They came from New Jersey and Seattle, from Denver and Chicago, from the Carolinas and across the street in Grand Rapids. Former members of the German Interim Abroad (GIA) traveled for a celebration and reunion on Homecoming Saturday morning, Oct. 19. The occasion was the commemoration of an unbroken 40-year run of the GIA, which began in the early 1970s, continued during the years of the Cold War and is available to students even now. The reunion was organized by Corey Roberts, chair of the German department, and his colleagues, Penny Dykstra-Pruim and Mary Buteyn. 

The celebration was opened by an ensemble from the Calvin Capella, directed by Joel Navarro, which sang a lovely German blessing. Everyone present then enjoyed a German breakfast, followed by brief presentations by three former interim participants: current Calvin academic dean Stan Haan; Todd Huizinga, who recently retired after a career in the U.S. Foreign Service; and Scott Hoezee, a pastor and director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. Haan spoke to the significance of the interim for the development of Calvin’s current off-campus study program, and both Huizinga and Hoezee attested to the decisive role the interim had played in their lives and in the lives of so many others. 

After Buteyn had read letters of congratulation from German friends of the interim, professors Barbara Carvill and Wally Bratt reflected on the community project the interim had been and paid special tribute to Jim and Mary Jane Lamse for their work in inaugurating the program in the early 1970s. They also thanked the many German families and individuals who had helped make the interim the meaningful experience it proved to be. 

The GIA is unique among Calvin’s overseas interim programs in the fact that for the first 20 years of its existence, students spent up to a week behind the Iron Curtain, in East Germany. That aspect of the program was recently celebrated in a booklet put out by Bratt, in collaboration with Jim Lamse and Carvill. The vignettes contained in that small volume helped ignite a host of memories by former interim participants, memories that helped shape a wonderful time of rich and meaningful fellowship that continued long after the formal program had ended. 

As one grateful speaker noted, both the past interim experiences, which were shared by hundreds of students over the years, and the joyous reunion morning were gifts from the Lord’s gracious and sheltering hand.

Note: The German interim volume is available through the alumni office; e-mail if interested.