possibility. Eventually grad school. I’d kind of like to lie low for a while, though, so we’ll see.”



In the end, *cino was a solid response — something to halt the caps lock in my head, if you will. Three Rivers seemed like a good place to pause and breathe while continuing to learn and be useful. It was a new orbit, which I needed, but one containing familiar values and concerns. The welcoming tone that each of *cino’s emails contained didn’t hurt either. When preparing to leap, it’s nice to know there are friendly arms on the other side… friendly and willing to help carry your excessive amounts of clothes and books on move-in day.

As these things tend to go, when I first arrived in Three Rivers, expectations were quickly shaken and made to adjust. Those expectations remained unmet, but that’s because they also remain oblivious to the needs of a fledging nonprofit and to a town experiencing various forms of injustice. During the readjustment, Ainsley (good pal, fellow intern, fellow Trinity Episcopal basement dweller, zooby zooby) and I decided to be “yes” people, because that’s all we could do in a semi-foreign place — feel around for gaps to fill and hope our efforts helped. Consequently, my role with *cino involved a little of this and a little of that. I did primarily communications work, making promotional videos and writing blog posts, but I was also able to interact with the community in some unexpected ways. As much as I enjoy piecing together footage or interviewing adult members of the community, an afternoon of reading Holes and talking technology with a soon-to-be-eleven-year-old will always stand a little brighter in my memory than any field-related task. (His life advice, by the way: “Put away the electronics.”)

I’ve heard some great visions for the future of *cino and for Huss School, and hearts of staff members and volunteers are aching to move and love in radical ways, but it’s not always easy to stay positive while maintaining an organization. It’s a stressful gig, and it takes moments like this, simple, yet profound, to keep us calm and steady. My hope for *cino is that they continue to listen to their neighbors, no matter how small, and to care for their wounds. As a result of this attentiveness, I hope that current expectations are thwarted in beautiful ways, just as mine were, to reveal a space impossible to imagine.

After a memorable summer, I’m now back in Grand Rapids, working in a couple cafes and considering my next move. Teaching abroad is still on the table, but if I’ve learned anything in the last few months, it’s that these strange transitional days matter, and that you can’t go wrong when you pay attention to those around you and invest your energy in the present.

Thank you, *cino & company, for supporting me this summer, for expanding my understanding of hospitality, and for giving the people of Three Rivers a safe place to learn, play and create.

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People, Rectory Stories, Uncategorized

Food, shelter, commmunity: Jonathan’s reflection

Food. Shelter. Community. Little did I know that these three would become buzz words for my friend, who was asking me about my summer. “Do you have any plans?” she had asked. “Not that I know of,” I replied. Ideally, I had hoped for a summer job, but that seemed hard to find. I settled for the three essential needs.

Almost instantly, my friend sent me a link to *culture is not optional, telling me that it sounded a bit like what I was describing in my summer hopes. “I’m not suggesting you should apply,” she said. That afternoon, as I read the mission statement on the website, I felt a growing rush of excitement rise within me. I applied anyways.

*culture is not optional (*cino) spoke to my interests in living communally with others and practicing my faith in tangible, transformative ways. I also wanted to exercise my abilities in writing and the arts by helping with the communication department of the *cino group. When I finally heard back with an invitation to join the summer program, I readily accepted, without really knowing what I was getting myself into.

Some things were expected. I quickly fell into the role of being a member of the communications subcommittee (lots of “comm”s happening here) and got to take pictures at events, meet and interview local members of Three Rivers, paint cool things and take notes during staff meetings. And, living in the Rectory, I got to enjoy homemade dinners every night and sleep in a real bed with real blankets and be surrounded by people who quickly became my friends. Food. Shelter. Community.

Much of the kindness shown to me has been a surprise. Even apart from the overwhelming generosity of *cino, Three Rivers been a welcoming town and I encountered several manifestations of that kindness, from strangers at the gas station going the extra mile to direct me to places, to being invited to the young adult group at the church I was attending, to the kids in the neighborhood around the Huss Project who pulled me into their games and their lives. These unexpected experiences make up some of the best moments of my time here in Three Rivers.

I’ve learned a lot about working alongside others for the same common purpose. The height of that learning experience was at Huss Future Festival 2013, when, all of a sudden, the space that I had been working in and preparing for nearly two months came alive with the presence of many other organizations from Three Rivers. I saw artists from Three Rivers Artist’s Guild next to local jewelry makers, listening to music played by local bands serenading guests as they chewed on food made by Three Rivers Area of Faith Community (TRAFC) and the Triple Ripple Community Garden.  In the meantime, a coin carnival run by members of Red Cross, Animal Rescue Foundation, and other groups catered to kids’ interests on the field nearby. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful display of collaboration at its best — people coming together to serve their community in the same place.

I’ve learned that I truly love doing something that puts me in close proximity with people. I’ve learned to value what they value and respect their needs. I’ve discovered that the image of God is more than the list of attributes I have in my head, but radiates from every beautiful thing that is life and love. And that motivates me to appreciate His goodness more deeply in whichever place I find myself in, and among whichever people I’m surrounded by. As I move forward, or rather, back into college life, I hope that I can take with me the passion to serve and the eagerness to know others and put it to use in the community around me. In the meantime, I hope that *cino continues to seek after the needs of the people in Three Rivers.

In parting, I might end my journey with two thoughts, or stories, that I started my internship with:

What life have you, if you have not life together? There is not life that is not in community, And no community not lived in praise of GOD.

-T.S. Eliot

My precious child, I love you and would never leave you.When you see only one set of footprints in the sand, it was then that I carried you.

-Footprints in the Sand

Thank you, to everyone I’ve met here in Three Rivers. From the storefront at World Fare to the brick walls of Huss School, to the white porch of our Rectory and the churches that surround us: thank you. Thank you to the ones I’ve been able to share life with for two and a half months.

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