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July 11, 2020

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Planting seeds of peace for 30 years

Bluffton University Lion and Lamb Center celebrates

In 1987, Dr. Libby Hostetler, professor emeritus of education, planted the idea of a more peaceful future at Bluffton and in the world. During a sabbatical year, Hostetler developed The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center which uses the arts and literature to promote the study of peace and justice, cultural understanding and nonviolent responses to conflict with an emphasis on these themes for children. To celebrate 30 years, an open house was held on Thursday, April 20.
“I had an idea that was ready to be planted and to grow,” said Hostetler. “I saw kids were making peace through violence, and they needed an alternative.” Hostetler added the timing was right for the opening of the center. In 1987, tensions from the Cold War continued and shortly after came the Gulf War and the Yugoslav Wars.
A theme of planting seeds of peace was interspersed throughout the celebration. The poem, “Lines and Circles” by 1994 Bluffton graduate Victoria Woods-Yee was commissioned for the event with phrases including:
“The harvest of peace comes rolling in from unexpected places,
The leaves unfurl green and tender as a newborn’s tiny fingers,
Up close in love, we just never know what will sprout when you plant the seeds of peace.”
Reflections from a variety of community members explained how the seeds of peace have made a lasting impact.
“It is the one place on campus that is intentionally inclusive of people of all ages,” said Dr. Sally Weaver Sommer, vice president and dean of academic affairs. “Go into the center and see the small chairs and picture books for the little kids. Look at the musical instruments, the clothing on display, the flags from around the world and look through the picture books, notice the items for education majors and the resources for teachers, and the volunteer opportunities for those of us in retirement age. There truly is something here for all of us.”
More than 3,000 people visit the center each year which is located in Riley Court. Bluffton Elementary fourth grade students visit once a month. Teacher Tami Hardy says sessions at the center open the world to her students with a focus on how to make the world a better place.
Hardy explained that current director Louise Matthews helps her fourth graders understand that even they can make the world a better place. “You start at home, in your classroom, on the playground, at school, in your community. I also realize she’s not just talking to the fourth graders, she’s talking to all of us, teachers included.”
Quantifying the impact of the center is a difficult task. However, Bluffton senior Claire DeOrio visited the center as an elementary student in the arts magnet program at Lima City Schools.
“I remember focusing on the concept that the lion could play with the lamb with no temptation or harm, and I felt like that was such a cool concept that I went home and told my parents about it.”
Year later, she is using lessons learned at The Lion and Lamb in her volunteer work with youth in Allen County’s Juvenile Detention Center.
“For some people that could be a very frightening place to go, but I feel like the true message of peace is to live in a world where we reach out to those we could consider enemies,” said DeOrio, an intervention specialist major. “I’m very thankful I got to interact with the center as a child and that I am going to the college that gave me that mindset at such a young age.”
The current director shared personal reflections about using the center herself. “As a mother using the center with my own children, I can emphasize its benefits as you’re nurturing peace and compassion in your children,” said Matthews, who is now sharing the center with the third generation of her family including her granddaughter Olivia Matthews who read the story, “If You Plant a Seed,” by Kadir Nelson.
President James Harder concluded the reflections by explaining how the unique idea keeps developing, growing and serving in the Bluffton community and beyond.
“It is abundantly clear this center’s innovative mission is succeeding. Year in and year out The Lion and Lamb provides its one of a kind collection of literature and arts programming for children and adults around the themes of peace, justice, cross-cultural understanding and nonviolent responses to interpersonal conflict, and that message is so very crucial to the future of our world, our society and the university community. We are grateful for the past 30 years and look forward to the continued vibrant work of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center.”
The event wrapped up with the song, “Plant the Seeds of Peace,” written for the center by Ken Medema.
Lyrics include:
Plant the seeds of Peace;
They will grow like a beautiful tree
On city streets, on desert sands,
On mountains or by the sea.
In places of greed and hatred,
In places of anguish and pain,
And the lion and lamb will lie in the shade
Together once again.”
Finally, everyone in attendance joined in for the song “A Better Place to Be” written by Joseph Helfrich, a 1987 Bluffton graduate. Matthews routinely uses the song with children who come to the center.
“I can make the world a better place to be.
All it takes is kindness
And truth to set us free.
Every act of kindness is an act of peace.
I can make the world a better place to be.
Whisper it… SHOUT IT!!
Don’t you ever doubt it!
I can make the world a better place to be!”

Libby Hostetler: Dr. Libby Hostetler, founding director of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center reflects on the impact of the center which was founded in 1987 during the center’s 30th anniversary celebration.
Program Guests: Dozens of faculty, staff, students and community members converged on The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center for the 30th anniversary of the facility which uses the arts and literature to promote the study of peace and justice, cultural understanding and nonviolent responses to conflict with an emphasis on these themes for children.
Welcoming Guests: Louise Matthews, current director of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center, and Dr. Libby Hostetler, founding director, greet guests during the 30th anniversary open house on April 20.