Hard Times? It’s A Chance To Help More

EMU’s Spiritual Life Week Focuses On Creative Approach To Service

By Tom Mitchell, Daily News-Record

One of the earliest uses of Tom Sine’s creativity turned heads – and cars.

Sine spoke Wednesday at Eastern Mennonite University’s Lehman Auditorium (listen to the podcast). He recalled for his audience how, as a college student in Portland, Ore., he and some friends piled into the back of an old hearse that a member of the group had just bought, and rattled the nerves of fellow motorists.

Tom and Christine Sine
Tom and Christine Sine

“We stopped really fast at an intersection, and every one of us in the back tumbled out of that hearse,” Sine said. “One driver ran off the road and I think another swallowed his cigarette.”

Sine and his wife, Christine, spoke for 45 minutes at Lehman about how today’s college students can use that kind of imagination for good in a troubled world. The couple’s joint talk was part of fall Spiritual Life Week, which began Monday and runs through Friday at EMU.

The Sines are also founders of Mustard Seed Associates, a nonprofit multidenominational alliance headquartered in Seattle that consists of Christians from throughout the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The goal of Mustard Seed Associates is to spur people to help others at home and abroad and, like the biblical mustard seed, bear the fruit of change in the world.

Less Means More

The Sines urged students to turn the world’s financially fragile times into a chance to help others through service that meets the needs of the less fortunate.

Tom and Christine Sine
Tom and Christine Sine gather with students in the campus center after chapel to discuss their ideas. (listen to the podcast of their chapel talk on “Life after EMU.”)

Due largely to a poor economy, today’s young adults may have less materially than their parents, Tom Sine said. Such monetary limits, he added, may enable young adults to find joy in other ways.

“We’re trying to help college people consider using their lives more to make a difference than a living,” he said.

Such prompting competes with what Christine Sine calls a “consumer culture” that promotes self-indulgence. But a surprising portion of young adults aren’t so materialistic, she said.

“We are finding a number of young people in their 20s and 30s who really question the values of the consumer culture,” Sine said.

Tom Sine, 73, teaches at a Seattle seminary and Australian-born Christine, 59, works as an international health-care consultant. Both have authored numerous books on purposeful living.

Students at EMU applauded the Sines’ address.

“I like their idea about new churches getting people involved with God,” said Alejandra Gutierrez, 18, an EMU freshman who lives in Bridgewater and is a native of Colombia.

Aaron Yutzy, 21, an EMU senior from Timberville, said a cross-cultural trip he took to Central America last year taught him compassion for those outside the U.S., but added he is still assessing life after college.

“I’m not yet sure how I’m going to fit [service to others] into my life,” Yutzy said.

A Popular Choice

EMU campus pastors Brian Martin Burkholder and Julie Haushalter said EMU invited the Sines to speak after a survey showed students wanted a Spiritual Life Week conducted on the theme, Following Jesus With Our Lives.

“The students wanted [to hear] a significant voice that integrated faith with life,” Burkholder said.

For all its attention on EMU’s students, Spiritual Life Week retains a community focus, say organizers, who add that EMU reaches out to the Harrisonburg community with such service projects as home repairs and visits to the elderly.

“Almost all of our Spiritual Life Week events are open to the public,” Haushalter said.