Biography: Eric Kennel
It’s true, I’m one of them...I’m a people-watcher. You’ve probably seen us hanging out at crowded airport terminals, downtown coffee shops, the local park. Although sometimes involved in a specific activity, we are many times found simply watching and observing the people around us. In my journey through life, I have begun to understand the incredible opportunities for learning that are represented by each individual that I encounter along the way.
Of course, there is only so much that one can learn about another from simple observation. The path towards true understanding takes time and sacrifice. It involves entering into another’s physical world, sharing in their joys and sorrows, experiencing life as they do. How often do we truly take the time required to build these types of relationships? In our task-oriented culture of alarm clocks, busy schedules, and impersonal communication, I have often felt like something is missing.
As the idea for this trip has gradually taken shape, I have frequently examined my personal motivations for pursuing this dream. Although many factors are involved, a common thread that seems to keep surfacing is my desire to develop meaningful, life-giving relationships with people from a variety of cultural, spiritual and ethnic backgrounds. I believe that as people created in God’s image, we are given a glimpse of our Maker in each person with whom we relate.
Although I have very few memories of them, I have been told that my biological parents were committed to the things that matter. They understood the value of people, relationships, and Christian service. As I have grown up, I have learned to deeply respect and appreciate this perspective on life. I have seen it modeled in the lives of my adopted parents, grandparents, and many others. As I read the Bible, I also see this emphasis on others as a fundamental component of Jesus’ ministry.
This sort of lifestyle is not easily achieved. I have often felt the suffocating tension between being task-oriented and being people-oriented. College life presented this dilemma on a near-daily basis, as there was inevitably always a group of friends getting together at the same time that a major paper needed to be written! Further reflection on this issue has led me to the conclusion that the best solution is to simply make certain that my tasks and activities are such that they allow me to be people-oriented.
I have found no better way for this to occur than through the task of serving others. My experiences of doing missions and service in a variety of countries have consistently put me into close contact with a very diverse group of people. I have found it a true joy to witness walls come down, common ground emerge, and lasting relationships be developed. It is truly remarkable how lives can be changed through the power of simple relationship.
My experiences in service have also provided profound insights into the needs of humanity. No matter what the culture, there are physical, spiritual, and emotional needs that are present. I am often left with the question of how to best address those needs. What would Jesus have done in a given situation? What common themes of the gospel message are attractive regardless of the cultural context? I am fascinated by the implications that these questions have on Christian mission in our world today.
Recently, the idea of taking a year to explore myself and the world has become more and more appealing. After our trip to the Middle East, and again following our experience in Africa, Dave and I began to seriously examine the possibility of traveling around the world together. We both share a deep love for travel, challenging ourselves, developing relationships, and cross-cultural learning. And we both understand the need to explore our calling and pursue the dreams that lie within us.
Up until this point, my journey through life has in many ways been planned out for me. My academic obligations provided a comfortable routine for my life to revolve around. Graduation has changed many things…including giving me a freedom that sometimes feels overwhelming. There are so many options to explore, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. This trip is an opportunity to discover myself and my calling.
I am also excited about the opportunity to grow and be challenged by people from all over the world. It has been my experience that the language of love and compassion can be translated across any cultural divide. As I go, I hope to examine on a deeper level how the message of Christ can break through even the strongest political, cultural, or spiritual walls.
There is something radical about taking a trip such as this. It involves risk, challenge, and faith. It is the very lifestyle that Jesus commanded of his disciples in Mark 6. Exploring this sort of lifestyle is certainly not what I am most comfortable with. Like most people, I enjoy predictability, security, and comfort. But in pursuing this dream, I’m recognizing that these luxuries do not bring fulfillment. The journey is long, but I anticipate the rewards to be well worth the effort.
Now only weeks before we leave, the excitement about experiencing something new is building. The opportunity that waits on the road ahead is coming into view. At the same time, the anxiety produced by many unanswered questions is beginning to grow. What will we encounter on this journey? Will it live up to our expectations? How will I be changed?
I have always been a person with a very broad set of interests. I recently graduated from EMU with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and minors in Youth Ministry and Business Administration. Given my desire to learn and help others, I anticipate returning to school sometime in the future for graduate work, possibly in counseling. As God leads, I am also willing to go to seminary and pursue a career in ministry.
Since my first experience overseas five years ago, my heart has always been drawn to international missions. My recent experience in the Middle East has also seemed to reinforce that calling, as I witnessed Christian mission being done in a variety of creative and powerful ways. As the experience of the next year unfolds, I plan to closely observe and participate in the work of the church in a variety of settings, being open to how God might be able to use me in the future.
At this point, I’m not making any plans for after this trip. If I am truly counting on this experience to help illuminate my calling, I must be willing to explore any path that God might provide following my return. No doubt this journey will change me. Perhaps new passions will emerge or old dreams become clarified. Whatever the outcome, I trust that God’s hand is present and guiding me along the way. In many ways, the chorus from the Jars of Clay song “This Road” has become my prayer for this journey:
This road that we travel, may it be the straight and narrow
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day
Shelter with fire, our voices we raise still higher
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day through
- Chris Kennel – Director of Construction Services at Landis Homes Retirement Community, Lititz, PA
- Rose Kennel – First Grade Teacher at Locust Grove Mennonite School, Lancaster, PA
- Charles & Joyce Brubaker (biological parents, deceased)
- Carmen Kennel - Sophomore Elementary Education major at Eastern Mennonite University
- Chris & Gladys Kennel - Lititz, PA
- J. Lester & Lois Brubaker - Smoketown, PA
- Daniel & Miriam Longacre (deceased)
Locations lived in…
- Born in Amherst, NY on May 7, 1981
- Buffalo, NY, 1981-1982
- Goodville, PA, 1982-1983
- Ephrata, PA, 1983-1985
- Strasburg, PA, 1985-1992, 1993-1997
- Aflex, KY, 1992-1993
- Lancaster, PA, 1997-2004
- Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA 2000-2004
- Witmer Heights Mennonite Church (formally First Deaf Mennonite) – Lancaster, PA
- First Baptist Church – Belfry, KY
Locust Grove Mennonite School (K-5, 7-8), 1986-1992, 1994-1995 – Lancaster, PA
South Williamson Elementary (5-6), 1992-1993 – South Williamson, KY
Lancaster Mennonite High School (9-12), 1995-1999 – Lancaster, PA
Eastern Mennonite University (Major: Psychology, Minors: Youth Ministry, Business Administration), 2000-2004 – Harrisonburg, VA
- Good’N Plenty Restaurant – Smoketown,
- Landis Homes Retirement Community – Lititz, PA, 1997-2001
- Philhaven Behavioral Health Services – Mt. Gretna, PA, 2002-2003
- Residential Counselor, Adolescent Boys Campus
- Eastern Mennonite University – Harrisonburg, VA
- Ministry Assistant, 2001-2002
- Pastoral Assistant, 2003-2004
- Earl King Inc – Leola, PA, 2004
- General Construction
Significant Travel & Service Experiences…
United States(40/50 states)
- Mennonite Voluntary Service in Aflex, KY
- Family spent a year and a half serving in rural Appalachia
- Road trip across the
U.S.with family in 1999
- Eastern Mennonite Missions Discipleship Training
- Baltimore, MD
- Harrisburg, PA
- Bike Tour through New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine), Spring 2003
- YPCA Spring Break Service Trip – Daytona Beach, FL, 2004
- Backpacking in Adirondacks High Peaks, Spring 2004
- Solo Backpacking Trip in Pacific Northwest, Spring 2004
- Latin America
- Youth Group Service Trip with Mellinger Mennonite Church, 2000
- Youth Evangelism Service (YES) participant, 1999-2000
- Summer Training Action Team (STAT) co-leader, 2001
- Middle East – EMU Cross Cultural, Fall 2002
- Africa – LEAP Program leader to Mennonite World Conference, Summer 2003
South Africa Zimbabwe Zambia
- Europe – Family Trip, Summer 2004
Netherlands Belgium Luxembourg France Germany Switzerland Liechtenstein Austria
- Czech Republic
Interests & Hobbies
- Outdoors: Backpacking, Caving, Canoeing
- Spending time with friends
- Traveling/Road Trips
- Playing volleyball
- Watching professional sports, particularly NFL and MLB
- Computers and electronic gadgets
- Digital Photography
- Stamp Collecting
- Heartsaver CPR, American Heart Association
- Basic First Aid, American Red Cross
- Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, Cornell University
I have very recently purchased a domain and server space for a personal website. Although there’s not much published right now, I’m hoping to post some photography and other random bits of information as I have time. During the next year I will be unable to make regular updates, but I will keep an active link to our website at www.vivaelviaje.com. All journals and photos from our trip can be found there.
* The nature of this journey will make it difficult for anyone to contact us immediately, but the best possible ways are by email or through this website.
- Email me at – As much as possible, I hope to stay connected with people via email while I’m away. It may be difficult to respond personally to everyone, but I promise to read everything you send my way!
- Post comments to the blog on this site - Remember that these will be available to anyone who views this page.