Morgan Van Hulzen
It's a lot to juggle - teaching 5th grade full time at Sioux Falls Christian and earning a master's degree, but Morgan Van Hulzen accomplished her dream and did just that. She received a degree in Teacher Leadership from Dordt University this month. Her experience with online learning was more unique last fall as she was taking online master's courses while also teaching her 5th grade students online for the final part of their school year.
Morgan reflects, "It made me realize what a blessing it is to be able to connect with people in person." While online learning may have its challenges, Morgan was happily surprised at how quickly she connected with classmates and the supportive professors in her classes. Morgan offers some insight into teaching middle school students: "They are at such an important phase in their life, and they often need someone goofy to show them that being your own unique self is important. One of my Bible units focuses on identity, and it helps students gain a deeper understanding of who they are, but more importantly whose they are!"
Morgan encourages anyone considering getting their master's degree from Dordt to go for it, as professors make the workload manageable and often find great ways to connect the class content and assignments to what teachers can use in their classroom. Her students benefited from the projects and assignments she worked through in her master classes. Morgan shares, "I am forever grateful to Dordt's M.Ed program and the professors for pouring their time and passion into teachers who strive to grow in their teaching and leading abilities."
What HGTV fan hasn’t seen House Hunters? But fans, have you seen Dordt alumnus Aaron Rietsema ('03) on House Hunters? Rietsema, who works at Hegg Realty in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has been on the show three times and says it’s a blast.
Aaron’s friend suggested he apply to the show because she heard House Hunters was interested in filming in Sioux Falls. He in turn pitched the idea to a couple of clients, several of whom agreed. Once everyone got approved, the filming process could begin.
“After finding out we were approved to start filming, I started having some self-doubts,” Aaron admits. “Was this something I was really cut out for?” But the wheels were already turning, so there was no backing out. The first day of filming went smoothly, and Aaron soon learned that this was going be a great experience.
The House Hunters crew was very organized and kept the schedule full, moving right along and making everything light-hearted. “The production crew didn’t have any set guidelines and gave us permission to just be ourselves,” Aaron says. “We had times where we were exhausted from filming, but funny side comments about a seller’s ‘interesting’ design, decor, or style choices still make us laugh today.”
Aaron values the creation fall redemption model he learned at Dordt that continually reminds him that God created a perfect world, we fell into sin and we are asked by God to tend to the garden and redeem his creation. “Every day there are opportunities to make the world better in the ways we interact with our surroundings and in the way we help our neighbors,” says Aaron. “I think taking joy in your day-to-day tasks is a gift that God gives us. Representing a client to find a home is a small task in the macro scope of life. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with all the problems in this world. But taking each day to accomplish one goal that can make it better adds to the vision of redeeming creation."
What about this album cover looks familiar to you? The brick is so predictable it’s hard to pinpoint the location, but this one is West Hall. Chris Vogel ('09), Flowerstalks's songwriter and guitarist, says this photo of a student back flipping off the roof into a snowdrift was not only a perfect encapsulation of 2020, but the album title “basic malaise” as well.
Known in their Dordt days as “Peasants” and then “Cotton Bonnets," the band played at the Humble Bean Coffee Shop and East Campus block parties with then-bandmembers Ross Feikema ('07, guitar), Alan Kloosterhof ('08, bass), and Robert Taylor ('99, drums). Chris is the only Dordt alumnus who still is part of the band, whose name has changed once again.
The current band moniker “Flowerstalks" comes from a book that Dr. Mary Dengler assigned in Modern Literature called “Rabbit Run” by John Updike. But the Dordt influence doesn’t end there. Vogel credits Dr. Roger Henderson for his interest in philosophy and Dr. Mark Tazelaar for introducing him to Soren Kierkegaard. Fellow students Ethan Koerner ('05) and Reuben Sinnema ('06) encouraged Chris to take songwriting seriously. Vogel believes his education in Christian existentialism, and readings from Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard continue to have a residual effect on his writing.
His current band consists of musicians with skills in blues, progressive rock, and jazz styles. You may catch them on occasion at The Fruited Plain in Sioux Center. “Basic Malaise” was released December 31, 2020. You can listen or download it at https://flowerstalks.bandcamp.com/
After spending thirty-five years as a family and marriage therapist, Stan Visser decided in 2016 to end his career at Creative Living Center in Rock Valley, Iowa. He now had more time to focus on another area—working with prisoners.
Visser got involved in prison ministries when someone invited him to help lead a spiritual retreat for inmates at an all-male correctional facility in Fort Dodge, Iowa. He discovered a passion for this ministry, and started visiting three prisons each month. Even before Visser became a commissioned CRC pastor in 2019, he and his wife Sharon, led the one-hour worship which typically attracted 50-60 inmates. “We would do responsive readings and ask for volunteers to come up and participate. Most had never done anything like that before.”
Covid has changed things. They are not allowed inside to hold services, but have now received permission to write inmates. Visser has been writing to encourage them and let them know they are not forgotten. While he expects no response, he has been getting a few, the most memorable from a Native American man who told him he was in prison for life. “I’ve been here 15 years," he wrote, “and this is the first letter I’ve ever gotten.”
We encourage you to pray for the Vissers and their prison ministry work.
Four words that can ruin a dairy farmer’s day? The cows are out! But Kristyn Mensonides knows this is “udderly” likely on any dairy farm. Besides enjoying a bovine play on words now and again, Kristyn Mensoides ('15) is committed to educating the public about the production and health benefits of milk. Mensonides Dairy LLC makes extensive use of social media to communicate important facts about their product. They want folks to know milk is one of nature’s MOST perfect foods, and that it contains essential body building nutrients.
Kristyn works for her parents, first-generation Yakima Valley (Washington) farmers who built their dairy after they immigrated from the Netherlands in the 1970s. They milk around 5,200 cows twice a day and employ between 60-70 people year-round. They are committed to excellence in milk production, sustainability, and efficiency in the agriculture sector.
Yet Kristyn was not an ag major at Dordt. She opted to study Business Administration and Marketing just in case agriculture did not work out for her in the future. Kristyn has always held a strong passion for the dairy industry and knew that some day she would come back and work on the farm. She enjoys working with family members toward the same goals even though they do not always agree how things should go. But, that’s normal.
“Being part of a family-owned business can be both challenging and a blessing," says Kristyn. "There are always challenging days, but there are so many joys and successes to share when you can work together. Trust and loyalty grow when you lean on Jesus, pray often, and treat each other like you would treat any employee."
Find out more fun facts about milk and this family dairy on Facebook.
Alecia Van Hulzen
It’s not easy being a girl today. Alecia Van Hulzen “gets” it. That’s why she considers it a privilege to walk alongside girls through the GEMS program. GEMS is a club-based ministry/mentoring program that uses devotional Bible studies as one of their many tools to help girls meet today’s challenges.
Alecia first became involved by serving her local GEMS club when she graduated from Dordt and moved to Sioux Falls, SD. From there, she volunteered on a local leadership level and was then asked to serve remotely as part of the GEMS staff. In this role, she uses skills she learned in the hospitality industry while participating in the Chicago Met program as a Dordt student. “This program and my internship in full-service event management affirmed the calling God had given me,” said Alecia. After graduation, she continued in the hospitality industry and has been involved in event management and marketing for nearly 21 years.
My education at Dordt gave me solid grounding and equipped me for calling in all areas of my life,” said Alecia. “But my work isn’t so much about what I do (marketing, fundraising and event planning) or about the business classes that prepared me for this occupation. It’s about the passion I developed at Dordt to share Christ. This passion is now focused on bringing girls into a relationship with God and showing them that God is at work in their lives too.”
Van Hulzen knows that for many girls, GEMS continues to nurture faith already forming in their home and church. However, for others, GEMS is the first and only place they learn about God and His passionate love for them. “Providing ‘truth filled resources’ is a privilege,” Van Hulzen says. Some new resources include U & ME Conversation Kits and a bible study for moms and their tween girls. You can learn more about this ministry at gemsgc.org.
If you're not hooked by the title Buster's Ears Trip Him Up, we guarantee the pictures will pull you in. Inviting colors plus interesting and delightful details will make any children's book illustrated by Joe Hox (aka Joe Hoksbergen) a favorite.
Joe was already doodling in grade school, which eventually led him to an art degree from Dordt in 2005. He taught art in Pella Christian Schools for 12 years, and during that time, did some illustrating for a local children's book author, Lois Vermeer. Other smaller illustrations, art commissions, and graphic design gigs followed.
In 2017, his wife, Katie, submitted some writing she had done to a few Christian publishers along with some of Joe's illustrations. They didn't pick up her book, but on the publisher, New Growth Press, asked Joe to submit samples for a series they were working on. Before long, Joe landed a contact to work on the "Good News for Little Hearts" series. For Joe, it's been a joy to draw different animal characters in interesting environments while knowing these stories are helping Christian parents counsel their kids through struggles we can all relate to.
Joe credits his Dordt art professors for helping him develop excellence in his craft as a way to glorify God. He loves that he can use images to communicate gospel truths and create playful images that spark joy in people's hearts. Find joy and Joe's work at www.joehox.com and his Facebook page.
Stephanie (Bulthuis) Brouwer
So your kids won't read? Before you shrug your shoulders and blame it on bad DNA, 2012 Dordt alumna and blogger Stephanie Brouwer has some tips to get kids of all ages turning pages.
Stephanie describes herself as the poster child for struggling readers, complete with frustration, tears, and well, you know the rest. For her, that changed when she had a teacher with a "contagious love for books" who also read aloud with great expression. She was hooked!
With both special education and kindergarten teacher on her resume, Stephanie added stay-at-home mom to her portfolio after the birth of her two daughters, Ava and Emma. While never regretting the decision to stay at home, she missed teaching reading and reading books out loud to her students. Her blog "Where Books are read and Hearts are Fed" fills that void and her girls are along for the ride.
She shares book recommendations, reading tips for parents and teachers, and pulls faith lessons from both fiction and non-fiction characters. You can also find her tips on her Instagram account: @stephaniebrouwerblog and her Facebook page.
Stephanie and her husband, Nicholas (Dordt Ag: Business 2012) live near Clara City, Minnesota with their two daughters.