Three Goshen College students’ ‘This I Believe’ essays to be aired Feb. 20-March 6

GOSHEN, Ind. – The public radio station in Elkhart, Ind., WVPE-88.1 FM, has selected essays by three Goshen College students to air the Tuesdays between Feb. 20 and March 6 on its “This I Believe” program. All of the pieces will air at 7:35 a.m. and again at 12:30 p.m.

Read the full-text “This I Believe” essays by David Martinez, Kathryn Birky and Georgette Oduor.

Junior David Martinez, a communication major from Goshen, will have his essay about his mother and coming to the United States air on Tuesday, Feb. 20. Sophomore Kathryn Birky, a communication major from Glenn, Mich., will have her essay about second chances air on Tuesday, Feb. 27. First-year Georgette Oduor, a nursing major from Kenya, will have her essay about volunteering at an AIDS orphanage air on Tuesday, March 6.

The three students wrote their essays for Goshen College communication courses taught by Associate Professor of Communication Duane Stoltzfus, who encouraged students to submit their work for publication or broadcasting.

“All three of the student essayists show a remarkable ability to touch on universal truths through very different particulars. In places, we move from a hard factory life in Goshen to a horse farm in Michigan to a home for abandoned babies in Kenya. In all three places, we meet people who show love and, in doing so, change lives in ways that ripple on,” said Stoltzfus. “These are stories of faith by young people who have received much and are ready to ‘pass it on.’ ’’

According to the Goshen College Record, Stoltzfus sent 10 of his classes’ top essays to WVPE for consideration. WVPE Program Director Lee Burdorf and his staff picked the top three, looking for work that was “well-written and compelling,” he said. “We were looking for things that make you stop and go ‘Wow.’ ”

“This I Believe” is a national media project engaging millions of people in writing, sharing and discussing the core values and beliefs that guide their daily lives. National Public Radio (NPR) has aired these short essays since April 2005. “This I Believe” is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow.

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit


“This I Believe”
By I. David Martinez, a junior communication major from Goshen

I am a young adult, an alien, a taco. I live in despair, and act in valor and that is what many people see in me: courage, hopefulness, confidence, boldness, faith and hope.

I moved to the small town of Nappanee, Ind., from Mexico in 1997 at the age of 10. What was a child of 10 supposed to do with his life in a place where language was a barrier and culture was its sword?

More than anything else, my mother wanted for her children to achieve a better education than she ever could have had. She said to me once, “You have no responsibilities, other than your school and your studies. I will not die happy if I don’t see you, your older brother and little sister receive a college diploma.” From then on I knew what my biggest responsibility was. And that concept got reinforced when one year after our arrival in the United States my parents divorced. Nothing could get uglier than that. After my father left there was no more seeing, hearing or even talking of him. He simply disappeared.

My mother, a fighter, had to begin working two shifts a day. She would wake up at four in the morning just so that she could make it to her first shift at a factory where she had to stand for eight hours straight. She used an air gun to assemble cabinetry. Every night she would come home, she would give herself a massage not knowing that the pain in her right arm was due to the inflammation of her tendons cause by the nailing of the cabinetry. Her second shift was not much easier. She had to assemble motors for car seats. As she assembled the small motors she sat on a metal chair for another eight hours; at least she was able to rest her feet.

My mother worked more than one could imagine at that time. She was a mother of three, the oldest age 15 and the youngest 2 years old. I, at age 12, was so focused on my needs and wants; simply a selfish teen. Although I had what many kids would desire, thanks to the sweat of a hard-working mother, I felt that my life was a mere disgrace. I rarely saw my mother at home. Working five days a week, 16 hours a day, the only time we would spend with her would be those hours that she slept. Somehow, my mother would always find time to cook and feed us.

For all this, she seemed to ask for only one thing in return. She would ask for a kiss and I would say, “No.” After high school graduation, my brother and I knew we were bound for college. Thanks to the teachings of my mother we were headed in the right direction.

Today, I am 21 years old, a third-year college student. My brother graduated from Goshen College, the same college I’m attending. He is currently attending graduate school.

My mother is still working at a factory, but only one shift. She remarried four years ago and is now happily living a less stressful life. She gave three children what not many do. She gave her three children hope. This is why I believe that my mother deserves a kiss on the cheek.


“This I Believe”
By Kathryn Birky, a sophomore communication major from Glenn, Mich.

Lady arrived at Cedar Bluff Ranch a condemned horse. “Unrideable,” declared her previous owner, a seasoned equestrian. The owner told Monty and Cheri Brenner that if their ranch adopted Lady, they would be saving the Arabian mare from death. The Brenners agreed. They were a generous couple who spent all their spare time and money rescuing horses. They rehabilitated the horses and then matched them with new owners.

It was the first week of vacation before my freshman year of high school, and I was looking forward to another summer of working at Cedar Bluff. I was delighted to meet the new horse. Lady was white and graceful and I fell in love immediately. However, she was terrified of me. Cheri explained that they thought Lady was originally from a polo stable. It was clear that Lady didn’t have the right personality for such an aggressive sport. There was a scar on her mouth from some severe bit, the underside of her neck bulged with resistant muscles and her back was slightly swayed from heavy riding.

The ranch trainer asked me if I wanted to work with Lady. Lady was not aggressive, but she would gallop away uncontrollably whenever she became frightened of her rider. The trainer showed me how to keep my reins slack and my stomach tight whenever Lady bolted in panic. Lady taught me not to wiggle my toes, flap my elbows or touch my helmet, so she wouldn’t bolt in the first place.

I had had other experiences with training, but never had I felt as sensitive to a horse’s character as I did with Lady. Soon she let me post to her trot. Then I could slow her down after cantering up a hill. Eventually, I could ride her around without a saddle or a bridle.

The Brenners, however, were ready to sell Lady when she became rideable. They could not afford to keep every horse they rescued. Unfortunately, I could not afford to buy her. I was devastated.

I spent every chance I had at the ranch with Lady. From her pasture, she would see me walking to the barn and would take off cantering to meet me at the door. I fed her carrots, untangled her mane and gave her baths so that I could take pictures of her rolling in the dirt afterward. I tried to record memories.

Then, during the last week of vacation, I was approached by a boarder at Cedar Bluff. I knew nothing about the woman except that she was not particularly wealthy. She said she had watched me riding Lady and had a question. “Would you let me purchase that horse and give her to you?”

It took me a few days to recover from the generosity of this stranger’s offer. When I accepted it, I asked her how I could ever thank her for buying me my dearest friend. She looked me in the eye and said, “Just pass it forward.”


“This I Believe”
By Georgette Oduor, a first-year nursing major from Kenya

Pambazuko is the Swahili word for sunrise. I believe in sunrise as a symbol for new beginnings and hope in a world filled with hopelessness. When the sun rises in the Kenyan skies the ground comes alive. The weaver birds begin their chatter and the beetles crawl out of their hiding holes at the hint of warmth. The people are not left behind, you can hear the sound of matatus which are public transportation minivans, their horns hooting and beeping. The people, many of them living below the poverty line, can be seen walking to their various work places. Yes, Kenya is wide awake.

At New Life Home sunrise brings renewed hope. New Life home welcomes abandoned babies and toddlers who may also be HIV positive. Although some of the lucky ones may be adopted, most of the children are subjected to constant change. They did not know where they came from or where they belonged and were entrusted to the few volunteers. Although most of them lived below the poverty line they gave their time. I volunteered at New Life Home for six months beginning December 2005. Every morning I would walk in and meet eager faces happy at my arrival.

Among these faces Eva’s always stood out. It was mostly stained with tears and drool from a pervious crying fit, her diapers soiled with what I think the Japanese should use as weapons of mass destruction. This is how the day began at the home.

The rest of the day was made up of bathing, feeding, medicating, and playing with Eva and the other children. One-year-old Eva was a very precious soul. She was found in a dumpster left for dead a few hours after her introduction into the world. Despite this unfortunate start in life Eva learned to trust and hope. She did not know if I would come back or if someone else would be there. But I believe she hoped because she always managed to give me a gorgeous and sincere smile. Although I looked after many other children at the home Eva and I had a special bond.

Everyday brought new hope for the children; it also brought in prospective parents. Some children got new parents and went off to start a new life. But for Eva this day never came. Month after month we would play together; I even started to teach her how to talk. The one word she knew how to say was kuja (come), and she would make good use of it. That would be the word that I would hear first thing in the morning and just before I left in the evening.

Just before my six-month volunteer term ended, a good looking couple came to the home looking for a child to adopt. Eva connected with them instantly. I never thought she would connect with anyone else but me. Several days later they came to take her home. Saying goodbye was hard but I knew it was better for her to go. Her new beginning had come. As couple walked away from me and put her in her new car seat she kept saying “kuja, kuja,” but I could not go. This was Eva’s new life without me.

It’s been four months since Eva and I last set eyes on each other. Her memory of me is probably faint and will disappear as she gets older. I will definitely never forget her. I learnt so much from her in the little time that I knew her. Funny how we older people can learn valuable lessons from children who barely have any experience in life. Eva’s story reminds me to look for opportunities for new beginnings when I find myself in uncomfortable situations. I believe that sunrise brings renewed hope. Pambazuka.