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A different kind of reunion

August 2, 2010 - Betsy Bethel

You know what class reunions can be like. There are the people who put on airs, spouting off their accomplishments to anyone who will listen. There's the passing around of kids' photos, the reminiscing about the glory days and the drinking of copious amounts of alcohol before attempting to maneuver on the dance floor as if 10 or 20 or 30 years hadn't passed. I hear people say they dreaded going to their reunion, and then afterward actually wished they hadn't.

I attended a different kind of reunion on Saturday. I admit I felt a little bit of misplaced angst ahead of time — fretting about my appearance while failing to grasp that everyone else is 20 years older, too. I calmed down after I shifted my focus off myself and onto the guest of honor.

It was more than a reunion, it was a celebration. As I said, there was a guest of honor, Dennis Dudley, who this summer marked 20 years as the staff leader of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Miami University of Ohio. The party took place at the Waynesville, Ohio, farm of a student co-founder of the Miami IVCF chapter.

About 40 adults attended. About half of the couples remarkably were IVCF alumni who married each other — some of them married by Dennis. Yes, there was reminiscing, but nearly all of it focused on how Dennis or his wife, Carolyn, positively impacted our lives. Pictures of children weren't necessary — we brought the kids with us — 36 of them, to be exact. None of us could focus too much on the past when our futures were ever-present, chasing after kittens, climbing hay bales in the barn, making new friends, running and playing in the rain, and just loving life.

It was an emotional six hours, in a good way! I nearly fainted when my college roommate who now lives in Germany showed up with her 3-year-old daughter — that'll teach me to pay attention to the RSVP list on the Evite next time! I choked up seeing some of the older children singing praise songs alongside with their parents. And I could hardly get the words out as I shared a story of how God used a "chance" encounter with Dennis in a convenience store parking lot in 1992 to change the course of my life.

I was amazed at how some of my old friends looked exactly the way I remembered them — as if they hadn't aged a day. I was tickled by the names they chose for their children and to find out one of my once-close friends now lives in Pittsburgh and another lives only a few miles from my sister's house in suburban Dayton. I enjoyed trading British-isms that I learned while living in Scotland with a dear friend who spent three years living in England.

I might not see some of these folks or their children again for many more years to come. But on Saturday, some of the most intimate friendships I've ever known were rekindled. These were people with whom I went on retreats, enjoyed prayer partnerships, wrestled through Bible passages, sang praise songs, learned about the character of Christ, cried over heartbreaks and laughed until my stomach hurt.  I had forgotten how much fun I had with these people!

The most inspiring part of the day — after just letting it sink in how so many families, smack in the middle of summer, were able to arrange their schedules to meet on this farm — was hearing and seeing how one person's commitment to Christ has mushroomed. So many of these IVCF alumni, having been shepherded by Dennis, are in ministry of some sort today, from pastoring churches to leading music teams to teaching Vacation Bible School to raising and fostering children.

The second most inspiring part was when all of us surrounded Dennis and Carolyn and prayed for them after Dennis shared about some difficult times, including the closing of the Miami undergrad chapter and Dennis's re-assignment to faculty ministry, effective this year. I hope he left feeling with lifted spirits and a sense of hope for the future.

How could you not, seeing all those kids! Thank you, children — how exciting to meet you, and how differently many of you are growing up from the way your parents grew up because of how God used all of us — most of all Dennis and Carolyn Dudley — in each other's lives.

I am so glad I went.



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The man who married Dave and me, Dennis Dudley, addressing the Miami University InterVarsity chapter alumni Saturday.


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