Vol 3, Num 1 :: 2004.01.02 — 2004.01.15
Let’s begin with a couple of familiar clichés about the nature of giving awards. There are always many more worthy candidates than there are awards. And making the choice is never easy.
That said, our first nominees were named in response to the questions, “What person do you want to nominate as someone who was practically living out her/his faith in Jesus Christ in a significant or important way this year? Why do they deserve this honor from *cino?” We had a lot of great names e-mailed our way and we’re sure you can come up with dozens more, but this year, we’ve chosen Nick Leep of Schererville, Indiana.
Chances are, you’ve never seen Nick before, never even heard his name. But quietly, humbly and faithfully, he serves in ways that make a big difference for those around him. In fact, several people nominated his business, Leep’s Highway Garage, in the business/organization category. Not only does Nick pursue honesty and integrity in his business, he also pursues excellence in the craft of caring for the automobiles on which so many of us depend.
Outside of his job, Nick also volunteers through his church, quietly working behind the scenes with the setup crew that shows up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings to make sure the temporary worship space is set with chairs, lights, speakers, and instruments for the 9:00 a.m. service.
Nick has also worked faithfully over several years to rebuild the extremely impoverished community of Hopkins Park, Illinois. Organizing supplies and volunteers, Nick has managed to head efforts to revive the community center, initiate a volunteer tutoring program, do basic repairs on numerous houses, and create a steady supply of firewood for many of the community members who still depend on wood-burning stoves for winter heat. His passion for Hopkins Park is infectious, as he has grown a personal passion into a functioning ministry of his church.
The evidence that Nick has allowed his faith to transform every part of his life is difficult to ignore. He has a sense of vocation that encompasses all hours of his life. From his encouraging words to his faithful generosity, Nick takes discipleship seriously and is a worthy model as a follower of Christ who is serving practically to cultivate the Kingdom.
Not wanting to ignore those people who are creating Kingdom institutions, we also would like to give an award to a business or organization that is noteworthy for doing Kingdom work in 2003. Again, there were many to choose from, but among the nominees, the Ontario Student Solidarity Local stands out for its development specifically in 2003.
Meeting many of the students involved in this group this fall, when we spoke at their inaugural event, was one of the most inspiring experiences in our work with *cino. We were overwhelmed with a sense of experiencing the active community of believers past, present, and future.
Some background: the group, which formed out of a general social justice group at Redeemer University College, partnered with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in the spring of 2003 in order to both focus and expand their efforts to inspire active believers on and around campus. The OSSL gives students both opportunities to explore meaningful ideas within a specific vocation as well as chances to act practically and immediately on behalf of marginalized people around the world.
Their first event last fall, involving music by Bill Mallonee and Annie Quick as well as speeches from various organizations (including *cino), called all attendees to act that very night by signing a card to the Cuban ambassador to Canada advocating the release of unjustly imprisoned Christian labor leaders in Cuba.
Just as compelling as what the group is doing corporately is what the individuals connected to the group are doing. Many of the student members are on the verge of vocational choices that will shape the rest of their lives, and they’re doing so with confidence, asking the right questions and consulting the community of believers that surrounds them. Indeed, Gideon Strauss, research and education director for CLAC, deserves recognition for challenging the students of the OSSL to grow in knowledge and spiritual maturity. His passion for the practical application of the Reformed worldview will no doubt have far-reaching implications as he inspires a new generation of believers to seriously consider the shape of God’s Kingdom and what their specific role is in realizing that all-encompassing Kingdom here on earth.
We are greatly excited, both for the future of the OSSL and for the futures of the students involved in this extraordinary group. The OSSL is a bright and shining reason for hope that, even when the potential for our culture seems to be growing increasingly dim, there are still people who are intrinsically motivated by their faith and extrinsically motivated by the incredible world around them to pursue the Christian life as it should be and change the world.