Friday, March 23, 2012

The Zombie Apocalypse

I am intrigued by the plans made for next Wednesday, March 28, the daylong celebration of this year’s Civic Engagement Theme - “Public Health: Promoting Wellness for Self and Community.”

Maybe it’s because I have a personal interest in health/wellness, but it’s been exciting to see this year’s theme develop with Team Andy, the dietetic internship program, and guest speakers such as Deo Niyizonkiza, Martin Chaffee, and Dr. Shelly Weaverdyck ’77. What a great year.

This theme seems to have caught students’ interest as well as there are more than 40 presentations representing 13 academic majors scheduled throughout Civic Engagement Day. Normal class sessions are suspended for the day with students expected to participate in the day’s activities. Like a conference, there are multiple sessions from which to choose from during each hour. Check out the scheduled presentations.

Your day could begin with ’88 grad Darryl Nester’s presentation of “The Zombie Apocalypse and Other Epidemics” (the spread of infectious disease.) Wouldn’t mind attending that one for the title alone!

Other topics include the effect of overuse/misuse of antibiotics in livestock, health care in the U.S., art therapy, stress, diet, video showing of “Supersize Me” which explores the effect of eating fast food three meals a day for a month, and “America the Beautiful” which explores our obsession with “physical perfection,” and more. Presentations will be made by individual students, student panels, faculty and guest speakers.

The day will conclude with a keynote address by three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ambassador Tony Hall. The former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture will address the pressing issues encountered by anti-hunger activists.

This is the fifth annual Civic Engagement Theme/Day. Five years ago faculty members followed the lead set by Student Senate’s Go Green initiative and explored the theme “Environmental Stewardship: Living in the Natural World” in 2007-08.

Recycling receptacles across campus and paper recycling boxes near Marbeck Desk and in Centennial Hall are visible remainders of this focused study. Other “green” initiatives continue - such as the steps being taken to ensure that the new Health and Fitness Education Center is LEED certified silver or better.

It will be interesting to see in five years how this year-long focus on public health and wellness shapes the Bluffton campus. (No pun intended.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Our calling... Christian community

Guest post by Gerald J. Mast, professor of communication

I have always been intrigued by the question of how God calls people. As a child I remember being jealous of the boy Samuel, who heard God calling him in the night. Would I ever hear such a call? Would I be brave enough to answer?

Other Bible stories offer similarly dramatic accounts of God speaking and people responding: Moses and the burning bush, Hannah in the temple, Isaiah and the seraphim, Mary at the annunciation, and Saul on the road to Damascus. These were women and men God called to challenging and world-changing tasks: leading God’s people out of Egypt, calling God’s people to repentance, bearing the Messiah, taking the mission of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace.

During my college years, I struggled with my friends to listen to the voice of God as we faced big decisions, from choice of a major field of study, to dating relationships, to post-graduation plans. Those big decisions and the desire to hear God speak continued throughout my life, particularly at moments when I faced disappointment and failure.

A few years ago, a sabbatical leave provided me with the opportunity to study more carefully the question of how Christians understand their call from God, particularly from the perspective of Bluffton’s Anabaptist heritage. What I discovered during my research was both simpler and more exciting than I had expected.

I came to realize that God’s call is not a big mystery. God has already called us and most everyone who reads this blog will have already heard the call. The call is the same call that Abraham heard, that Moses heard, that Hannah heard, that Mary heard: Give yourself in faith to the life and mission of God’s people, flawed and broken though they be. Carry this mission into every corner of your life, no matter what station. As a member of God’s people, bring the good news of freedom and reconciliation and salvation to everyone in every place of life and work.

What this means in twenty-first century North America is encapsulated in the title of the book I wrote based on my sabbatical research: Go to Church, Change the World.

This account of God’s call may seem out of touch in a culture of declining church attendance and disillusionment with the failures and faithlessness of the church all around us. No doubt Isaiah and Jeremiah felt similarly disillusioned with God’s people, when they were called to speak up and remind God’s people of their mission.

Like these biblical characters, we have also heard God’s call, whether in church or in a Bluffton University classroom, whether through the counsel of a friend or by the speech of the heavens.  I see the call every morning on a sign displayed by a church located between my house and my office: “God is still speaking; no matter who you are, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

My own denomination puts it this way in its vision statement: “God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to grow as communities of grace, joy, and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.”  Amen.

Just published: Gerald J. Mast, Go to Church, Change the World: Christian Community as Calling. Herald Press, 2012. For more information:

Friday, March 2, 2012

In the words of others

Words are escaping me.

So today I’m going to let others tell the story of this week. In their words. With thanks for their talent, their understanding, their compassion.

The two events of this week - Basebald and the 5-year remembrance of the baseball bus accident - were totally separate events. However with them happening just two days apart, they seem to be somehow connected.

Bluffton baseball offers shear support to kids with cancer
More than 12,000 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer every year. About 45 Bluffton University baseball players and coaches symbolically showed they care. (as of 3 p.m. Friday, March 2, the total raised for St. Baldrick’s Foundation was $7,886.60)
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Bluffton public relations

Hair was flying
A stage was set up in The Commons during lunch so all could see. The Curling Iron in Bluffton closed up shop so the hairdressers could volunteer to shave heads.
The Courier Online video

Two childhood cancer survivors oversee
Five-year-old Austin Gallagher has a full head of hair now, but that wasn't always the case. In 2007, his mother Krissy says he was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer, which only affects about 20 children each year nationwide. Austin and his family were present for the Basebald shaving.
WLIO news cast
Jax Schneider, a Lima-area youngster told the Marbeck crowd "I kicked cancer's..."

Mom’s blog
It was all very sweet and I think that seeing Austin there had a definite impact on the young men shaving. … hearing a tiny bit of Austin’s story and seeing him there in the flesh, looking so normal, looking like they may have looked fifteen years ago, made it all the more meaningful.
Krissy Dietrich Gallagher's blog about life, luck, love, parenting, writing, and, of course, cancer

Bluffton baseball moving forward
There was no mistaking the camaraderie as Bluffton University baseball players lined up to have their heads shaved in front of an enthusiastic lunch crowd at the campus student center.
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Toledo Blade

Berta's story inspirational, touching lives
Tim Berta, a senior student coach, was nearly among the dead. “They told me I would never walk, never drive, never graduate, never learn anything new,” he said. “They thought I was done then.’
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Lima News

Five years later, Bluffton remembers tragedy
Kathy Dickson led a responsive reading with Estee Arend, Zachary’s sister and a current junior at Bluffton. Among the biblical verses they quoted were three that were also among Scripture readings by Coach James Grandey and alumnus Tim Berta—Hebrews 13:5 (“Again, we hear God say, ‘Never will I leave you or forsake you’”); Isaiah 41:10 (“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God”); and Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God.”)
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Bluffton public relations