Director of Christian Education

“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something... My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” -Jimmy Carter

In May, I attended the Faith Forward conference in Chicago. Faith Forward is a Monday late afternoon through Wednesday right before lunch event held the past two years at St. James Episcopal Church. The event is a constantly moving program of keynote speakers, breakout session speakers and entertainment from youth choirs in the Chicago area. This year we were thrilled to hear the young voices of Musicality, a group who had appeared on America’s Got Talent. Keynote speakers included Brian McClaren, Eboo Patel and Waltrina Middleton, all important names in Christian Education.

Each evening, we heard from individuals who had made a mark on the world. Tuesday evening is when we were introduced to Alaa Basatneh, a 19 year old student in Chicago. From her computer, in her bedroom, using social media she is leading a revolution in Syria. As one writer puts it:

“From her childhood bedroom in the Chicago suburbs, an American teenage girl uses social media to run the revolution in Syria. Armed with Facebook, Twitter, Skype and camera phones, she helps her social network in Damascus and Homs brave snipers and shelling in the streets and the world against the human rights atrocities of one of the most brutal dictators. But as the revolution rages on, everyone in the network must decide what is the most effective way to fight a dictator: social media or AK-47s.”

This young woman explained to us why she does what she does. Her family came to the United States when she was a child. Family and friends still live in Syria. For Alaa, life was that of a typical American teen; going to the mall with her friends and getting her nails done. Then she began to pay attention to what was going on in Syria and what was happening to the children in Aleppo. She felt she could not sit idly by. So she contacted friends and family and activists via social media and the resistance began.

Alaa shared with us of a time when she learned of a hospital in Aleppo that had just six doses of insulin left. She reached out to hospitals and doctors around the Midwest and accumulated four large suitcases full of insulin; so much that her mother emptied the refrigerator to keep the insulin cold. Alaa then convinced her mother to allow her to transport the insulin to Syria. She got as far as the border between Turkey and Syria. To get to Aleppo, she had to cross a minefield; a live minefield. She told us she sobbed the entire way across following a man with an iron rod poking at the ground.

The insulin was delivered and Alaa stayed three days to be with her friends to see the horrors of Aleppo. When it was time for her to leave, her friends asked her please to not come back. They had been thrilled to have her there, but they had spent three days protecting her and not doing what they needed to do to continue the resistance. They asked her to continue the work in America via social media.

Alaa Basatneh organizes demonstrations, protests and helps to broadcast images of what’s happening on the ground in Syria, all from her bedroom in Chicago. She is making a difference in her world. And the whole time she was talking, all I could think is, What have I done to make a difference? I would like to think that I have. I am reminded when I run into former students. I am reminded when I receive messages from former youth group members. I am reminded when parents tell me what their children say after XOO or Sunday school. I am reminded when notes come to me from members of the congregation. I am reminded when pictures pop up on Facebook from Kentucky Mission Trips, Regional Youth events or youth Synod trips from the youth that are not ours but with whom we have spent time. I am reminded when I watch the XOO kids make cards for our nursing home members. I am reminded when I watch the youth group sit outside on a cold night in January. I am reminded.

So, I have not made a huge impact on the world like Alaa. But you and I, we can change the world with a smile, a warm embrace or a kind word. I read this quote somewhere and it sticks with me… “Never underestimate the difference YOU can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out and help. This week reach to someone that might need a lift.” -Pablo


St. John’s Scholarship Recipients

St. John’s has been fortunate to award $14,175 in scholarships to fourteen deserving recent high school graduates and current college students. There are some scholarships which are only to be awarded to someone who fulfills certain requirements. The Swinderman Scholarship can only go to someone who has participated in St. John’s music program. The Low Scholarship is to only be awarded to a person who will be majoring in secondary education. The General Scholarship money is to go only to recent high school graduates. The Paying Forward Scholarship is awarded to an incoming Freshman for “those little extra” expenses that one encounters during the first year in college.

Scholarships are awarded on the bases of Grade Point Average, community service, and with an emphasis on church service. All applications must be complete to be considered.

Three recent Dover High School graduates have been honored. They will all receive money from the General Scholarship Fund. Alicia Gump will be attending Kent State University at Tuscarawas and majoring in Early Childhood Education. Sammy Sickinger will be attending Ohio University and majoring in Health Services and Sciences. A.J. Solvey will attend Baldwin Wallace University and major in Sports Management. A.J. will also receive the Paying Forward Scholarship.

Eleven current college students will receive scholarships. All have earned money from the Henney Fund but some have been awarded other St. John’s scholarships as well. Kimberly Deitrick will be completing her Master of Divinity Degree at the Chicago Theological Seminary next spring and will receive the Kielbassa Scholarship. Marcus Delekta is studying at Stark State College of Technology and majoring in Videogame Design and Development. Nathan McCutcheon attends Ohio Northern University and majors in Chemistry. He will receive the Milliner Scholarship. Jennifer Rufener will graduate next spring with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture. She will receive the Bear Scholarship. Abby Dryden attends The Ohio State University where she majors in Biochemistry. Paul Edwards attends the University of Cincinnati and majors in Sports Administration. Maddie Fickes is a student at the Florida Institute of Technology and majors in Aerospace Engineering. Ashton Hall is a student at Miami University where he majors in Microbiology as a pre-Med student. Ellie Miller attends Stark State College where she majors in Biology. Brooke Steiner attends Kent State University and majors in Nursing. Conner Thomson recently transferred to The College of Wooster where he majors in Biology.

St John’s has been blessed to have generous contributors to the Scholarship Fund, wise and prudent members of the Investment Committee who are able to provide significant gains each year from which to award these scholarships, and, of course, the magnificent students themselves. Thanks be to God. The Scholarship Task Force:

Sue Ferbrache, Beth Showers, Carol Huprich, Marianne Wright, Barb Lengler