Thursday, December 15, 2011

"The End is Just the Beginning"

With our trip nearing its end, we had time for an origami lesson or a brisk morning walk before we boarded a ferry that took us across the bay to the island of Miyajima and a Japanese shrine. It was certainly interesting for us, as Christians, to view traditional Japanese religious culture. We then hiked up a beautiful mountain while our veterans took a taxi to the top. The area was untamed, with dirt and gravel paths, flowing streams, and a variety of plant life. It was clear we could have spent the rest of the day exploring and admiring the beauty of the landscape. On the way back down, we found a quaint little village with several small local shops for some last minute souvenirs. And it provided us with one final chance to use the few Japanese words and phrases we picked up along the way.

We have had a long day of traveling as we crossed the international dateline once again and will essentially be living the same day twice. One highlight was flying past Mt. Fuji, the highest peak in Japan at over 12,000 feet. Though we are all looking forward to returning home, this trip has been an opportunity of a lifetime and now we are prepared for some difficult goodbyes. Not only have we each gained nine new friends and built trust and bonds with our faculty and administration through our groups’ phenomenal chemistry, we have each adopted five new grandfathers from whom we can continue to learn. Our paths now diverge, but George Beden, Dr. Bruce Heilman, Clarence Pfundheller, Guy Piper and Parke Piper will never be far from our thoughts and prayers. And we were so surprised when we walked through the Springfield airport tonight and saw Guy Piper, who had returned home successfully from Hawaii a day earlier, there to greet us!

A simple “thank you” to the college, President and Mrs. Jerry Davis, Dr. Sue Head, Diane Smith, Patricia Trowbridge, and our amazing photographer, Shann Swift, doesn't seem adequate, but this trip has been an honor for us, as students, to participate in, and we feel truly blessed. We will be never forget the sacrifices of the “greatest generation” and our responsibilities as American citizens.

Nathan Brown, Daniel Keech, Chelsea Kliethermes, Danielle Sailors, and Kaytlyn Vandeloecht

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