A life remembered

Thanks so much for sharing your story about Ken Brinks (“The Name on the Wall,” fall 2016). Ken was my cousin. I loved him so much. I do recall the day Ken was leaving for Vietnam. He came to Kalamazoo to see us and say goodbye. It was so bittersweet. I honestly felt like he somehow knew that would be the last time we would ever see him. I wrote lots of letters, and he would often reply. He talked not about the horrors of the war, but about the beautiful surroundings, the people who lived there and his fellow soldiers. He was so compassionate and always encouraged me in my faith.

My life was forever changed the day he died. I had lots of questions about God but what I kept remembering were Ken’s letters reminding me to stay strong in my faith. So in his honor and memory I continue to trust in God and feel close to Ken in the kinship we share by blood but also through the blood of our Savior.

Deb Brinks LaRoy, Otsego, Michigan

It was personally most refreshing for us to read “The Name on the Wall” (fall 2016). Ken Brinks is our nephew, the oldest of Betty’s family from McBain, Michigan. We visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial several years ago and did a pencil rubbing of his name.

We were teachers in Ontario Christian School in California when we received the awful news that Ken had been killed in action. Another gold star went up on the banner hung in our church.

Vandersteen’s description of Ken was most accurate. We often referred to him as a young Timothy. We would add that Kenny was compassionate to the extent that as a child he would be heartbroken when he saw a person walking with a cane. His favorite song was “Fill My Cup, Lord, Fill It Up,” a tune he would play on his guitar and sing with his sister, Karen. They often sang duets in local churches.

When we think of Ken’s life and the last paragraph in your article, about your desire for all Calvin graduates, we set our minds on I Timothy 4:12. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but instead set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Thanks for reminding us to focus on the names on the wall.

George and Betty De Vries Groen ’63, Thousand Oaks, California

Great story, great park

I was pleasantly surprised when I read the story on Big Bend National Park (fall 2016). When I began reading I thought I was reading National Geographic. The feature was extremely well written with quality photography. The park, indeed, offers great photographic experiences that are quite different in the fall and the spring. It is one of the best places to view the galaxies and stars of the Northern Hemisphere due to virtually no light pollution. Best of all, the park is not nearly as crowded as some of our other great parks.

Hopefully, some readers will be inspired to visit. If you do, be aware that there is very little dining in the park. For a very unusual experience, visit the fascinating ghost town a short distance from the west entrance to the park called Terlingua. There you can have wonderful dining experiences as well as some nice surprises.

Paul G. Vander Lee ’65, Boston, Massachusetts

Nature sings

The beautiful picture of the Seminary Pond (summer 2016) spoke to me along with the words of Abraham Kuyper quoted on the bottom of the page: “In everything that lives in nature, rustles, throbs and stirs itself, we feel the pulse beat of God’s own life.”

I’ve been a pastor for over 50 years, now retired, and am a great admirer of Kuyper. For six years, I pastored with Native American people and this quote reminded me of a Native American prayer that contains these words: “Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice. Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.”

John Helmus ’56, Aplington, Iowa

Peace Corps lessons

Two articles in the fall Spark prompted me to respond with thoughts about the United States Peace Corps (“Christians and Cultural Difference” and “On a Mission”). My daughter served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Indonesia for 27 months, imbuing in her insight, growth, critical-thinking skills, problem-solving skills, grit, resiliency, interpersonal skills and more. Even my brief two-week visit there opened my eyes and mind to the many dierent ways of thinking and living in that part of the world.

Being exposed to cultural differences helps you learn and believe that your normal is really not the world’s normal, it’s just your normal in your little piece of the world. Just because someone else’s normal is dierent than yours does not make it better or worse than yours, just different. Greater exposure to different cultures results in less judgment of differences and more acceptance. Peace Corps service, for some students, may be a valuable step in planning their “Lifework” and preparing for a productive and meaningful life after college.

Evanne Hoolsema ’86, Elgin, Illinois

Tracking the score

In the fall Spark it was reported that the men’s track and field team won the conference championship with 23 points. I was at the meet and can tell you that the men often won more than 23 points in a single event. Actually, the men won with a total of 232.5 points. Other than that, it was another delightfully informative and inspirational issue.

Robert Otte ’63, Grand Rapids, Michigan