Disaster Management grads called to create their own story

2009 Hesston College Disaster Management graduates
Disaster Management grads receive their certificates of completion and an MDS sweatshirt at a ceremony honoring them Saturday morning, May 2. Pictured (left to right) are: Rudy Graber, Mololla, Ore; Alyssa Hostetler, West Liberty, Ohio; Abby Kline, Schaefferstown, Pa., Jordan Pierce, Palmer Lake, Colo.; Abigail Roth, Wood River, Neb.; and Hope Weaver, Nederland, Colo.

The six graduates this year from Hesston College’s Disaster Management program were challenged to go out and create their own stories.

The six graduates are Rudy Graber, Molalla, Ore.; Alyssa Hostetler, West Liberty, Ohio; Abby Kline, Schaefferstown, Pa.; Jordan Pierce, Palmer Lake, Colo.; Abigail Roth, Wood River, Neb.’ and Hope Weaver, Nederland, Colo.

Guest speaker Paul Unruh noted that “through story, the meaning of an experience is captured and helps us understand our past and also points us toward the future.” Unruh is a member of the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) binational board, an MDS volunteer, and a member of the Disaster Management program advisory committee.

“For the past two years, you have been at Hesston College and have created your own story,” he said. “And what a story it is. A part of that story includes your involvement in the Disaster Management program. And what a story that is!

Unruh went on to review some of the highlights of the graduates’ two years in the program,

“As a class, you have been engaging, challenging, accepted challenges, thoughtful, studious, stubborn, forgiving, and you have grown,” he said. “In short, you have learned and demonstrated servant mindedness and your leadership potential has grown. What a story!

“Remember,” Unruh continued, “it takes a long time for any story to finish. I challenge you to write yours in such a way that when you get to the end of your story, you can review it, place it within the context of the great story of God and God’s relationships to all of humankind, and acknowledge that you, too, have run a good race, you have finished the course, and you have kept the faith.

“Thanks for writing a part of your life story in the Disaster Management program here at HC,” Unruh concluded. “God bless you, storywriters and storytellers all!”

One of the six graduates, Jordan Pierce, Palmer Lake, Colo., spoke about his experiences in the two-year program that began in August 2005 in cooperation with Mennonite Disaster Service.

He recalled that at the end of the first year of studies, “We all had a lot of time to get to know each other and bond,” he said. “By the end of the year, we were a pretty tight group of friends and were all feeling pretty good about what we knew about disaster response. In fact, we had the program figured completely out.

“Then the summer happened,” he continued. “We spent eight weeks in Louisiana (with MDS) working in the heat and humidity, in a culture that we were not used to, and, in most cases, didn’t understand. You could ask any one of us students about last summer and none of us would be able to explain what it was like.

“We each could tell 100 stories, but the experience was one that was indescribable,” he said. “It shattered the realities that we each had invented and accepted, and it established a new foundation-one that would allow us to be shaped into leaders, and more importantly, into servants.

“We came to Louisiana as a group of good friends, but we left as a family, and ready for our second year at Hesston, where Russ would sand off the rough edges of what we learned over the summer. He showed us how to be an effective servant leader, and encouraged us in our desire to serve God and those less fortunate than us. Now that the second year is over, we are ready to go back out to work, and do it all over again.”

Academic Dean Dr. Sandra Zerger told the six graduates that she and the college are proud of what they accomplished in the classroom and out. “So go out and change the world.”

Earlier in the program, director Russ Gaeddert noted that with the six graduates this year, the Disaster Management program, which began in August 2005, now has 18 graduates. “It will be exciting for me to see what God has in store for each of you,” he said. “Regardless of the professions that you will choose, I am certain of one thing-you will all continue to make serving others a high priority in your lives because that is who you are. You are the hands and feet of Jesus.”

This summer, the 13 students in Hesston College’s Disaster Management program will spend part of their summer (during May, June, July, and August) helping survivors of natural disasters in the U.S. and Canada.

Seven freshmen will serve eight weeks at an MDS project site in Dulzura, Calif. (near San Diego), an area devastated by wildfires in October 2007.

Of the six sophomores who graduated in early May, Hope Weaver, Jordan Pierce, and Rudy Graber will serve on MDS youth sites in Diamond, La., and Pass Christian, Miss., Alyssa Hostetler will volunteer at an MDS youth site in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada), Abby Kline will volunteer at the MDS office in Akron, Pa., and Abigail Roth will volunteer with MDS in Akron from October through December.