Written by Jared Couch

Jared is our Learn & Discern Brand Marketing intern. He is going into his senior year of school at Houghton College in western New York, where he is double majoring in Integrated Marketing and Business Administration. As a part of his role this summer, he will be writing a series of blog posts. They will be released each week and will have a different IOKDS based topic. We would love for this to be an opportunity for the IOKDS community to interact with Jared, so please be active in the comments and reach out with any questions or share any reflections you may have! 

Statement from Jared: “I hope that these blogs are a way for the IOKDS members to feel connected through these tough times and find some hope…I look forward to interacting with the IOKDS community throughout the summer via my blogs and hope that people find joy in reading them.” 

As a college baseball player, the season ended after a short ten games. I wondered, what if? There were so many more games left to play. We were off to one of the best starts Houghton College has had in years. We had a talented team. We were starting to hit our stride as mid-March rolled around when the season was suddenly cut short by an Instagram post from the Empire 8 athletic conference informing us that the season would be canceled immediately with no plans of resuming. That post came on a Thursday, and by Monday the next week, we were sent home from school entirely.

What could have been?

What would have been?

Maybe even what should have been?

All questions I am sure you have asked yourself in 2020.

And I am no different.

We are currently in the middle of the Learn & Discern (L&D) summer internship program with IOKDS. And there are many things about the summer that I am asking myself what if about. Through this internship, I was hoping to get some great experience working for a nonprofit organization.

When applying for the L&D internship I was hoping for this experience that I imagined would be a very fulfilling and purposeful time spent at a beautiful place, the Chautauqua Institution. So far, the work has been nothing short of fulfilling and immensely enjoyable.  Don’t mistake this for a complaint that it hasn’t been; it just has been happening from my little hometown in southeast Michigan instead of Chautauqua, NY.

If anything, this is the complete opposite of a complaint. Instead, it is a reflection on the blessing the L&D internship has been at this time. When everything else in the world has been ever-changing, the IOKDS and the L&D internship give me a good pace to meet new faces and connect with different parts of the world compared to the relatively confined, closed bubbles we have been experiencing while staying home.

Nonprofit work has always been something I have been exposed to through different Christian organizations like IOKDS through experiences with the Salvation Army, Athletes in Action and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The IOKDS experience has looked a little different. When I think back on my time with Athletes in Action, for example, I have memories of a place, Xenia, Ohio. I have images in my head to recall when I have thoughts of playing baseball for the Xenia Scouts, an AIA baseball team. I remember the field, the teammates, road trips, hotel stays, and so much more. Unfortunately, such memories of a place connected to the IOKDS will not happen in the current climate. Well I guess they will happen, but they will not be of the beautiful lake or the buzzing of crowds pouring into the amphitheater for a lecture, they will be of my quiet childhood bedroom now doubling as an office with a view of the hayfield across the street out of my window. I will have memories of Zoom calls with people from their own home offices, but nothing quite like what any of us ever expected.

I can only imagine what other memories I would have had from being on the grounds at the Chautauqua Institution with my fellow L&D interns sharing the summer with perhaps some of you as well! Although we won’t be able to connect out and about on the Chautauqua grounds or share stories over midafternoon iced tea on the porch, we have been able to stay connected.

I had the pleasure during orientation week of the internship to interview four current long time members of IOKDS. I asked them each a series of questions, one of which I gave them a chance to tell me their favorite IOKDS memory.

The four members I interviewed have served on many boards and held countless leadership roles on the local level with their Circles and the International level.

They each had a unique and special story to share about their favorite memory with the IOKDS. However, they all had a few common factors:

  • Chautauqua Institution
  • Lifelong friends from IOKDS
  • Getting to know and share experiences with others
  • Service to others

The way they each ended up at Chautauqua was a little different, but they each had a special memory of their time on the grounds. Everyone’s spent their time at Chautauqua differently.   One was on vacation on the grounds reading and drinking tea on the porch of one of the IOKDS owned houses.

I heard another story of a member making the trip to Chautauqua for the IOKDS New Horizons conference.

A few of them shared their time servicing on the Buildings Committee by doing maintenance on the landscaping, helping with building upkeep and fixing up the houses to prepare them as affordable accommodations for the upcoming season guests.

There were stories of road trips with old and new friends. Road trips to and from Chautauqua just amazing memories that are lifelong.

What I gained from these conversations was a sense, a sense of the community, of the people, and the heart of this organization, the service projects, and much more. I truly saw the magnitude of this organization and its reach of it throughout the world. I felt like I started to become a part of it all.

I wish I had the opportunity to interview each of the roughly 2,500 members to hear every one of your stories! So what I am going to do instead is give you the chance to share on this platform. Here is a question that I would love to have you answer and share in the comments for us to read!

What is your favorite memory with the IOKDS?  If you have been to Chautauqua, what is your most significant memory?

Please answer at whatever length you’d like and who knows I might be reaching out to you to hear more about your story, you could even become a feature in a future article! I look forward to hearing from you.


1 Comment

  1. Hi Jared
    I wish I had read this blog earlier. Chautauqua is my second home, having been a part of the IOKDS community at Chautauqua all of the years between 1988 and 2019. Jan Laude and I were part of this Chautauqua Scholarship Class, and along with Past International President, Joyce Cote, have planned several reunions (I think five) beginning in 2000, when we had ten of our classmates in attendance for our special week together. We (and some students from other years) had planned to fill Bonnie Hall for Week 5 this summer. Hopefully we will all be there in 2021.
    Thanks for this great blog, Jared.
    In His Name

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