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Issue 9-12

Revelation: 50th High School Reunion

“Your wife was definitely the major crush of my young life.”

I had asked Reynolds Manfried* to share a delightful story with my husband, David, from our grade school years. We were standing in the milling crowd of 156 mostly white-haired seniors, some who were waiting in the buffet line, some who were catching up with friends before sitting down to eat.

“Rennie had a birthday in fifth grade and had this delightful party...” I began as way of introduction but then asked Rennie to fill in the rest of the story.

Rennie relayed to David how for his birthday party, he had invited a few friends, his father acting as chauffeur and chaperone, and we had been driven to eat at The Fin and Feather, a decidedly tony restaurant. This memory was one of the sweetest memories from my grade-school years. Most birthday parties I’d known were more on the line of the kids-and-cake-and-party-game side—this was probably the first nice restaurant I’d eaten in, my father being a savings scrooge, in my whole young life.

“Oh,” I said. “I only remember myself and you and your Father being present.” I had no recall of other young friends joining us.

“Yes, that’s all I remember as well.” Then smiling at my husband he continued, “Your wife was definitely the major crush of my young life ... but then you must know all about that.” He turned to me, “At our 30th Reunion, you wore white (I couldn’t remember; but I did have a cream dress I wore to special events—perhaps it was that outfit.) “You looked positively angelic.”

Oh, how lovely to step, with a minimal of work, into someone else’s ideal!

My 50th High School Class Reunion was full of all sorts of revelations. Good friends I hadn’t seen since graduation returned. And, David and I were invited to a gathering at the Evangelical Free Church where stories were told and the decades of our lives were assessed. (David had been our Youth for Christ Director and also on staff at the Evangelical Free Church after we were married.)

One high school friend, who I had known since we were both three-year-olds, reminded me that our mothers had ordained us for marriage to each other (that didn’t happen). It was enchanting getting back in touch with him, though, to the point that we were teasing one another and laughing—no adolescent awkwardness (or mothers’ manipulations) now intruding on what had once been our early brother-/sister-like childhood bonding.

Another friend had gone on to become a college president. Our conversation turned to books—and oh joy! my once high school friends were readers and thinkers. I scribbled titles and the names of authors in the back page of my checkbook.

The college president (now retired) told of the formative experience of fighting in Vietnam—a common thread among my male classmates—one I had not quite put together in my mind. A field commander, he had been ordered to carry out a Mei Lai-type massacre, but had refused. This has left me thinking about moral courage, and about how few reach deep down into that place that says, “No matter the consequences (a possible court marshal, a dishonorable discharge, or loss of benefits), I cannot violate the truths I hold dear.”

Throughout the whole two days, I heard testimonies about spiritual journeys. My friend Reynolds referred to a chat in the locker room with a Christian friend and how certain words spoken about Jesus Christ had helped to inform a spiritual conversion. He is now the member of a Presbyterian church. “I was raised Catholic,” said another, “but I really became serious about faith after I met and married my wife.” These kinds of encounters happened over and over. By the 50th Reunion, people are beginning to think seriously about the end of life. I jokingly reported to a friend, “This may be the most evangelized class that graduated from a secular high school in the country.”

Then I remembered that a group of us had met for at least two years, praying before school every morning during the school week for our friends. I remember walking from our house at 519 North President Street, perhaps two miles, to a home near the school. Did the casual conversations, the Bibles we carried on our books, the pure lives we attempted to lead really have impact beyond what we could possibly know? The evidence seems to be that the fruit of those immature, but convicted efforts have come to fruition.

I was proud of so many of my classmates, those who have used their means to set up a training school and orphanage in Romania, for instance. There was a woman who came by herself and whom I hardly knew, who I grabbed to sit beside me in the empty chair. She and her husband have served for fifteen years in the oldest continuous mission in the country, the Bowery Mission in New York City.

I was also sad for the loss of so many I had liked—one of our Reunion Committee members, crippled by a tortuous twisting arthritis, for instance, with whom David and I had become friends. She was determined to live for this Reunion, but died in the spring. And, I grieved for those who had not been able to face down their demons. The Wheaton Community High School Class of 1960 grapevine gently reported to me that Jake Jones had come “sloshed” to the Friday night reception, had not paid, and was a little obnoxious. There was no judgment in our discussion—at this age we all know how hard it is to face the various monsters that inhabit us.

I had been asked to pray before the meal. This is what I prayed:

Our Heavenly Father (who loves us, Scripture says, with the tenderness of a mother), We come to you at this cycle of our lives, our later years.

We remember those, friends and companions, who have been in our midst, but who are now gone. We thank you for the part of their lives that we have shared, however brief or however joyful. Let us remind ourselves, because of them, that each day is a gift, not a promise, to be lived as beautifully as possible within our abilities and our means.

Thank you for the fleeting marvels in each moment, for the solaces of friendship, for the continuing miracle of love coming into our lives, sometimes unexpectedly, sometimes through the touch of a child or the embrace of another human, sometimes in the overwhelming reality that You approve of who we are or of what we do.

Thank you for laughter through the years and for those events, small or large, that bring us delight.

Thank you for mercy in the midst of suffering, for comfort when we are afraid or distressed, for sleep that eases our sorrows.

Thank you that we have danced, that we have celebrated, that we have sung and praised, that we have been privileged to live deeply in a time of amazing advancements.

Thank you that many of us have had meaningful work in our days.

Thank you that some of us have made a difference for good in our world.

We are sorry for the times that we have disappointed You, or abandoned others, or betrayed our own selves. Forgive us, please, and help us to do better.

Bless us this evening, we pray. Give us joy in meeting again. Give us tenderness for those who struggle. Help us to be kind in word and deed. Grant that we may be alive with curiosity. And as we leave one another, perhaps never to meet again, help us to wish one another peace—peace for living and peace for dying.

We pray this in Your name: in the name of the Father, and of His Son, Jesus Christ. May we use the time still left to us, through the help of the Holy Spirit, to be more than we thought possible. Amen.


50th Reunion Revelations:

  1. It helps that I had dropped 12 pounds, let my hair go white and found a new spiky hairdo. Nothing like physical confidence to help you face a crowd!
  2. Old friends are important. They have often accomplished surprising and amazing enterprises.
  3. Age, no matter what anyone says, is an huge advantage.
  4. Old boy friends remember their first loves fondly.
  5. Incarnational witness, backed with prayer, makes a huge difference in the world, even when we don’t know what is happening.
  6. Don’t avoid reunion events. Go and work the floor like you are campaigning. Don’t be afraid of asking the question, “What has your spiritual journey been like?” (People want to tell you!)

Karen Mains


*Note: All names—other than Karen and David—used in the above reunion account are fictional.



The Global Bag Project

Carla Boelkens has just returned from African with stories about the transformation of our African bag-makers. How thrilling it is to be able to give them hope for the future through sustainable income projects. We now have 23 women who have been trained or who are being trained to make reusable shopping bags in Nairobi, Kenya. There are another 25 women waiting to be trained in a sewing center in Eldorat!

A corporate executive ordered 200 custom-made gift bags for his organization, and the second $300 from the Alive and Well Foundation is being used to build the internet traffic to our Global Bag Project website,

The growth is thrilling to us but with growth, we obviously need your help!

Training sewers

GBP Trainer in Kibera Slums teaching a younger woman how to sew.

We are looking for 10 donors who will give $30 a month for 12 months to hasten our Internet marketing strategy. Two donors have stepped forth so far. If you can be generous in this tight economic environment, we would be so grateful. Contact Carla Boelkens, GBP Director at

Please make your checks payable to the Global Bag Project and mail them to:


Global Bag Project
Box 30
Wheaton, IL 60187

Sewing Room

GBP Industrial Strength Sewing Machines in the Sewing Room.

We do not want these machines to be idle. Don’t forget that reusable kanga-cloth shopping bags make great Christmas gifts! If you can hold a home party and present the Global Bag Project, these women (and their children) will be most grateful!


Last Opportunity for Early Registration Discount: Annual 2010 24-Hour Advent Retreat of Silence for Women

Registration is open for our Hungry Souls Advent Retreat, Wednesday-Thursday, December 1-2. The cost for the days, including a private room with bath and three meals is $120. If you register by October 15th, the early registration fee is $100. If you bring a friend who has never attended, the fee will be $90 for your friend and for yourself. You can begin early registration by e-mailing Susan Hands at

Tiffany Staman of Breathing Space, a retreat ministry, will be leading the Advent Retreat with Sibyl Towner. Tiffany will be heading up the Advent Retreat Ministry for this year and will be encouraging retreatants who have experienced her day events to attend. We had 66 attendees last year in two back-to-back retreats. We have room in one retreat for 55 attendees. This coordinated effort between Hungry Souls and Breathing Space could mean that the registrations will fill faster, so we would encourage you to register as soon as you can. Checks for early registration may be made payable to Hungry Souls and mailed to:


Hungry Souls
Box 30
Wheaton, IL 60187

There is nothing that prepares your heart, mind and soul for the holiday season like a time of intentional spiritual silence.



The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"I remembered that a group of us had met for at least two years, praying before school every morning during the school week for our friends. I remember walking from our house at 519 North President Street, perhaps two miles, to a home near the school. Did the casual conversations, the Bibles we carried on our books, the pure lives we attempted to lead really have impact beyond what we could possibly know? The evidence seems to be that the fruit of those immature, but convicted efforts have come to fruition."


Faith Club

The Faith Club: A Muslim,
A Christian, A Jew—Three
Women Search for
By Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver,
and Priscilla Warner


Karen says:

This month, our Read and Intercede Book Group chose The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew—Three Women Search for Understanding. We are eager to have faith-centered dialogues with the many internationals who live in our neighborhoods, but we are all culturally exposed enough to know that land mines are buried in that territory.

Publisher’s Weekly wrote: “More Fight Club than book club, the coauthors pull no punches; their outstanding honesty makes for a page-turning read, rare for a religious nonfiction book ... almost every taboo topic is explored on this engaging spiritual ride.”

None of the women are conservative in their interpretation of faith. David felt that one of the reasons the Faith Club worked for them was the fact that they didn’t know much about what they believed. The Faith Club includes an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, wanting to Americanize her faith system, an American Jew and a convert from Catholicism to the Episcopal Church.

Perhaps David’s analysis is true—often fundamentalists of any stripe face discussions dogma-first, but this discussion, though from moderate viewpoints, is still a fascinating account of faith-based interchange. The book cover describes the journey, “A memoir of spiritual reflection in three voices, The Faith Club has spawned interfaith discussion groups in churches, temples, mosques, and other community settings ... As the authors reveal their deepest beliefs, you watch the blossoming of a profound interfaith friendship and the birth of a new way of relating to others.”

If you are interested in a similar discussion, this book is a good place to start.


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