After spending more than a week racing from class to class, I am grateful that Sunday offers me
a chance to rest and refocus for the second half of the program ahead. Not that I’m
disappointed with the program so far — I’ve loved all that we’ve learned, and have found myself
stretched in sometimes uncomfortable but often rewarding ways. For example, I’m more a print
journalist person myself, and writing scripts for TV or radio was a wholly new and difficult
process for me.
Still, Sunday is a rest day, and I’m determined to take advantage. We started the day by
attending the First Christian Reformed Church, just a few minutes away from Dordt’s campus.
The service was more traditional than I’m used to. The worship was simple — the whole
congregation sang hymns accompanied only by a piano and a massive organ, its long metallic
pipes dominating the front wall. In the sermon, the pastor spoke on “fighting the good fight” from
2 Timothy 4. He urged his congregation to not have “itchy ears” that seek to emulate the latest
societal trend, but instead to remain firm and live lives rooted in the gospel. After the service, we
chatted with each other in the church lobby before heading back to Dordt for lunch.
Now on Sunday afternoon, I find myself enjoying a well-earned break from WJI responsibilities.
The dorm is unusually quiet — all of us resting in our unique ways. Many people are napping,
others are tossing around a frisbee outside, and still others are watching a tv show in the lobby.
As for me, I read a book.
Tonight, Lee will announce which ‘track’ we will be focusing on for the next week. There are four
options: news, features, radio, and TV. Some people seem a bit anxious to get their preferred
track, but I’m not too worried. Wherever I end up — whether it’s something I know better like
news or something new like TV — I know I’ll continue to be challenged and learn a ton in the
- Kaitlin Liebling
Screeching iPhones. A tornado alert. Feet plodding down steps, receding into the ground, into safety.
I read in an article last week that the ancients didn’t believe in the eight hour sleep cycle. Instead, our ancestors slept in two phases, with a period of wakefulness in between. During the awake period, some would eat dinner. Others would go outside to check on their farm animals. Christians would pray and recite psalms.
During last night’s weather-induced wakefulness, I photoshopped Aiden being swept up in a tornado and sent it to the WJI group chat. My message received nine likes. A kind of work, sure, but far less productive than dinner or farming or psalms.
Why humanity decided to stop waking up at midnight is something of a mystery, but scholars believe that the invention of the light bulb caused us to go to sleep later while waking up at the same time, so we truncated our sleep into today’s 11-7 (or, if you’re me during finals, 1-6) schedule. Technology killed the ancient practice of biphasic sleep.
For the ancients, night was a time of mystery, the darkness gobbling up their surroundings. They couldn’t see their hands in front of their faces.
Last night, we buried our faces in our phones, seeing with pinpoint accuracy where the tornado would touch down and realizing that it would miss us. I made memes because technology had already solved the great mystery of the nighttime. I knew we were safe.
I’ve been reflecting at WJI on how storytelling can break this tyranny of knowing and return us to mystery. A good story can show that we are not as in control as we think. That storms don’t always go where Accuweather predicts. That there is a great Someone behind it all, and He rarely works how we expect.
- Jack Kubinec
On an evening walk last night, my new dear friend, Michaela, commented that it had been our easiest day all week. Yesterday, we were in class from nine in the morning to nine in the evening (with breaks for meals, of course). Her comment, while completely accurate, made me laugh.
This week, I have felt thoroughly stretched. I am surprised that I am, by the grace of God, not broken. I have shed a total of two tears and drunk more coffee than I would be comfortable with admitting. For a class assignment, all 28 of the students piled into two white vans, drove to downtown Sioux Center, and captured any details that we could find. On Wednesday (I think it was Wednesday), we donned our blazers, participated in a mock press conference, wrote individual scripts, and memorized a news segment. The next day, we filmed, produced, and submitted our videos. Because of the various assignments, I have spoken to more strangers than I ever have in my life. Except for the one lady who was a bit rude, I have been surprised by how eager people are to share their stories. I am weary to the point of not knowing how to rest. But never has my mind felt so awake.
Although I have been passionate about stories for some time, I am now convinced that they are vital to who we are as human beings. Without stories, we would never know who we are or what we were made for. Christ, as a creative friend once told me, didn’t “mind-beam” his followers with truth. He told stories. Like Dr. Sillars pointed out, journalism is, “An exercise of the moral imagination.” I will not pretend to fully comprehend what he meant. But his words speak to the importance, the urgency, of what we are learning.
I feel as though I am being trained to cherish the specific: the dirt beneath polished fingernails, the watch face worn on the inside of the wrist, recycled church pews being used for seating in a coffee shop, “call this number for help” tear away paper with missing slips. As a journalist – as a person – I am learning to interpret the significance of details. In a world which screams that nothing matters, and that truth is simply a figure of speech signifying nothing (thanks to Dr. Olasky for that one), it is refreshing to learn from people who still believe in meaning.
- Bekah McCallum
I parked my car on a side street next to the address I was given. One deep breath goes in and releases. Don’t stress. Just go ring the doorbell. Be brave. Grabbing the bag with the recording equipment, I walked to the blue house, checked that I had the right address one last time, and knocked.
Throughout the week, I reached out to multiple contacts. I was rejected. The Saturday we were set to do this pocket profile project landed on Memorial Day weekend, so I was not surprised. But when I got an email from Kingdom Boundaries, I let out a sigh of relief. Tim Wendt, the Chaplin for the after-prison ministry, would be able to speak with me. I called to set a time to meet Mr. Wendt; he was friendly and open to being interviewed. Finally, a willing contact and a fascinating story filled my schedule for Saturday.
Mr. Wendt opened the door and greeted me with a warm handshake. His smile beamed underneath his handlebar mustache. He gave me a tour of the halfway home for residents transferring back to normal life after incarceration. I followed him around with my mic, acting like I was competent in using the recording equipment. We sat and he shared the impact of the ministry he had seen in his own life and the lives of many others. He told me about the reconciliation he witnessed because of the Gospel.
We have practiced interviewing strangers multiple times this week at WJI. Every time, I have to hype myself before the charge. But the reward is often so great. I have met extraordinary individuals that I never would have if I stayed comfortable. I wonder if contacting strangers will get easier with practice if I end up as a reporter. But even if it doesn’t, I have been reminded that the story is always worth it. All it takes is the courage to say, “Excuse me, can I ask you…”
- Madison Greven