STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 07/01/2009

In Focus: Alumni

Bulgaria--A Crossroad of Civilizations

"I see a redemptive aspect in a conversation taking place in several languages," says Amy (Cram) Kuiken '04, a Fulbright scholar living in Bourgas, Bulgaria, doing linguistic research and teaching English to Bulgarian high school students. "It is Christ Who must save us, but we can practice Jesus' humility when reaching out to others. I want to do that through languages."

Amy is passionate about languages and about people of all cultures. As an undergraduate at Gordon she "wanted to major in everything. I finally chose French and figured I could still do everything, only in a foreign language. I took every course I could that dealt with the mechanics of language and the people speaking them."

After graduation she pursued a master's in general linguistics at Boston College (BC), examining how learning and teaching language can be enriching, both in and out of the classroom. She also studied Bulgarian at BC and linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard with the Linguistic Society of America Summer Institute. Her love of languages was intensified by her church experience in a Boston neighborhood that was "a spectacular mix of languages and groups. Members were deaf and hearing; young and old; from Jamaica, Brazil, British Guyana, Burma, Korea, China and all over the U.S.; with doctoral degrees or high school diplomas. Attempting to engage with each other in a second language was a powerful exchange."

During her Fulbright year Amy is living on the Black Sea Coast with her husband, Jonathan Kuiken '04, who took a one-year deferment of his acceptance into a doctoral program at Boston College so the couple could remain together. As a Fulbright scholar Amy observes both people and language in Bulgaria. She aims to understand how "Eastern and Western Europeans, along with Americans, might better mediate the exchange of cultures to promote cooperation and mutual aid." In March she participated in a EU/NATO seminar in Belgium, France and Luxembourg.

"Fulbrighters," says Amy, "have the privilege of diving into another culture, often without entirely knowing what they are getting themselves into. Life in Bulgaria has been full of shockers and revelations, and I suspect it will take a long time for me to fully articulate what I got myself into."

Peace Corps in Jayaque
A month after graduation Nathan Karrel '05 headed to Jayaque, El Salvador, to work with the Peace Corps Municipal Development Program. He returned in December, successful in his service. 

Nathan worked toward the organization, legalization and institutional strengthening of 20 local community development associations, known as ADESCO's (Asociación de Desarrollo Comunal), in conjunction with the local Town Hall of Jayaque to promote a healthy and active democracy.

Nathan was also involved in various activities and workshops with youth. He spearheaded a series of workshops focusing on life-skill themes: self-esteem, gender, work skills, decision making, and goal setting, alongside workshops on culturally relevant themes: immigration, violence, democracy, and HIV/AIDS.

Nathan most enjoyed the strength and spirit of community in the Salvadoran culture, in which the stranger is always welcomed as next of kin.

A Historic Run
Laura Johnson '04 grew up in a family of runners; it was common to see her out with her mom and her sister on a Saturday afternoon for a three-hour run. She also runs on her lunch breaks while working at Text 100, a technology PR firm, in Boston. So it was no surprise when Laura decided she would celebrate her 26th birthday with a 26.2-mile run in Athens, Greece. She followed the same route used in the 1896 Olympics and finished inside the Olympic Stadium--the same ending point of the 2004 Athens Olympic Marathon. Laura completed the race--as the top female American runner--in an impressive three hours, 21 minutes and 52 seconds. She was the 27th female finisher overall.

Covenant LLC: A Residential Building Company
Story by Marlin Shearer '92

For 15 years Covenant Construction has been building new homes, renovations and additions, and doing plumbing, cabinetry and millwork. What started out as a means to pay my way through graduate school led to my enjoyment in working with clients, taking their ideas from the drawing board to the construction field. I ended up pursuing residential construction as a career along with my business partner Matt Ostrowski because God continued to bless our work, and I discovered much satisfaction in doing it.

Covenant LLC's mission is to serve people we work for and people who work for us. We provide skilled workmanship in a framework of Christian integrity and devotion. We seek out subcontractors who operate with similar values, even if they are not distinctly Christian.

We believe each customer and employee is put in our path to achieve God's intended purposes. For almost 15 years we have had some form of ongoing Bible study before or during work hours, addressing spiritual and professional topics we seek to "build" into our construction staff. Our employees often express how much these meetings mean to them. Matt and I are servants of God first, discipling younger men to see themselves as servants also.

My father was the most important influence in my life. I worked alongside him as a kid, learning from his patience, impeccable workmanship and unblemished integrity as a businessman. He is known for taking on unusual and difficult projects that require a great deal of persistence and creativity to find workable solutions. 

Marlin Shearer, a political studies major and history minor, was involved in leadership development, soccer, Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra. He lives in Newbury, Massachusetts, with his wife, Allison (Bradlee) '93, and their six children. Matt Ostrowski, his wife, Christiana (Mason) '97, and their nine children live in Essex, Massachusetts.


Amy (Cram) Kuiken
Laura Johnson
LLC Building