Grove City College, Grove City, PA

I had the joy and honor this past week of serving on the faculty of the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference, which was held on the campus of Grove City College in (what a strange coincidence) Grove City, Pennsylvania. I already blogged briefly (here) about the conference. So I thought I'd post a few photos of the beautiful campus. 
Grove ​City College was founded in 1876 (and remains today) as a Christian institution, historically affiliated with the Presbyterian Church but intentionally non-sectarian in its approach. The school has an enrollment of 2,500 students; the population of the city, located sixty miles north of Pittsburgh, is 8,000.
The buildings, grounds, and other features (such as the "Rainbow Bridge," above) are impressive and immaculate, and there was a clear and abiding affection for and pride in the school among the many alumni I met who participate in the St. Davids conference.
Most of the conference took place in the Hall of Arts and Letters ("HAL"), above, and our meals (except for the Saturday night banquet) were taken just across from HAL in the Breen Student Union. I was impressed from the first moment to the last. A beautiful place. Makes me wish I could've gone to school there.

St. Davids Christian Writers Conference, Grove City, PA

I'm spending this week at the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference on the campus of Grove City College in--can you guess?--Grove City, PA. I was honored to deliver the opening keynote last evening, and am teaching the "nonfiction writing" continuing class today, tomorrow, and Saturday (as well as various and sundry other duties--mostly sundry).
St. Davids has been meeting here for ten or so years now, but this is my first visit to Grove City College. And what a wonderful surprise. The campus is gorgeous, the buildings stately, and the accommodations perfectly comfortable. The last time I spoke at St. Davids, it was located in Beaver Falls, and I vividly remember staying in un-air-conditioned dorm rooms on the campus of Geneva College. It still makes me sweat, just thinking about it. And, as a matter of fact, St. Davids was the very first writers conference I attended, in (I think) 1988, when I was a magazine editor and the conference was held in St. Davids, PA, on the campus of Eastern University.
The lodging is roomy. Nothing fancy but air-conditioned! I was supposed to have two roommates sharing the three-bedroom, two-bath apartment, but neither of them has showed up yet (I won't mention any names but Dave and Frank, you know who you are and you know what you did!).
I'll be here through the weekend, and am already having a great time. It's so great to reunite with old friends, make new friends, and talk books and words and writing and publishing with people who share my passions....and dysfunctions.

Lebanon Grand Opry

Last Saturday evening, the lovely Robin and I ventured into the wilds of Lebanon, Ohio, to take her parents, Sue and Dick Wright, to one of their favorite places, the Lebanon Grand Opry House.
Dick and Sue's usual front row seats were reserved for them, and we had the honor of sitting with them for a jam-packed program of country music. 
The outstanding house band, TNT Band, backed everyone of a half dozen artists, from WAIF 88.3 FM's Tom Winkler, Don Haddock, Jessie Lyn, Cara Belt, and Makenna and Shelby, who were returning to the Opry stage after a two-year hiatus. The music ranged from Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams to Martina McBride and Jessica Andrews. It was a great night, but it kept us out way past our bedtimes; Robin and I just can't keep up with Dick and Sue anymore like we used to. 

The Memorial Service of C. V. Hostetler

The lovely Robin and I joined many of our family last Sunday at Long Point Camp on Seneca Lake in New York for an informal service to remember and honor my father, Vernon Hostetler, who was "promoted to Glory" in March. 
Gathering in the large and lovely common room of the Lodge on the camp's grounds, we sang, read Scripture, told stories, and shared many laughs and a few tears. 
My oldest brother Don (above, right), who planned the service, also provided leadership with his wife, Arvilla. We watched a few minutes of an interview video recorded nearly twenty years ago, in which Dad told the story-in-dialect of "Hans and Yakob." Uncle Walt (my mom's brother-in-law) led a time of storytelling; some of the stories that were told, I had never heard. We sang, "How Great Thou Art" and "Blessed Assurance," two of Dad's favorite hymns. 
With our Aunt Shirley (our mom's youngest sister) at the piano, Don, Larry, and I sang a Gospel song Dad sang many times: "Ezekiel's Boneyard." Larry also (with Don at the piano) sang "The Ninety-and-Nine," and I presented a reading Dad often combined with that song, "Poor Li'l Brack Sheep." The program also included the reading of a poem composed by Kevin Hostetler, who due to military service wasn't able to be there. And Fr./Lt. David Hostetler gave a sensitive and meaningful meditation and (with his three youngest sons) prayer. 
There was more, but it was all just perfect. I think Dad would have loved it. I know I did. 

The Retirement of Majors Hostetler

What a wonderful time the lovely Robin and I enjoyed last weekend at The Salvation Army's Long Point Camp on Seneca Lake near Penn Yan, New York.
The occasion was the afternoon service marking the entry of my brother and sister-in-law, Majors Don and Arvilla Hostetler, into honored retirement from a combined ninety years of service to God and the ministry of The Salvation Army. It was such a joy and honor to be there for the celebration, which included (above) a Scripture reading by five of Don and Arvilla's grandkids (which altogether number somewhere around three or four thousand, I think).
Don and Arvilla were insistent that the service honor God and celebrate his faithfulness (rather than eulogizing them), which it did. In fact, a highlight for me was the singing of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," first by Don and Arvilla, joined on the next verse by their children, then their daughters-in-law and son-in-law, and finally by all the grandchildren for the final verse. Throat constricted, tears flowed, for me, anyway.
The Unbearable Adorableness of Being Grandchildren made the grandkids presentation of "It's a Miracle" (above), which their parents used to sing together on repeated occasions, whether they wanted to or not, another high point among many.
Finally the fun stopped (just kidding--why you gotta be so sensitive?) and the official retirement portion of the program, conducted by Commissioner Phil Swires (R), took place (flagbearers from left to right: Envoy Philip Hostetler, Chaplain Lt. (USN) David Hostetler, Lt. Col. Tim Raines (R), and Major John Cranford (R)). I was surprised that Don and Arvilla could hold it together, but they did. And that they weren't blinded, even temporarily, by their son's dazzling white uniform. Sheesh. 

In all seriousness, it was a great moment. I am so proud of my big brother and sister. They have worked so hard and faithfully, always giving, never taking, never shirking, never failing in love, duty, obedience, integrity, and servanthood. The standard phrase, "honored retirement" doesn't even begin to do them justice. 

Hilton Garden Inn, Erie, PA

Last Friday the lovely Robin and I took to the road with our daughter, Aubrey, and her three children, Calleigh, Ryder, and Avery. We were on our way to a retirement celebration, family reunion, and memorial service to take place in the Finger Lakes region of New York (more on that in the next few days). 
Since half of our party put in a workday on Friday (the other half were total slouches), we had to make the trip up in two parts. So we stayed on Friday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Erie, Pennsylvania
It is a classy joint, as I like to say. The lobby was impressive and expansive, the service was quick and efficient, and our room was all that we had hoped. My only reservation--get it?--about our stay is that, like so many high-falutin'  hotels of the upper-class variety, there was no complimentary breakfast offered. It woulda cost us $10.95 a head for the eats in the hotel restaurant, so we passed. Turned out okay, as we had to hurry to make it to our destination, grabbing only the free coffee offered in the lobby (don't worry, nobody went hungry). But it would've been nice to grab a few dozen bagels or oranges on the way out, ya know? 

The Hilton Garden Inn in Erie is located at 2225 Downs Drive, just off I-90. And right next door to Cracker Barrel, which is a win/win.  

Animal Kingdom at Disney World

Our family vacation at Disney World in May included a visit to "Animal Kingdom," a varied section of the park divided mainly into an Africa and Asia section and a distant petting zoo. We got to see some ginormous bats, a family of an endangered species of deer (above), and more.
Calleigh and Ryder enjoyed climbing on a statue of elephants (above) in one of the train stations.
We got to ride an actual train to and from the petting zoo area of the park.
And Calleigh and Ryder got to brush a couple of the goats in one of the enclosures. Unfortunately and disappointingly, those were the only animals we got to interact with, and just in time, too, as they put the goats away a few minutes after we arrived.
We caught the last train back to civilization. Turns out Animal Kingdom closes at 6 p.m. Guess the animals have an earlier bedtime than us.