Year 2017

 

 

 

There had been a gang shooting in Steubenville, Ohio, a few nights earlier. One died. The community came together at the Urban Underground to process it all, and to pray.  I stood, and prayed, in solidarity with them this night.

 

I got a chance to attend my daughter Sarah's intramural flag football game at Franciscan University. [I, incidentally, was the only parent there -- much to Sarah's embarrassment.] She's  pictured here just having launched a touchdown pass to #9.  It was a GREAT pass, but then again I'm biased.

 

While in Steubenville, I attended a number of talks at Franciscan University. The man pictured at the podium was one of the featured speakers in a weekend conference on "Catholicism and Politics."  I also attended talks on: Pope Francis; a Franciscan U. student group's experience at the UN; a priest's experiences evangelizing in, of all places, Siberia... 

 

Did a photo essay for the newspaper on this year's senior street painting. A long held tradition in Bluffton, seniors primarily paint symbols around the college they will be attending, the branch of the military service they'll be entering, the type of job they will be starting...  "They have left their mark, like tattoos on this town," the country song goes. And that 'mark' goes deep with church youth group activity, athletics, band, summer jobs around town...  Sadly, many will trade in 18 solid years of community building with parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches... for four years of college away from here, then a job somewhere else, and then, well, they'll visit every once in awhile. Hmm.

 

At the Memorial Day Parade in Bluffton, I interviewed Tom Harvey who found himself in the middle of the now famous Tet Offensive, a massive incursion of North Vietnamese into multiple cities in the South. Perhaps the most storied battle was in the city of Khe Sanh were a base with 500 Marines was surrounded by 40,000 enemy troops. Harvey was there. With the help of the U.S. Air Force, only 200 Marines were killed (to the enemy's 20,000 casualties), and the base was held.

 

During the 2017 Bluffton Memorial Day Parade, I also interviewed former Marine Harvey Moritz. He had done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he was particularly impressed with the "old world" sense of family, respectfulness and the strong sense of community overall in both countries.

 

I interviewed Superior Energy's Dan Klear. He does solar panel installations all over Northwest Ohio. He said solar systems, on average, last 35 years and the systems pay for themselves in nine years. Doing the math, that's 26 years of pure savings.   

 

Stopped at Northwest Community College in Archbold, Ohio. On campus they have a wind turbine, solar panels and an electric vehicle charging station. Hopefully the wave of the future across America.

 

On a stop in Findlay, Ohio, I toured the City Mission and interviewed Interim Director Joy Barger. The Mission, besides providing shelter and food for extended stays, also provides life skill classes, tutors, spiritual counseling...  A Christian-based organization, City Mission takes no money from the government, it relies solely on donations. It can serve up to 65 people at a time, and the facility is often at capacity, or close to capacity. 

 

I traveled to Wapakoneta, Ohio, for one of my kid's high school soccer games. Wapakoneta is the hometown of astronaut Neil ("One giant leap for mankind!") Armstrong. I stopped to take a photo and muse a bit about what our administration's stance on space would be. No "Space Force," for one. And two, we'd divert a lot of money from NASA and put it into, say, green energy production to help save THIS planet. Just sayin'.

 

 

I stopped in Spencerville, Ohio and took in The Veterans Memorial Park. It was tremendously powerful. Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Cost Guard were all represented in various ways. The center piece is a five-foot-tall column. The base is granite and is a symbolic  representation of our "military strength."  Names of local veterans were inscribed throughout the installation.

 

I went to a hardscrabble area of Lima, Ohio, about a half hour south of Bluffton, to volunteer at Rally Point, a Youth for Christ outreach. Several weeks later I met with Rally Point Director Jared Diller in Bluffton. He said a common denominator demographic with most of the youth that he works with is poverty and unsafe neighborhood environments. Rally Point provides a safe haven for them: basketball courts, a pool table, tutors, computers for homework, meals -- as well as Bible studies, dynamic Christian speakers, small discussion groups...

 

On a stop in Cleveland we talked with activists trying to fight the encroachment of the kind of wholesale "gentrification" that pushes the poor (many of whom have lived here for generations) out.  It's a trend nationwide these days, as young urban professionals are moving back into the metropolitan areas en masse.

 

On the rural outskirts of Bluffton, I met with Greg Probst who has a 100 year Heritage Farm. He does everything organically, from the way he raises his chickens and pigs, to how he grows his crops (no toxic artificial pesticides, herbicides...). He says it's the way God would farm.  This all matches up, closely, with our agricultural platform.

 

 

This is a view of the back of one of the houses I painted during the year. It was quite a project with the height, the angles, and so on.

 

As your typical average Joe soccer dad, during the year I was at a good number of games. I would combine some of the away game excursions with more Ohio research stops as well. In this particular scene, our son Jonathan (in red) demonstrates perfect form -- I'd like to think, as his dad of course -- as he tries to send one at the goal. This game was in Mt. Blanchard, Ohio.

 

Bluffton, per capital, might have the most electric golf carts on the road of any town in the country. Including some that have actually been "winterized," like this man's. I wrote an article for the local newspaper about this.  It even included an interview with a man who is 92 years old, and who rides his open air golf cart all over in the winter. His "winterizing"?  A scarf.

 

I briefly joined in solidarity with a group of Christians from "Revive Ohio" who were going around Northwest Ohio praying, witnessing to people on the street, and so on. Their mission?  To spark a Revival, not only in Ohio -- but across the land. (Revive groups are starting up in multiple states.). They are pictured here praying collectively in downtown Bluffton.