Steve Charles—Drivers on CR 700 East must wonder why a sign inscribed with the Swahili word for "Welcome" adorns the entry to Bob and Lea Ann Einterz’ home in Zionsville, Indiana.
I found out exactly why last weekend when I accompanied photographer Chris Minnick for an afternoon photo shoot. We were there to illustrate an upcoming Wabash Magazine article about the innovative medical partnership that the Class of 77 Wabash grad co-founded between Kenya and Indiana University.
Bob had told me earlier that his goal for the IU-Kenya Partnership transcends medicine—that it’s ultimately about "dignifying relationships." He wasn’t too eager to be photographed, but when I joked that it was too bad we couldn’t bring together the IU and Kenyan students he’s worked with in the program and photograph those relationships, Bob was suddenly more enthusiastic.
"Great idea!" he said, "We’ll have a get-together."
Two weeks later, there we were—Bob and his family and about 20 of his friends,†colleagues, and students from Kenya and the U.S., all hanging out at Bob’s house. Most of the folks gathered there has at least one thing in common—they’d all lived at the Einterz home for days, weeks, months or years, either recuperating from an illness or surgery or just because they needed a place to stay. For these friends, the sign over the front door is no decoration. They feel at home here. Even as we waited for two hours for the weather to clear so Chris could shoot our cover photograph, Bob and Lea Ann’s gift of hospitality kept everyone feeling welcome, like family.
"Welcoming" seems the†theme for the past two weeks as I’ve taken photographs of the Wabash community.
During a Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology workshop, I was allowed to photograph intense discussions between teachers of theology as they confronted some of the issues—theological, social, and emotional—that divide them. Associate Director Paul Myhre led this particular workshop, and I was amazed at the honesty, candor, compassion, and, ultimately, the understanding that transpired there.
I found myself yearning for such a safe and trustworthy environment for Wabash faculty members to discuss the differences that sometimes divide us.
One week later I photographed a joyful session during another Center workshop’s Saturday night karaoke session (a first for the Center, I believe). I’ve never had more fun behind the camera. Earlier in the day, these same people had been earnestly discussing issues during lunch; now here they were, cutting loose. It’s not everyday you get to photograph professors and religious scholars belting out "YMCA", complete with hand motions. There were even a couple of more solemn, moving†moments—the sort of fun and emotional risk-taking that occurs when people feel welcome and safe. Like family.
Wabash Center Director Lucinda Huffaker, her colleagues, and the Center staff have made Wabash an extraordinarily welcoming and safe place for teachers from across North America to be challenged, inspired and renewed in their vocations. Lucinda is moving on at the end of the year, but someone needs to sit her down and find out how they’ve been able to create such a place. We need to find out how Wabash College can benefit—emotionally and intellectually, individually and as a community—from the gifts and wisdom of the Wabash Center.
For those scholars attending Center workshops, that first glimpse of the Wabash Chapel is a lot like that sign over Bob and Lea Ann Einterz’ door: Karibuni. Welcome, friends. You can feel at home here.
Photo at right: Dr. Bob Einterz ’77 and his daughter, Abigail.
Photo by Chris Minnick