Many of our friends and family send out yearly Christmas letters and it's always fun to read what's happening in their lives. We thought it might be nice to reciprocate with our own update; however, after sending out road journals four times a year, we weren't quite up for another mailing, so we decided to try an online letter here instead.
For *cino, Kirstin served as the editor for catapult magazine, the bi-weekly online magazine published by *cino, and for road journal, *cino's quarterly print journal. Rob oversees design, publishing logistics and finances. We both do a good deal of networking with students and others interested in all-of-life faithfulness.
Our work with World Fare has been limited as of late, thanks in large part to a dedicated group of volunteer staff who attend to day-to-day needs. Our friends Julie and Amber have taken over inventory management, which has been great for both the store and for us. We still sit on the board of directors, Rob manages finances and Kirstin does a good deal of marketing and design work.
We've learned a lot working at Calvin College, not least of which is how much we enjoy working with students. We continue to help imagine and market the SAO's concert and film series with our friend and co-worker Ken Heffner. We also work with a group of students called Cultural Discerners (CDs) to discuss Christian discernment of the spirits of the age, specifically in the area of popular culture. The CDs also publish Uncompressed, a pop culture criticism magazine, about four times a year, a project we advise.
And now for the highlights of the (busy!) year ...
In January, Kirstin edited and Rob designed *cino's first book in partnership with the student-organized Faith & International Development Conference at Calvin. Do Justice: A Social Justice Road Map is the first in a new series of topical books that we plan to publish. Each book will gather articles, artwork and resource lists (some previously published in catapult) into a handy introductory volume on a given topic. Our hope is that the Road Map Series will be helpful for both new and mature Christians as they seek to be faithful in a certain area of life.
In February, we made our fifth annual trip to the beautiful city of Pittsburgh for the CCO's Jubilee conference, though this time we went as presenters as well as exhibitors. The conference is a fantastic event for college students that looks at how all of life belongs to God through workshops on a broad range of topics and academic disciplines. For example, a few years ago, students interested in architecture were treated to a session by the architect of PNC Park (home of the Pittsburgh Pirates). Our workshop this year was called "Food, Clothing and Shelter" in which we discussed how we might go about these basic aspects of life with attention to our deepest values of love and justice.
Calvin's biennial Festival of Faith & Writing was in April and *cino had a table in the exhibit hall, as has been our custom for three festivals. Attending this gathering is a great way to connect with writers interested in writing for catapult. We also published Eat Well: A Food Road Map in time for the Festival, the second book in our Road Map Series. During the Festival, we were grateful to host our friends Norb (from Wisconsin) and Alice (from Florida), who met while they worked at the same school in southern Florida, but hadn't seen each other for a couple of years--a happy reunion!
Also in April, Kirstin's sister Alyssa married Dave and we celebrated with them in northwest Indiana. There was a lot of fun and laughter and we look forward to seeing where their life together will take them.
After a full spring, we took a road trip east in June. Our first stop was with our friends Hank, Renee, Simon and Jacob in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, for good conversation and delicious quesadillas. Then we headed to Philadelphia to see Kate and Nathan. We enjoyed exploring their row house neighborhood, scrounging around Italian groceries to make a fabulous feast and visiting/re-visiting some historic sites. Off to Baltimore to visit Emily--via Wilmington to see our friend Lisa's neighborhood and eat dinner at Iron Hill Brewery on the water. Our stay with Emily and her parents Dawn and Rick was very relaxing and included an Orioles game, lots of great food, hiking and exploring the city. We took a couple of jaunts from B'more, one to Dallastown, PA, to visit Beth & Byron Borger at Hearts & Minds Books and one to Washington, D.C. to visit Laryn, Janel, Alleia and Eric. "On the way" back home to Grand Rapids, we made a stop in Chicago to enjoy a Cubs vs. White Sox game at Wrigley Field (baseball heaven!) and lunch at Tre Kronor with GR friends Erin, Chris and Lisa. One other restaurant recommendation from our trip for those who drive through Pennsylvania: Maggie's Mercantile. Two locations and very fresh, creative vegan options--just what you need on an extended trip sometimes.
Upon our return to Michigan, we began demolition on the second floor (above World Fare) of our building in Three Rivers, Michigan, in anticipation of renovating the space into an apartment for future use. We applied for and received a matching grant from the State of Michigan for historic districts, which is really the only way this project is possible. We've just finished the final details of the grant and are hoping to begin actual re-building early in 2009.
While we were doing a lot of work in Three Rivers throughout the summer, we still had good amounts of time to relax with John, Erin, Daniel, Ken, Gail (often at the Hopcat or on our front porch) and with Laryn, Janel and Alleia when they came through town. We raised radishes, tomatoes, herbs and some surprise squash in our back yard and frequented the farmer's market.
This summer also saw two momentous occasions in Rob's family, one joyous and one a little scary. Rob's mom turned 60 in July and the family threw a big party in celebration. Later that month, Rob's dad underwent an unexpected single bypass surgery to clear a blockage in his heart. Many people now consider open heart surgery to be routine, but it's an entirely different story when someone you know and love is under the knife. Through prayer and good doctors, all went very well and dad is now almost fully recovered.
In August, we attended Lollapalooza in Chicago to scope out bands as possibilities for Calvin. We braved the heat and crowds to hear a lot of [mostly good] music--47 bands in 3 days, actually. Among our favorites were K'naan, Wilco, Kanye West, The National, Lupe Fiasco, The Raconteurs and Battles. The nature of the event was quite exhausting, but we were glad to spend time with Grant and Kristin (who hosted us in their apartment), with James and Kari who were over from the UK and with Betsy before she and Aaron headed to China again.
At the end of summer, *cino again partnered with Russet House Farm for the second biennial Practicing Resurrection conference in Cameron, Ontario. This year's event, with a "Home Economics" theme, featured workshops, keynotes, live music and a week of outdoor living. We always enjoy the organizational aspects of this event, as well as connecting with dear friends--old and new--including our farm friends. Henry, Sarah and Moses hosted us at their house for a couple of days before we moved out to the camping field (lots of coyotes!) and we had the opportunity to enjoy beef from their cows--small-scale farming makes a difference, indeed.
Back at Calvin after the conference, we both taught Prelude again, a one-credit introductory course for first-year students, and we're anticipating teaching our first three-credit course this January on "Pop Culture in the Empire."
With a new intern in our office at Calvin--Marty, who's become a good friend--Kirstin has been able to do more writing. Between Calvin and freelance writing, she's been published in Christian Educators Journal, Relevant Online, The Banner and The Christian Courier. Rob has been putting together a snazzy new site for the biennial Festival of Faith & Music, which is organized by our office and will keep us pretty busy for the first part of 2009.
This fall was also a significant time for *cino and World Fare. *cino launched a new catapult web site in September, which Rob had been working on most of the summer with our good friend and *cino web developer James Stewart. We hope the new site will allow for more user interaction with our published content; eventually, the site will also form the foundation for a networking application we've been dreaming about for several years. *cino also partnered with Christian Educators Journal to build their web site, the first step in what we hope will be a fruitful relationship going forward.
On Labor Day weekend, World Fare celebrated its fifth anniversary during Three Rivers' HarmonyFest. Then in October, we held our first ever annual membership meeting, where supporters of World Fare got together for an international potluck. It's always wonderful to gather with so many amazing people who are passionate about local and global justice! In preparing for the meeting, we learned that the store has had over $190,000 in sales in its first five years, which translates into almost $50,000 we've been able to put back into economically disadvantaged communities around the world. How exciting is that?
This fall, we've also been enjoying life with our new housemate, Emily. Emily was the student worker in our office at Calvin, and then the first ever summer intern for *cino, and now she's one of those honorary-sibling kinds of friends with whom we enjoy making meals, drinking tea and watching both very good and very bad television.
We closed out 2008 with a visit with Kirstin's family (Rob's was at Disney World for Christmas), including a new nephew, Noah, brother to Charley and Xander. Finally, we spent some time at home: pecking away at work, finishing up The Wire, celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary and trying to recover from nasty colds. And here we are, at January 1, 2009. Thanks for reading! We hope this year is one of abundance for you--abundant peace, joy, understanding and love.