Senior reflections delivered at Baccalaureate on April 22, 2012, in the Church-Chapel

Hannah Epp, a peace, justice and conflict studies major from Henderson, Neb.

Hello everyone. My name is Hannah Epp and I am graduating with a major in Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies, and a minor in International Studies.

During my four years of study at Goshen College, my classes have prompted me to think deeply about the idea of reconciliation and renewal – what it looks like, what it takes to be achieved, and what other elements must be a part of arriving at that place. John Paul Lederach identifies four concepts that must all be present within the process of reconciliation. They are:  truth, which includes an acknowledgment of wrong and a validation of pain; mercy, which calls for compassion and new beginnings; justice, which deals with basic human rights and equality; and lastly, peace, which involves mutual respect and interdependence.

First, the needs of each party must be met so they are able to feel whole as an individual before even attempting to be whole in a relationship. Sharing these deep human needs with each other is also the first step in being able to create a sense of empathy and compassion between the two.

I have also learned that while conflict is an inevitable part of every person’s life, it can be a wonderful opportunity for growth if handled correctly – with a goal of renewal in mind.  Though it is immensely complicated, I have discovered in myself a passion for understanding human relationships and for learning techniques to help heal the damaged ones.

However, through my studies I have also come across a big problem – there are an infinite number of broken relationships in the world on many different levels. These are perpetuated by things like systemic violence, poverty, power hungry elites, and the inevitable presence of evil.

So, here I stand, one woman with knowledge of conflict transformation theory and a desire to change the world. Thankfully, my classes at Goshen College prepared me for this dilemma also.

Although I often feel powerless and overwhelmed with the amount of work there is to do in this world, I have come to realize and accept that what I am able to do with my life does still make a difference, and is, at the very least, a contribution of good.  I also recognize that there are many others doing good work in the world, and that this is important to remember. As I graduate today and think about what comes next, I am greeted by an endless number of possibilities and am excited to see what experiences and people will become a part of my life as it unfolds.

Daisy Gaspar, an elementary education/special education major from Goshen

I first learned about the inquiry programs at the end of my freshman year. There are three: camping, service and campus ministry. I chose to do the service inquiry program at Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network (GIHN). I thought it was a great way to spend my summer and earn some money at the same time. This turned out to be a mix of ministry and social services as well as some domestic work. I actually learned more about the community of Goshen, I learned social skills and I found great friends, both staff and guests — and I can tell you where almost all churches are!

How I found out about Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network: as I searched for places in the area for service, I found two — The Window and La Casa. Then Bob Yoder, the SIP Director, and I did a little more research and found GIHN. This is a homeless shelter for families. I thought, “Here? In Goshen?”

Well, as surprising as it may be, yes, we constantly have people seeking shelter. It was shocking to see how many people are homeless in the area and even out of state, but we don’t see them because they are going from house to house. This is why GIHN’s goal is for our guests’ to have settled into long-term housing.

After finishing my service, I stayed around. It will be three years this May, working at GIHN as a part-time staff member. As I’ve been growing and learning at Goshen College, I have also been growing with the community.

I am glad that not only I have been able to help families find shelter, but also be an ear to listen, share and help. I like the way Tim Thorne, the director of GIHN, put it: “We occasionally tap folks on the shoulder and point in different directions encouraging them to notice things that they may have missed.”

It’s not our job to guide them everywhere, but we do hope that they take hold of their lives once again. Again, I’m very thankful for the opportunity.

Anna Ruth, an English major from Harleysville, Pa.

Reflection on four years at Goshen College would be incomplete without some mention of Study-Service Term. For many of us, our time spent living and working in countries such as Peru, Cambodia, Senegal, Germany, and Nicaragua were some of the most influential months of our education, shaping our worldview in ways that would not be possible in the formal classroom here on campus.

I spent my semester of study and service in Tanzania, East Africa. As I was immersed in a new culture, landscape and community, the best way for me to make sense of these three months was by writing. Though we may have travelled to different places, I suspect that many of us have stories with similar shapes.

This morning, by way of representing the multitude of stories we all carry with us from our SST experiences, I will share a poem I wrote while living in Murangi, Tanzania, a rural village perched on a hill overlooking Lake Victoria.

By Anna Ruth

Nyumbani means home in Swahili —
home with my favorite tree, two in one, twisted,
exploding purple and fans of green
and cobs of gold in the dirt beneath.

The chickens squabble, dancing around
a harvest feast spread across our yard,
and Mama sorts rice under the tree
grain, grain, stone, toss, grain

as my sisters sing behind the house
and the ugly goose parades with glowering eyes
while the baby yells.

I wake, swing the mosquito net from my face
and drink the good lake air that holds me,
moving through swollen days with sweet exhaustion.

Baba leads prayer meetings in our sitting room;
sometimes I understand.

Sisters bring bowls of chipate and cakes
from the fires beyond the house
while my brothers hop over piles of tossed shoes,
carrying yellow jugs of water, cracked with dust.

A chicken caught beneath the table yelps
and scoots for the door in a cloud of feathers.

My smallest sister blows bubbles from a plastic wand
and laughs like a river.
In the dusk I wash the light from my body,
scrubbing earth-stained skin.

Duru brings me a basin, pours water over me,
like a foot washing of sorts,
because we are sisters and because
I am home.

Isaac Yoder-Schrock, a physics major from Donnellson, Iowa

Four years ago, in discussions about my future and my decision of where to attend college, my mother described why she valued her liberal arts education at Goshen College. I listened intently, but like most high school seniors, really couldn’t see my way through her argument.

Now, four years (more or less) after I decided to pursue a degree at Goshen College, I stand before you, having completed that degree, and holding a seed of understanding toward the purpose and value of my degree. And although I incurred more debt than the average GC student, and am not immediately employable with my degree, I value the process in which I earned that degree from Goshen College.

Aside from all of the commonly sought-after, and worthwhile, outcomes of a GC education such as being “a lifelong learner,” “an active and engaged citizen,” “spiritually-focused Christian,” “an educated member of society,” or a “compassionate human being,” I’ve acquired a perspective and thrust to engage people and the world around me, and it is the particular reason why I value my education from Goshen.

The perspective strives to comprehend the interconnectedness of the unbelievably complex and interrelated articles that weave the fabric of our reality. It yearns for stability through understanding, and necessary steadiness or revolution to maintain equilibrium.
For me, the thrust to engage manifests itself through curiosity, questions and a continual assessment of the optimal outcomes. The curiosity and questions endeavor me with energy to seek out the tensions and contradictions that mark the world around us. Without this perspective, I believe we cannot remain grounded in the present and in faith. This process of assessment leads to thoughtful and prayerful repositioning of oneself, and for me, this has tended to be, “the road less travelled.”

Some may discredit this as an indoctrinated, ideological perspective in a polarized world. I do not believe it to be a one-sided ideology espoused, but rather a pursuit towards connection, preservation and vision.

While this likely isn’t a normative experience, I am grateful for my four years at Goshen College, the way those years have shaped me, and will continue to transform the remainder of my journey.


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