We Are Bound Together

In the TV show Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, a brilliant physicist who purports to have a “working knowledge of the universe” but can’t understand basic social practices, develops a sort of flow chart for making a friend. In this episode Raj, Leonard, and Howard, two physicists and an engineer, return to Sheldon’s and Leonard’s apartment to discover that Sheldon as mapped an algorithm for making friends with his nemesis on their large white board which is typically employed for physics equations. He says he has “isolated the algorithm for making friends” and will no longer make the same mistakes made in the child’s picture book “Stew the Cockatoo is New at the Zoo.”

BigBangTheory Poster

The flow chart starts with “ask to share a meal” if not interested invite to enjoy a hot beverage (in this one he even has options listed to suggest) if not interestedà perhaps a recreational activity. At this point in the trial run his nemesis keeps suggesting activities that Sheldon has no interest in. He keeps looping back and his algorithm falters, unable to handle this unexpected turn. Fortunately, Howard is able to jump in and add a loop counter and escape option into the whiteboard chart.

The Matthew 18 passage provides a similar step-by-step instruction but for the purpose of restoring a relationship rather than making a new one. Before we take a closer look at these verses starting at verse 15 however, I want to note some the context of the first part of this chapter.

The context is that of “not losing.” Chapter 18 begins with the question of who is the greatest. Jesus brings a child in to their midst. You must be like this child to enter the kingdom Further more if you welcome this child then you welcome me.

Then from verses 6-14 we have 3 variations of not losing.

  • If you cause one of these children to stumble, that is lost, it would be better for you to be sunk in the sea with a  weight around your neck
  • If you yourself are wandering away dramatic action is needed
  • And third the parable of the lost sheep. In this parable the shepherd leaves 99 sheep in the fold to go out in search for the one that is lost.

So by the time we get to verse 18 we have heard Jesus challenge the disciples’ questions about greatness and we see a recurring theme on not losing.

Into this context we hear “Go”. If your brother or sister wrongs you go to them.  This seems to be a general formula or procedure for addressing wrong doing. This feels like a sort of process flow chart. Remember back to Sheldon and his algorithm for making a friend.

These few verses seem a bit like this but for conflict in the congregation. Go to the person. If that works, great! Process finished. If it doesn’t work then take someone else. If that works, great! If it doesn’t work tell it to the church. If this works, great! If it doesn’t work treat them as if they were a Gentile or tax collector.

The Gentile and tax collectors are those who are outside the community but who we seek to bring into reconciliation with God. And then also reconciliation with one another.

After we get this fairly detailed process of addressing wrong doing we read to more general, not particularly clear, but seemingly related bits.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

What you bind and loose is bound and loosed in heaven. Where a handful of you are, there too is God. Written as it is in at this point it the passage, we see that it is written to give assurance in the face of a difficult task. For all the simple straight-forward elegance of this teaching it is certainly not simple. Or perhaps it is simple but because it is difficult we imagine it to be more complicated than it is. Whatever the case, the assurance is given that we are truly doing the work of God. That God has entrusted it to us– is with binding and loosing. God has entrusted us but God is also with us. God is with us in the non-glamorous gathering of two or three.

So what? Perhaps I can claim that we have a tentative grasp of this passage.

This is a rather straight forward passage. We can do it or we can not do it.  I could have, as On Earth Peace, an agency of the Church of the Brethren, has done and create a guide and workshop expanding on the specific practices that can come out of Matthew 18. This adds even more practicality to the teaching. This material is in fact called “Matthew 18”. Or I could work to convince you that a healthy community and conflict resolution is critical for the well being and growth of a congregation.  This would be the empirical backing for a very practical passage—do it because it works. Or I could also give a deeper theological rationale for why reconciliation is part of our very DNA as followers of Jesus.

These are all important but I am going to take this in a somewhat different direction.

I think it is safe to say that this passage deals with reconciliation. This reconciliation obviously affects the relationships between people but also seems to affect relationship to God.

Furthermore this passage suggests that God is not merely interested in our souls but that salvation is a part of reconciliation and this is bodily.

Some church worlds and Christians focus almost exclusively on the salvation of souls. Some church worlds and Christians focus almost exclusively on how we live and what our faith means materially. In the former reconciliation is with God. In the later reconciliation is with people.

I recently read a book (while waiting for a much delayed flight home from Chicago via New York) called “Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconciliation with Creation” written by Norman Wirzba, Research Professor of Theology, Ecology, and Rural Life at Duke Divinity School and Fred Bahnson a permaculture gardener and pioneer  in church-supported agriculture.

Making Peace With The Land

Wirzba writes:

“Today’s church suffers from a reconciliation deficit disorder. The cause of this disorder is an impoverished imagination. As Christians, we have a hard time imagining that God desires all creatures—human and nonhuman, living and nonliving—to be reconciled with each other and with God. For some reason we have come to think that God cares primarily, perhaps only, about us.”[1]

Reconciliation is the repairing or healing of a relationship. If wrongdoing has caused the damage then it also includes stopping this action and setting things right. Proclaim the Gospel to all—human and nonhuman—proclaim that God is reconciling all things.

Wirzba continues with what he calls “ecological amnesia”:

“Ecological amnesia is so devastating because it leads us to forsake the material world. It contributes to an impoverished understanding of reconciliation because it trains us to think of ourselves as no longer dependent on clean water, fertile soil, diverse forests and fields and multitudes of insects and animals. As amnesiacs, we live an illusory life. We have forgotten what is not only good but absolutely fundamental: that we are bodies bound to each other through webs of food, water, breath, energy, inspiration, pleasure and delight.”[2]

Remember this connection. Remember and be reconciled. This proclamation happens through the sort of classical proclamation of words—through preaching and prayer and song but also happens through our life together. In 2 Corinthians we read that we are actually reconciled. But we recognize that though this may be reality we still have yet to fully embody this—hence the detailed instruction in Matthew 18. Though in status we are reconciled to God and one another we yet have work to do. Though we have been reconciled to all of creation we yet have work to do to fully realize this reality.

So we have specific recommended actions—almost a formula (or algorithm)—for confronting wrong doing and embodying reconciliation in our community. I expanded this to a more general understanding of reconciliation. We then shifted this general understanding slightly to include not only our relationships to each other and God but also to include all of creation. Can this be brought a full circle back to specific guidelines but now to include these three categories of Divine, human, and non-human?

Interestingly much degradation of the environment happens at the hands of people—in this case our process from Matthew 18 is quite effective. We may need to confront (with all requisite love) our brothers and sisters who live as though creation is not a gift from God given for our care.

Kulp Bible College, where we lived in Nigeria, is in the northeast part of the country. It is on the edge of the Sahel, which is dry land savanna, which is the edge of the Sahara. Due to deforestation, global climate change, and damaging farming practices, the desert is rapidly expanding south. Every day during the late afternoon or early evening we would go for a walk or run through the fields surrounding the campus. These fields were forest just 10 years earlier but were gradually cleared so that very little forest remained. One day we saw an overfilled truck bring a load of firewood from the field and unload it just outside campus.

This continued for days with load upon load of firewood being brought in. A local businessman had bought and was clearing land out in the “bush,” the scrubby unused land. He was clearing to grow beans to sell. This action and many others like it was a good short term investment but in the long run undermining the possibility of life in this area.

Secondly, our going to another because of wrong doing assumes we are being attentive to wrong doing. This wrong doing is certainly not limited to everyone else—it includes us. I am one of the wrong doers. At times this is towards others at times this is toward God and at times this is towards Creation.

This reconciliation is thus closely linked to mutual accountability. This accountability and attention to the reconciling of relationships is at the very core of the creation of the beloved community in which God, humans, and all of creation is reconciled and made whole.

–Nate Hosler


[1] Fred Bahnson and Norman Wirzba, Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation (Downers Grove: IVP, 2012), 21.

[2] Wirzba, 35

Transformed Seeing: Learning from Farm Workers

A little over a week ago I went south to Raleigh, North Carolina for the National Farm Worker Ministry’s board meeting. While my primary objective was to participate in the meetings and activities of the board I did manage to wander the streets of Raleigh the evening before and try out some Carolina BBQ. Today I want to spend some time telling what I saw and reflecting on this in light of the scripture passages we read earlier.

Nate preachning about the farm workers at Washington City Church of the Brethren

Nate preachning about the farm workers at Washington City Church of the Brethren

In Isaiah 51 we read

“Look to the rock from which you were hewn. Look to Abraham your father”

The prophet is calling the people to remember where they came from—to remember that God had delivered them and called them to righteousness and justice. This “remember” reminded me of being in middle school or high school, particularly early on when going out on my own was a newer experience. My parents, rather than listing specific rules that might include things like—“no driving stupidly even though you imagine yourself invincible” or “don’t drink,” they said something to the effect of “remember who you are.” A list of rules would have been tedious and likely not particularly effective. But by saying “remember who you are” they included the entirety of what they had taught and shown during my growing up.

The prophet is calling the people to remember where they came from. To remember they are a people of righteousness and justice and that God delivered them from slavery.

Two days after I arrived home from the National Farm Worker Ministry board meeting I was on a plane to Chicago in order to participate in Church of the Brethren staff meetings in Elgin. Like a good board member I had purchased a NFWM T-Shirt and was wearing it for my day of travel. I had a window seat and was the first person on in my three seat row. While sitting there, looking out the window, and not planning on talking to anyone I suddenly heard—“Oh, we get to sit with the National Farm Worker Ministry.” I looked up to see two women who at first I thought may be Catholic sisters (there are a lot of Catholics in farm worker organizing—and a number of representatives of Catholic women’s orders—nuns—on the NFWM board). It turns out that they were Episcopalian and were professors at Virginia Theological Seminary. It also turns out that they had done work with NFWM quite a long time ago but hadn’t heard much from them for many years.

Now I am in no way implying that they deserted good work and were being unfaithful but my bright red t-shirt that read—“Justice for Farm Workers” reminded them of their past. It reminded them of this particular fight for justice. For these friends, even though they hadn’t been connected with NFWM they had still been concerned and active in struggles for justice, caring for neighbor and the earth. This was not the case for the Israelites. For the Israelites the Prophet is calling them to a radical change back to the way of God. Isaiah calls them to remember who they are–a delivered people—a people of justice and righteousness. Remember where you came from.

While Isaiah in general as a book focuses on Israel’s vocation of justice, righteousness, and relationship to God these few verses specifically remind of several things: where they came from, that the Lord will comfort, that justice will go out in teaching as a light to the nations, and deliverance is coming. This passage focus on these three—where they came from, the salvation of the Lord and (very briefly) that this entails justice. Isaiah reminds us of this as well—we are a people delivered—saved—and called to justice.

On the first day of the meeting we went to visit farm workers. Specifically we visited and listened to farm worker organizers from FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Campaign) and then to labor camps. The founder of FLOC, Baldemar Velasquez spoke to us of his early years of working in the fields and how he came to do this work, which started many decades ago. He started in the fields at age six and organized his first strike at age 12. As migrant farm workers his family moved with the seasons. One year the farmer offered to keep his father on to do handyman work during the winter. Since there weren’t crops to pick Baldemar was able to go to school. He said that the small house the family lived in was so poorly insulated and cold he didn’t need prodding to go to the well heated school.

One of the challenges that farm workers face is that often there are no pay stubs or records of how much they worked and what their pay is. They simply get an envelope with money and have no way of assuring that they are getting paid what they are supposed to. (This pay is also quite low so every bit earned is critical). This is how Baldemar’s father was paid. On one particular occasion he was certain that his envelope didn’t contain all that was owed him. Though he knew it risky, he desperately needed the money, so he decided to ask his supervisor about it. When he did this the man verbally abused him. Young Baldemar was witness to this. It was at this time that he began to question this system. He then told us of successful campaigns in the past, and he told of what they are working on now.

Later in the day we broke up into 3 different groups and visited several labor camps. Sometimes these camps are official but meager structures provided by the farm, sometimes they are unofficial actual camps, and sometimes it is a room or trailer that the workers need to pay rent for. One such trailer visited by a board member on another trip was dilapidated, crowded, and cost each worker $50 a week –which when calculated cost more than the board members child was paying for an apartment in New York City. My group visited two camps.

We went to see—but how do we see?

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.–Romans 12:1-2

Chapter 12 follows Paul’s describing the Gentile readers’ being grafted into the vine of the family of God. This chapter and these verses are the result of this new relationship and connection to God. “by the mercies of God—to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Note the elements of this. Bodies are presented to God for spiritual worship. While this may feel repetitious it is critical that we keep before us that “spiritual” and “material” are not separated. How we live is not separate from how we worship. Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, cannot be distilled down to “being a good person” or “worshipping God with a pure heart.”

The passage continues, 2 “Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Don’t be conformed but transformed. Don’t be stuffed into the world’s mold but be changed into something new. This being conformed indicates a restriction. A restriction in how we live, relate to others, see, and hear. One risk of this “world” language is that at times Christians have set a hard barrier between themselves and the “world” which is seen to be corrupt. I would like to make a slight distinction in how I believe the Bible uses “world” and some of the ways we might understand this. The Psalms, for example, celebrate many things in the world. That is they celebrate creation but also celebrate food and relationships. These things certainly can be over celebrated, abused, or worshiped but are in and of themselves beautiful and part of God’s good gifts. There is another, darker, understanding of world that I believe this passage is responding to. It is, for example, the system and habits of greed which place our own selves above others, above God, and above God’s creation. The old Brethren sought to distance themselves from this world by a variety of practices of non-conformity. One small thing was that men did not have mustaches because elaborate mustaches were signs of vanity and were also associated with the military. We also had unadorned churches—which were called meeting houses—so that we would focus on God and not seek to look good.

The passage doesn’t, however, stop with a negative “do not conform” but continues with a “be transformed.” “But be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Being transformed we will know the will of God. Being transformed will begin to see like God. See in the way God sees. Hold this vision of transformed seeing for a bit while I head back to the farm workers.

During a time of reflecting on our experiences meeting farm workers and organizers the day before, a question mark arose. Most of these workers had gone to great lengths to get here and many have stayed for many years. While there have been cases of virtual or actual slavery, in Florida, for example, this is not exactly what we found. My group spoke with a man from Haiti who has been picking tobacco for 34 years. This despite the sickness people often feel from absorbing significant nicotine from handling the tobacco. Another worker we met is soon turning 28 and has been here for 9 years. When he described his home in Mexico with abundant fruits we asked why he stayed. He said he has friends and its “quiet”—that he liked it.  When he brought out a large bucket which holds 32 lbs of jalapeño peppers we asked how long it took to pick—15 minutes. And how much do you make from it?–$1, so that’s $4 an hour. There were probably hundreds of peppers in this large bucket. His fingers were blistered from the repetition of picking for 11-12 hours.

Though these conditions were obviously bad some of the group began to wonder why, if people keep coming and seem content, why do we do what we do? While some noted that this situation was complex, David of the United Methodists urged us not to call it complexity. Call it what it is—a system of greed. “Complexity” gives the impression of moral ambiguity. This is a system of greed and my desire for cheap food is a cause.

This is part of the being transformed. This is part of my seeing being transformed.

One of the participants was a visitor to the board meeting. She is a seminary student interested in food and environmental justice who the director invited to join us. She was in my group and met the jalapeño picking fellow. When we reflected as a group on this experience she spoke and was obviously moved. She said, “For several years I worked in a grocery store. I unloaded boxes of peppers from a particular farm. I saw those boxes at the farm today. (paraphrase)” These boxes were no longer just boxes filled somewhere somehow. They were filled by Sergio. Her vision was transformed.

Now this is not a call to paralyzing guilt but it is a call to attend to the transforming of our vision–to our total transformation. When our seeing is transformed—unsurprisingly, we see differently. How do we see? Who do we see?

Do we see the farm workers hidden from our sight back off the road? Do we see the system with its greed? Do we see our involvement? Do we see the people who abuse the workers?

Do we see Jesus?

“2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Go now, transformed.

–Nathan Hosler

Should Dunker Punks Play Politics?

Dunkers have been nonconformists since 1708, and punks certainly are no fans of politicians, so what do DunkerPunks have to say when it comes to the messy business of politics. Anything? Can we successfully work for social progress in the political arena while faithfully following Christ? Let’s see…

At NYC, Jarrod gave us a working definition of a DunkerPunk:

Jarrod sitting in front of his Dunker Punk Definition

Jarrod sitting in front of his Dunker Punk Definition

 “A young person who is a member of a rebellious countercultural tradition that radically commits their life to living God’s Calvary-shaped love in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the Father.”

This definition gives us a firm foundation for each of us to root ourselves in, no matter what context we are currently living in. Having this rootedness is key. DunkerPunks must be individually and communally rooted in scripture, Brethren theology and traditions, and the immediate context and community surrounding each of us.

It may sound fun to be countercultural or rebellious, but we can only be authentically and effectively countercultural if we spend time steeping ourselves in scripture and Brethren community. We have to figure out where we fit in to the larger story, so that we can faithfully contribute to the development of that story. If we fail to do that, our efforts will be in vain, or unintelligible, at best.

When applying this to politics (in this instance, specifically immigration reform) we have to be sure we know why are faith is compelling us to enter the realm of politics. Because advocating for immigration reform (or many other political issues) can make sense on many levels (economic, humanitarian, etc.), but why did over 100 religious leaders recently engage in nonviolent protest and get arrested because of their action? Because of faith convictions that have sharpened their moral understanding of how we are called to treat others.

We have scripture instructing us to be kind to the sojourner, and most importantly we have Jesus modeling self-sacrificial love in his life, teachings, death, and resurrection. This ‘calvary-shaped love’ is what this whole movement hangs on. If we take it seriously, people take notice, and the world can actually change.

I recently listened to an OnBeing Podcast with Lutheran Pastor Nadia-Bolz-Weber and her thoughts on how to be both orthodox and creative struck me as words DunkerPunks should heed as we continue this journey. She said:

“I really feel strongly that you have to be deeply rooted in tradition in order to innovate with integrity…So we are taking these traditions and we’re living them out and then we’re tweaking them in ways that are super meaningful or funny or relevant for us. So it’s always both for us.”–Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber

When we apply this thinking to our original query, I think the answer is quite clear that yes we can get involved with politics (just as we can get involved with many other pursuits outside of the traditional church), but we must be deeply rooted in our tradition so that we can innovate with integrity and act faithfully.

How do you think DunkerPunks can innovate with integrity? What Brethren traditions have the potential to be reimagined for transformative purposes? Leave us some comments below about your ideas!

In Christ’s Peace,

Bryan Hanger


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Ways to tell I’m an American

By Julia Schmidt

Julia Schmidt with graffiti

Julia Schmidt. Photo by Kristin Flory.

As I have now been in Europe for a while, I have noticed quite a few differences. I do not feel like a typical American; in fact I am in the minority when I claim my pacifism beliefs and my worries about politics in the U.S. However, it is when I am far from the U.S. when I realize just how American I am. And so here we go, five ways you can tell I am an American.

1) The most obvious one is when I open my mouth. My Croatian is still very rough and I most often speak in English. And my English is obviously American. People will ask me where I am from and I answer the United States and they always give me the “duh, I know that,” look, followed by “which state?”

2) The second obvious way to tell I am American is that I am not afraid of going outside with wet hair or flats without socks, even in the winter. I should first say, when I do these things in the winter, I am walking perhaps 100 feet outside from my dorm to the library. I know I will only be outside a few seconds and thus I am not worried about getting sick. However, Croatians look at me like I am crazy! Croatians, like a lot of Europeans, believe that by going outside with wet hair or not wearing enough clothes, you will get sick! And I think this is true of them. I believe that if you are worried or think you will get sick, you are more likely to do so. However, I just laugh it off and tell people I am American and thus will not get sick. I doubt that I will ever wear as many layers or as heavy coats as Croatians… that just seems hot!

3) I think a lot about getting things done and being as productive as possible. This does not mean that I act in ways that are productive all of the time, but I feel like all my time should be spent doing things. Croatia is a relationship culture, meaning that spending time with people is more important than production. People regularly sit in coffee shops for hours over one drink just catching up with friends. They are not worried about what they have to do next or the fact that they are getting nothing “accomplished” during this time. Even in the work environment, I don’t see people as stressed as in America. Even though people want to get work done and done well, people still realize the value of genuine conversation and relationships. I admire this part of the culture so much and am trying hard to calm down and focus more on the relationships in my own life than worry about how productive I am being or should be.

4) I try to be as polite in any situation. I am not saying that Croatians are rude, but they can be blunt and they don’t believe in fake smiles. I was talking with one of my Croatian friends and she complained to me about the American fake smile, the one we give when we believe the other person is wrong, but we think it would be rude to say our opinion out loud. She hates this smile because you can see from a mile away that it is insincere. As an American, I have been trained to use this smile, believing that it is more important to be polite than sincere. Now, I see the problem with this. I am trying harder to not give this smile and more sincere. I don’t know think I will ever get rid of my extreme politeness, but I believe that Croatians are right not to beat around the bush and say things the way they are.

5) I do not use a multitude of emoticons. I am not saying this is a bad thing, but I have noticed when I receive a message from a Croatian friends, there are smiley faces after almost every sentence. In the U.S. we might use one smiley face every once in a while, but not nearly to the extreme that my non-American friends do. I asked a Croatian friend about this and she answered that they just want their writing to be more pretty. I respect that. And I have tried to use more just so I do not appear rude.

These are just a few ways you can tell I am American. I am sure there are many more. To my Croatian friends, if you read this and think of other ways you can tell I’m American, please let me know! I find cultural differences extremely interesting.

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Y-P-double-T hits the big city

Youth Peace Travel Team at Annual Conference

Youth Peace Travel Team at Annual Conference 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Regina Holmes.

Y-P-double-T hits the big city! No, not Elgin or McPherson, but the bustling metropolis of Columbus, Ohio, to attend Annual Conference. AC was a whole new animal for us – not only was the spacious conference center and comfortable hotel room a bit of a shock after 3 weeks of camp life, but the vast variety of ages and ideas gathered at conference challenged us as inclusive teachers of peace. While we typically give a team report of our week, conference proved to be a widely different experience for each of us. So, I will tell you of our tasks followed by my opinions of AC 2014, and then allow my teammates to contribute their own unique thoughts.

As is typical of a peace teamer’s summer, our tasks throughout the week varied greatly. We were able to express our gratitude and give updates to each of our mentors and sponsoring organizations. My favorite meal was the Outdoor Ministries Association lunch, as I felt at home among camp folk who sang proudly and had great things to say about each of the camps and staffs that we are visiting this summer.

Peace doodles

Peace doodles: destroying injustice (Annual Conference 2014)

Hanging out with the youth for a day allowed us to introduce ourselves and teach some of our favorite aspects of just peace. A huge highlight came for me when a student, who was initially reluctant to discuss social justice issues because they are “important but boring,” ended up enjoying our discussion and doodled symbols of the destruction of injustice, like wrecking balls against poverty and activist stick-people. Later that night, we got to lead songs at the youth’s “campfire”, which was difficult in the basement of a conference center. Although the fire was dead, the spirit of joyful singing was alive! We were lucky enough to spend an hour with our junior high friends, who brought refreshing energy to our Care for Creation activity. It was inspirational to share conversations with representatives from organizations such as On Earth Peace and Womaen’s Caucus. These moments allowed us to recharge our peacemaking batteries in the presence of those who are radical and affirming in their work and in their lives. Above all, I particularly enjoyed getting to meet and know the families of my fellow teammates, along with reconnecting with beloved members of my home church and beyond.

-Chris

This, believe it or not, was my very first Annual Conference, which gave me a unique and slightly critical perspective of the entire experience. Unfortunately, I was rather ill throughout the week, which meant that I was bed ridden more often than I was listening in on business sessions or hanging out in the exhibit hall. But of the events I was able to attend, I was mostly pleased. As a peacemaker, I was encouraged by those people and groups that called us to engage in conversation with those of different opinion than ourselves. For example, Bill Scheurer of On Earth Peace challenged us to record short conversations of our visions of peace with people that we may not normally approach. I was encouraged by the active listening that occurred during business sessions, interlaced with sporadic hymn-sings and blessings of those whose work we benefit from and deeply appreciate. This is not to say that there weren’t any frustrating aspects of the conference process and this conference in particular. Like many, I was disappointed by the outcome of the vote on the climate change paper. I recently finished reading Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s book “Jesus for President,” which has ignited a radical reformist spark inside of me that did not seem to be satisfied by conference. But, as Chris’s sister Elizabeth said, we are called to grow where we are planted, so I challenged myself to do just that. Overall, the immense support that was expressed to our team was overwhelming and humbling. So, thanks to our sponsors and our many supporters for a great conference, but mostly for sending us off on a wonderful journey and checking in with us along the way!

-Shelley

Annual Conference was a wonderful experience this year as a member of the peace team. I was struck by the enormous quantity of people who showed up at conference that we had already met throughout this summer. It was an utter joy to see how many people we’ve already connected with—and we’re only halfway done! One of the biggest highlights for me came in the form of an insight session that my Granddad Crouse and I were asked to lead by On Earth Peace. We were to converse about his dreams and my visions of peace in this world. He shared stories upon stories such as defending his peace stance in Turkey and Ecuador as well as sharing his dreams for the multi-ethnic church he is helping plant in Florida. I spoke about being challenged by classmates in debate class about my peace stance, holding a peace event in the military community that I live in, and describing some peacemaking role models that I appreciate.

The culmination of this experience for me happened more inside of myself rather than out loud. The last question on the list my Granddad and I created was, “How do you see your vision of peace coming to fruition in the world?” We didn’t get to this question because we had limited time, but my Granddad’s ending thoughts connected perfectly to my planned out answer. Before the session, I had reflected on this and came up with two words: awareness and intentionality. Awareness of the needs, feelings, and culture of those around us is vital to peace between individuals. Furthermore, using peaceful practices like I-statements and avoiding gossip takes intentionality and is not necessarily our instinct, but makes a huge difference in constructing positive relationships.

So, at the end of the session, my Granddad spoke about the crisis with the kidnapped Nigerian girls and how he has been struggling with how he can act in response to the situation. He stated that after much thought, he had developed a plan for himself. This plan contained an extensive title and nine bullet points of action including 1. Taking at least five minutes per day to pray for the girls, their families, and the kidnappers. 2. Fast from (insert specific foods and such here) for a certain amount of time. The list went on. The last bullet, number nine, said Granddad was going to seek out Muslims in his community and develop friendships with them. This is when I began to cry. My Granddad, in number nine, expressed the desire to show acute awareness of the culture of those around him. His plan, nine specific actions, is literally the definition of intentionality. Basically, my Granddad was fulfilling my vision of peace right before my eyes. And he didn’t even know it.

-Christy

While this wasn’t my first Annual Conference, I only really have memories of one other. That one other conference was the 300th Anniversary conference in Richmond. For me the most impactful moments of my week came not from anything at conference itself, but from the people I had conversations with outside of sessions and the gym I had at my disposal in the hotel. Many of the people I talked with were old friends, some of which I hadn’t seen in years. Be them people I had worked at Camp Bethel with or gone to Christian Citizenship Seminar with, the ability to rekindle relationships was great.

As silly as it sounds, the other aspect of our week at conference that really helped lift me up was having access to a gym. Be it this gym wasn’t exactly what I would pick (no squat rack equals a sad Jake) but it did give me an opportunity to finally lift semi-heavy things again. This was especially important for me on the Fourth of July. For those of you who don’t know, I am a Crossfitter. One aspect of Crossfit is the use of “Hero Workouts” to honor fallen police, firefighters, and military. Even as a pacifist this is an aspect of Crossfit that I have felt very passionate about the reason behind these workouts. These workouts are typically done on some sort of day of military recognition, such as Memorial Day or 9/11. The workouts done on these days are named after and done in honor of a particular person or persons that died in the line of duty. In the case of this Fourth of July I did the workout “Joshie” in honor of Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Whitaker, who was killed in Afghanistan on May 15th, 2007.

This workout stuck out to me for two reasons. One, I had the equipment available to do the workout. Two, my sister is the same age as Joshua was. The thought of losing my sister helped me empathize just a fraction of what Joshua’s family must have felt. While I did this workout I didn’t play any music, and I didn’t have a workout partner. I used this time as a reflective time for myself and my life. “Hero Workouts” are made to be longer, harder, and more painful than normal Crossfit workouts. But the mindset, at least for me, while I do them is that that pain which I feel now is nothing compared to the sacrifices that the person which I am honoring had to endure. I don’t agree with Joshua that the way to solve the conflicts in Afghanistan are through military action. But, I respect him for having the courage to stand up for what he believed in, even at the risk of losing his own life. I appreciate the freedom that I have and recognize that that freedom is what Joshua died for.

I think far too often in discussing peace or our opposition to war we fail to recognize the courage it takes to stand up for what you believe in. Yeah, it’s not necessarily the same things we believe in, I still think a certain level of respect and honor needs to be bestowed upon the members of our military. Service has many forms, just like peace and love do.

-Jake

Annual Conference was a struggle for me this year. I had experienced dissatisfaction at business before and I knew the worship messages were not what I was used to, but despite this knowledge it all managed to bother me again. It has been some time since I was at Annual Conference and I attempted to give more of myself in the process this time, to pay more attention to the goings on of the church and the message of each worship. But I still felt disappointed and disconnected. I wanted courageous leaders, people who weren’t afraid of the reaction of the denomination to their own personal beliefs, but need to share that real piece of them because that is what Jesus calls us to do. We need to be genuine and personable. We need to be open; peace and pacifism are not so limited in scope as to just being against war.

Where I spent my personal time was also a struggle. My family all traveled to Columbus, Ohio for Annual Conference. Some came for different reasons than others but we all congregated with our church for the first time in two years. I felt truly blessed to have this opportunity to be doing work that I loved and also be able to visit with my family. I talked extensively with my brother, sisters, grandmother and mother. The Youth Peace Travel Team also got to meet my family and learn about the people that are the main players in my stories. I love the Youth Peace Travel Team, but it was a struggle balancing time with them, Annual Conference activities, and my family. Instead I just combined two of my favorite activities and asked the Peace Team to hang out with me and my family. I enjoyed the experiences of Annual Conference and felt blessed to have the opportunity with my family.

-Chris

 

Putting the “why” in family

A family can be defined as the body of people that first allow one to experience God’s love. It is comprised of people of different ages and gifts, and nurtures all of its members through their physical and spiritual growth. Often a family has its own quirks that make being in its company comfortingly unique. While Camp Stover was often described as an “intergenerational camp,” we prefer to describe it by a more accurate title: family camp.

Singing around the campfire at Camp Stover

Singing around the campfire at Camp Stover

This week gave us the rare opportunity to minister to and learn from campers of all ages, from baby to elder and everyone in between. Our wiser friends taught us what it looks like to worship wholeheartedly and be leaders of their own families and the family of God. We helped them to see the hope in the younger generations of campers. Our in-between friends showed us what thought-provoking preaching feels like (thanks Uncle Josh!), what active listening sounds like, and what meaningful mentorship looks like. In turn, they allowed us to practice these skills for ourselves. Our youthful friends taught us what it looks like to work hard and play hard, as they ungrudgingly completed service projects and kitchen patrol by day (singing along the way, I might add) and dominated ping pong tournaments by night. In return, we shared with them lessons and testimonies of peace. And our youngest friends taught us the innocence of childhood and encouraged us to indulge in it as we joined them on the playground and enthusiastically listened to their unending stories. With diversity of age comes diversity of learning, from which we enjoyed greatly.

As for our specific participation with the Camp Stover family, our tasks ranged widely. We led morning watch every day for a small but lively crowd. We shared each evening at large group campfire, although we preferred to step back and let the varied gifts of the community shine. We taught a few of our sessions to junior, junior high, and youth campers, which tested our adaptability as a group. We were blessed to join the youth on a hike through mountains and granite ridges, led by “Mountain Man Dan” and putting the personalized walking sticks he crafted for us to great use.  We even sang lullabies one night, where we simultaneously calmed down the rowdiest of junior boys and rejoiced in our growing musical abilities. Each task was an opportunity for us to make connections, create content, and soak up the many facets of beauty that make up this Idaho camp.

We are thankful for yet another week of being welcomed into a family, but especially the unique family of Camp Stover. We leave with knowledge of many new songs, relationships with friends of all ages, and grateful hearts for the encouraging adventure that was family camp at Camp Stover.

-Shelley

Art project at Camp Stover

Art project at Camp Stover

At Camp Stover, we truly experienced a new dimension of the term “family camp.” Not only were families present, but we were also treated like part of the family there. We were cared for in many ways including one leader, Tanya, asking us our favorite snacks and then buying them at the store for us! Being on the road (or in the air) for weeks helps you appreciate the little expressions of hospitality that people show you. Along those lines, a virus was making its way throughout the camp and happened to infiltrate my system as well. I got extremely sick with a stomach bug and was quarantined all day with small children who also had the sickness (caution tape was even put around our cabin). What I didn’t expect was to have at least four women act as mothers, bringing me blankets, drinks, and setting up movies for me and the kids to watch while we were in bed. I felt so cared for and loved! Plus, watching Despicable Me & Grease twice with some campers in a cabin all day really creates some interesting memories. Once I was better, I can’t count how many people approached me saying they missed me in our sessions and at morning watch! It feels great to know I matter and help make a difference.

-Christy

Hikers at Camp Wilbur Stover

Hiking at Camp Wilbur Stover (Idaho)

Camp Stover is a beautiful example of God’s love in so many ways. From the family atmosphere to the nature all around, it is clear that this place exemplifies beauty. But one of the places I felt closest to God during our stay occurred off site. On Wednesday when we went hiking with the youth I experienced hiking in a brand new way. In the past whenever I had hiked I stayed confined to the trail laid before me, never really exploring the nature just yards away from me. This hike was done “Mountain Man Dan” style which pretty much consists of, “You see that ridge? Yeah get over there however you want.” Amazing! It was so cool to see all the various ways people crossed the granite mountainside while all ending up at the same place. It was the trip down that really got to me though. There were fallen trees all over the place as aftermath of a fire that had happened in the past. As a result the marsh-like area atop the mountain was easiest crossed via playing the game “The Ground is Lava.”

While making our way down the mountain I thought I was leading a group of about 8 across the trees. It wasn’t until about 5-10 minutes without looking back that I realized that all of the group except one camper had chosen to stop playing this game. That one camper, Carrie, and I made a pact that we were going to travel down the entire rest of the mountain using only trees and rocks. It wasn’t quick, it wasn’t easy, and yes it may have been really stupid considering a storm looked like it was about to roll in. But, it’s a hike that for me will stand out against all other hikes I’ve been on. Carrie and I had the opportunity to experience the freedom of hiking with no path with the feeling of creating our own unique path. I can truly say that the closest I felt to God all week was while traversing that mountain – experiencing God’s beauty in a unique and memorable way.

-Jake

Family to me was expressed on the last campfire on Friday evening. Jake came up with a great idea to do a “You know you are at Camp Stover when…” skit in which we would state happenings that are inseparable from Camp Stover. As we all compiled a list of the elements that make Camp Stover, I was really appreciative of Camp Stover and all that we had come to experience (and yes my collaborative family as well, the YPTT). Jokes were tossed around from the way Keith prays to Mountain Man Dan being the MAN, from golf carts to tournaments and much more. We performed the skit all together and the crowd roared with laughter. Each member of that camp knew each other; although we did not share every experience the personalities were unique enough that all could buy into the humor. It was at this moment that I truly experienced the family of Camp Stover. They had a tight knit structure and every camper had in some way, shape or form had experienced the gifts of others. I was touched by Josh Brockway’s sermons, struck by the care of the camp as Goose Creek Murmurs were shared by Keith, and burst with excitement at learning how to play horseshoes from Scott, Anna, and Gary. And we as the Youth Peace Travel Team had somehow tapped into all that positivity and made a hilarious skit of it all. It was well received by the whole camp and we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Camp Stover. I know we will always be welcome at Camp Wilbur Stover because hospitality and a spirit of warming welcome make home there.

-Chris

 

Mountaintop Experiences at Camp Colorado

It was an eerily turbulent flight into storms in Denver, but the YP-double-T landed safely and were happy to begin our week of work and fun at Camp Colorado. We were immediately enchanted by the rustic beauty of the camp and warmed by the welcomes of camp staff. (Unfortunately, their kind words didn’t do much to keep our toes warm at night – but their gracious gift of blankets did!).

The week promised to be a change of pace, as we were going to be working with junior high campers and giving our five planned sessions their first go. But, after a week full of hiking to new heights, diving head-first into emotional depths, and taking a closer look at the gospel of peace, we can confidently report that this week made a difference.

Group at Camp Colorado

Amazing, awesome, bold, original and unique campers at Camp Colorado

While we could immediately feel the breath-taking and lip-chapping effects of being 7500 feet above sea level, the true mountaintop experiences of the week revealed themselves more slowly. Some of us soared as our small group meetings invited and facilitated conversations surrounding the role of Jesus in our lives and His awesome healing powers. Some of us thrived when we went down to the river to play. And it’s safe to say that everyone, including the neighbors’ “polar bears” (giant flufftastic white dogs), smiled their way to the top of Russell’s Ridge, a beautiful hike and camp tradition. We were on top of the world as our staff and students displayed their creativity and goofiness during Thursday night’s talent show, as the gifted Jerry Bowen led us in meaningful and relevant spiritual exercises, as we were treated to musical and comedic performances as campers (and your very own YPTT) received mail, and as we gathered each morning in the warm sunshine and each evening around the blazing fire to pray together.

As previously mentioned, this week was our first opportunity to teach the lessons we hope to teach many more times throughout the summer: Biblical foundations of peacemaking, bullying education, just peace, care for creation, and interpersonal conflict resolution. It took some late nights of planning and on-the-fly adjustments, but the interest and interaction of the campers energized us and reassured our excitement for the important work we are doing this summer. Highlights included our small group discussions about social justice issues and how to start tackling them together, an interactive game that encouraged passion and community organizing against a destructive corporation, and an uplifting affirmation activity to wrap up the week. We anticipate continuing to give our whole selves to this great teaching task as the weeks wear on, for the rewards are life-giving and fill up our cups.

Although parts of the week were intentionally planned to allow both campers and staff to recall and wrestle with deep pain and sorrow in our lives, the healing of Christ and the support of the camp community trump the burdens we face and the bruises we endure. We have been climbing the mountain and have lost our breath a few times along the way, but we have new relationships and new perspectives to guide us for the rest of the journey. We are immensely thankful to have had another week of growth, learning, hospitality, and PEACE!

-Shelley

Mountaintop experiences occurred frequently for me at Camp Colorado; the primary reason for this was the impact of God’s majestic creation, which always seems to touch me in the core of my being. The first experience of this was going to the river some miles away from the camp. Jamming out on the way through the mountains, then wading into the refreshing, chilly river stimulated my senses. Getting to know a new friend, hearing about their life in the middle of the beautiful rushing water, the background sounds of campers playing & splashing, surrounded by massive mountains with protruding boulders combined to make a stellar experience. Another night, Shelley & I slept under the stars, listening to Bon Iver & Jonsi as well as the forest sounds around us. I counted fifteen shooting stars before drifting to sleep. After hiking to Russell’s Ridge with the entire camp, I decided to run to the top by myself. Reaching the peak, exhausted & joyous, I sat on the rocks staring out over the mountainous expanse watching the sun melt over the trees. Amidst these exclusive encounters with God’s glorious nature, the underlying importance of it all was the connection felt by each member of the camp community. We bonded together over hikes, swims, & just simply looking around us. In our Care for Creation session, we agreed that Camp Colorado was a sacred space for us all thus deserving our ultimate care. What special mountaintop experiences to be had on the Camp Colorado mountaintop!

- Christy

Youth Peace Travel Team at Camp Colorado

Youth Peace Travel Team 2014 at Camp Colorado.

There were many mountaintop experiences while at Camp Colorado, some literally occurring while atop a mountain. The first I would classify as a not a single mountaintop, but a continuing experience. I would awake every morning and workout while at Camp Colorado. Upon finishing my post-workout shower, usually before many other people had woken up, I would go to the lodge and make a fire. These fires were a place where I often talked with the camp nurse Robert. Robert and I bonded while talking by these fires and became friends. Our friendship grew a bit though one night, once again involving fire. After a bit of rain had passed earlier that day I was asked to build the campfire for that night. After being unsuccessful for a while, who should show up but Robert. The two of us then proceeded to build a fire, despite all laws of fire building being noncompliant (dry pine needles, cardboard, and paper all not wanting to light for more than a split second). It was upon the creation of this particularly difficult fire that I can say that I really felt I was atop a mountain. We had earned that fire, a fire that we were able to share with an amazing group of junior high campers. The second experience I’d like to share is one that literally occurred while at the top of a mountain. While sitting on the mountaintop talking with one of the counselors, and accompanied by a dog-named BJ, I soaked in God’s beauty in many ways. The beauty of the view we had atop Russell’s Ridge, the beauty in the simplicity of the nature around me, the beauty in the meaningful conversation two people can share, and the beauty in the ways God guides our lives, even in ways that we don’t fully understand.

-Jake

Group activity at Camp Colorado

Group activity at Camp Colorado

Camp Colorado overflowed with compassion, heart, and care for others. The staff’s passion for the sacred space of Camp Colorado was transparent in all their actions. During our last session this atmosphere of warmth was palpable. The Youth Peace Travel Team led the last hour-long session on Friday that taught about Interpersonal Conflict and how “I Feel” statements can be used to diffuse a situation. At the end of the session I led an activity that spoke to the caring and love we had found amongst the junior high campers of Camp Colorado. I have been a participant of this activity before, and I thought it would be fitting to include in our curriculum. The activity, named “Taps”, does not offer up a lesson, but rather conveys the power of others and their compliments. All involved are asked to sit in a circle facing outward with their eyes closed in a peaceful and relaxed mood. The group is then numbered off into three to five groups depending upon size. One group is called in to the middle of the circle and asked to tap those in the activity who they embody the statement read to them. I stood in the middle reading statements: “Tap someone you have laughed with,” “Tap someone who is powerful,” “Tap someone who helped you heal,” “Tap someone who surprised you.” After each statement is read the people involved are given a minute or so to tap someone. I was surprised by the whole camp and the willingness of the campers to engage in an activity as giving as this one. Campers and staffers blew me away with their compassion for one another. They all had truly bonded over this one week of camp. Some members of the circle cried and some smiled but they all enjoyed the positive energy that was suspended about the room. And I believe it is created not by the activity, but the people involved, the power of that intimate silence shared by ones who love each other. I am grateful for the chance to be at Camp Colorado and to share this moment with such beautiful people. The best part about Taps is that it doesn’t matter who taps you, you are amazing, awesome, bold, original and unique regardless, the compliment is still the same.

-Chris

 

Youth Peace Travel Team 2014 – Camp Mount Hermon Moments

Senior High Camp at Mt. Hermon, Western Plains Districtbell

Greetings, wonderful supporters of the Youth Peace Travel Team! This is Shelley speaking, and I’d like to take a moment to orient you in how we plan to blog our adventures throughout the summer. Each week, one team member will write an overarching summary of our time and leadership at each camp or conference, followed by more personal reflections from the remaining three members. This week, I have the honor of documenting a summary of our time at our first camp of the summer, Camp Mt. Hermon!

Moments – goofy moments spent interacting with senior high campers and fellow Camp Mt. Hermon staff, heartbreaking moments spent witnessing the struggles facing our youth and listening to their burdens, victorious moments in Ultimate Frisbee and Capture the Flag games. The 2014 Youth Peace Travel Team’s time at our first camp of the summer can be summed up by the joy and sorrow found in these precious moments.

We were first greeted by thousands of sandy-colored butterflies as we rolled down the rocky drive on Sunday afternoon, and next greeted by enthusiastic parents, campers, and staff at YPTT’s own Jake Frye’s home camp. It wasn’t long before the inevitable and all-uniting Frisbee discs were brought out to help us learn names and personalities, and not much longer until the bell, the central time-keeping device of camp, was rung. Throughout the week, it was the rustic metal bell that alerted us when it was time to come together to sing praises, break bread, swim ecstatically (cough cough Chris), gather around the campfire, and when to whisper our last prayers and fall asleep at the end of each life-giving day.

Jen Jensen, our director for the week, said it best when she proclaimed that at Camp Mt. Hermon, “we work hard, we play hard, and we worship hard”. We worked purposefully during daily chores, service projects at camp and church, and while serving lunch at a soup kitchen in Kansas City (a special Camp Mt. Hermon tradition). We played cooperatively during Camp Mt. Hermon Olympics, late-night glow-in-the-dark Ultimate Frisbee, and old-school tetherball before mealtimes. We worshipped wholeheartedly each night around the campfire, where campers had opportunities to illustrate both the burdens of daily life at home and the hope brought by camp and the power of God. The pinnacle of our worship occurred on Friday night when the feet of campers, counselors, friends, enemies, brothers and sisters, and once-strangers were washed all the same (for 2.5 emotional hours!). It was the bell that kept us in a daily rhythm, but the real human moments in between that make camp life and our work so special.

The leadership of YP-double-T at Camp Mt. Hermon was used primarily to lead campers in “hot topics” discussions, where we facilitated open and candid discussions about anything from war to drugs and alcohol. We experienced moments of honesty from campers who felt safe in sharing their opinions, moments of unity as youth discovered that they could respect the differing views of their peers, and moments of silence as we were called to deeply reflect upon current events through a Christ-centered lens. We also asked campers to help us in starting a big summer project – a traveling mural focused around their visions for peace. They blew us out of the water with their creativity and diligent work in illustrating Camp Mt. Hermon’s visions.

As we leave Camp Mt. Hermon with full hearts, we feel honored to have been welcomed into such an uplifting community and participated in its traditions and pastimes. We are thankful for the moments we shared connecting with campers, laughing with staff, continually getting to know each other, and serving our Lord. While the old reliable camp bell was anything but quiet, we are at peace with the Spirit-filled moments that we were blessed with each day at Camp Mt. Hermon.

-Shelley

small group

Shelley summed up daily, wonderful life at Camp Mt. Hermon, but no blog could contain all of the meaningful memories made this past week. One of the most significant ones for me came in the form of the homeless men and women that we met in the soup kitchen whom we served on Thursday afternoon. We sat and spoke with them while we all ate and discussed life. A man I conversed with over lunch was really open with me about his struggles with alcoholism and we were able to have an honest conversation that impacted us both. In the end, he left saying, “I hope all of your dreams come true, Christy” and I told him I would keep him and his family in my prayers. Moments like that are unforgettable. Another significant time for me was the concert played by my brother Jacob Crouse and friend Mat Thorton! From covers of “Let It Go” from Frozen, “Happy” by Pharell, and “One Day” by Matisyahu to their originally written and composed worship music, the concert got our hands a’clappin’ and our feet a’tappin’. I even got to sing on a couple songs with them, which felt amazing. Nothing can beat worshipping the Lord alongside both camp family and family family :). The music engaged us all and it meant a ton to every one of us for them to share their time and talent with the Camp Mt. Hermon community!

-Christy

Art at mt hermon

Washing dishes

I attended Camp Mt. Hermon every summer from 2003-2012, including two years of counseling junior high youth in 2011 and 2012. During those two years of counseling that I met a great group of kids that I had the joy of returning to this summer. When I left that group in 2012, I viewed them as kids. Upon my return this summer I was greeted not by the kids I had left, but by young men and women with love and compassion for this community that lifts my soul. This love was most exemplified in our Friday night foot washing service. As a young Brethren man I have been a part of numerous foot washing services. But, none of them compare to the beauty of this service. For two and a half hours I watched young men and women wash each others’ feet. As tradition, four counselors volunteered to wash the feet of the campers, one of those privileged being me this year. It was incredibly humbling for me to be a servant for this amazing group of young people. The foot washing didn’t end with us counselors washing the feet of our campers, the campers then proceeded to wash the feet of their peers. Brothers and sisters, both in faith and in blood, serving each other in breathtaking acts of love. The community at Camp Mt. Hermon has always been its strongest attribute. This attribute is so much more beautiful and meaningful when you’re working behind the scenes though. The spiritual and emotional growth I’ve witnessed in these campers restores my faith the future of the church. Remembering their inability to sit still for a short camp fire just three years ago and surpassing it with this wonderful new memory of humility, love, and service. As I become part of the community which helps build Camp Mt. Hermon, I look at these young people and am assured that this community is one molded by God and bound together in a love that must be experienced in order to understand.

-Jake

Chris thumbs up
At Camp Mt. Hermon we were called upon to lead a campfire on Wednesday night. The theme for that night was “Jesus as Teacher.” As we walked around the campfire leading songs, old and new, I was struck with awe at our energy. We were alive, we were singing the songs as loud as possible and the campers responded with their own vivacious cheer. We were together. The moment felt as if we had arrived, the beginning of a coming into being of what it really meant to be a member of the YPTT. I was impressed with our ability to draw in the campers and allow the energy to move through all of them.

As the campfire continued, Christy shared scripture and spoke more on how balancing one’s faith takes effort when we have the distractions of daily life set before us. Then I told a story about an incident with my brother that showed me what true grace was, and how Jesus had taught me through that moment. Jake described his life journey and how he struggled with his own foundation in life. He emphasized that Jesus teaches the importance of a strong foundation and challenged each camper to find their own stable base to rely on in times of uncertainty. Shelley ended the campfire with Peace Pilgrim’s Prayer.

It was a beautiful service and we really connected with the people of Camp Mt. Hermon. I felt caressed by the warmth and welcoming of Camp Mount Hermon, and the refreshing joy of starting such an exciting journey with three amazing people. I feel blessed.

-Chris

 

Pentecost, Climate Change, and God’s Good Earth

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a big step towards combating climate change when it announced that it is implementing the Clean Power Plan, which will cut the amount of carbon that power companies are allowed to release into the atmosphere to 30% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. The EPA and the Obama administration are hoping that this first step will encourage growth in clean and renewable energy sectors while also improving public health and showing consumers and other industries that business can continue successfully while complying with standards that allow us to be better stewards of our climate.

This is the first large public policy action on climate change that has been taken by the United States government under President Obama, but how are we to think of such things from a theological perspective? Why should the church comment on such matters? Well, perhaps the wonky details of the EPA’s plan are not of much immediate interest to many, but these wonky details are some of the biggest concrete steps towards addressing climate change that the US has ever made, and that should be important to us. Because when we talk about climate change, we are talking about God’s good earth that we are commissioned to be stewards of. We are talking about the same planet that the Psalmist praises God for in our lectionary text this week:

“O Lord, how manifold are your works!
 In wisdom you have made them all;
 the earth is full of your creatures.

 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
 creeping things innumerable are there,
 living things both small and great.”—Psalm 104: 24-25

"The Fifth Day of Creation"--from http://www.kenrick.edu/etchings/biblical/pages/page_5.html

“The Fifth Day of Creation”–from http://www.kenrick.edu/etchings/biblical/pages/page_5.html

The Psalmist’s song of praise reminds of the goodness of God and all of creation, but we must also remember that this is the same Earth that we so often use and abuse for our own purposes. Ezekiel reminds us of our exploits and their consequences:

As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?”—Ezekiel 34:17-19

We have for too long been like the stubborn, sheep and goats in Ezekiel’s passage who have had their fill of water and food and left nothing but fouled up water for everybody else. We have willfully ignored the global destruction of creation so that we could be comfortable in our little patch of earth.

But, despite this grim picture, the beauty of God is that God is always faithful. Even when we are unfaithful and foul the pasture and the water, God remains with us, pushing and prodding us to realize our sin, repent, and forge a new path. The miracle of Pentecost reminds us that new life is possible, but only with God. As the Psalmist reminds us:

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”—Psalm 104:30

Pentecost is God fulfilling his promise to not abandon us. God sends the “Spirit of Truth” to the whole world and its people and this Spirit comes like a violent wind and shakes us up! God has sent the Spirit to renew us as a church and also to renew the very face of the ground we walk upon. We must never forget that just as all of creation was spoken into being by God, all of creation can and will be redeemed by God.

The way forward in addressing climate change will require many things of us because the EPA, or the United States for that matter, will not be able to protect creation on its own. Adequately addressing climate change will require first and foremost an understanding of our role as stewards of God’s good earth, and our failure up to this point in fulfilling this role. From this humbling position we must seek out ways to personally live so that we honor creation, love our neighbors, and help build up our communities.

If this means changing how and how much we consume, so be it. If this means supporting policies and legislation that protect God’s creation, so be it. If it means we have to change our behavior so that our lifestyles do not negatively affect our neighbors, communities and future generations, thanks be to God. Because ultimately that’s what this is all about, getting back into right relationship with God and the world around us. By consuming without conscience and exploiting the Earth’s resources without thought for the future, we have prevented the shalom God intends for us, our neighbors, and the whole world.

This is part of what the church will be discussing at Annual Conference this summer in Columbus. Our office will help present a statement on Climate Change and its effects on God’s Earth and God’s People. This statement will hopefully generate some constructive conversation about how the church can begin to creatively engage this pressing issue in a way that honors the Creator and Sustainer of all life.

We must never forget that the Spirit is leading us towards the time when the Lord will be called King among all the nations and the very trees of the forest will sing hymns of joy. The Heavens will be glad and the Earth shall rejoice at the coming of the Lord!

May it be so and may we join in this divine work of redeeming and honoring God’s creation.

Amen.

-Bryan Hanger

Shop till I drop

By Katarina Eller, Brot und Rosen Community, Hamburg, Germany

Katarina Eller in Germany

BVS volunteer Katarina Eller in Germany. Photo by Kristin Flory.


My days mostly consist of cleaning, chopping vegetables, and food shopping. Our day begins with devotions in the chapel, with a simple prayer-song-Bible-reading-silence-song-prayer model…. Like a sandwich, or an Oreo cookie. Almost all of the songs come from the Taize movement. (You know you live at Brot & Rosen when most of the songs stuck in your head are in Latin.)

Sometime after breakfast and light cleaning or email-checking, I might start with lunch prep. Leftovers from the night before are warmed up, and some type of salad is made. More often than not, it is a green salad. My favorite part of lunch prep is making the salad dressing (I never want to buy pre-made salad dressing ever again). And the worst is washing the salad. It is usually donated to us from an organic food store and can be very earth-filled and/or sometimes tiny-insect-infested. It can be the case that there is no green salad. But not to worry, other variations are possible! Carrot salad with grated carrots and apples, and oranges with oil and lemon juice for example; or red beet salad with chopped onions, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, and caraway seeds. Or chicory salad with apples, oranges, bananas and a yogurt, lemon, curry dressing.

Katarina Eller

Katarina Eller at Brot und Rosen in Hamburg, Germany

I usually don’t cook dinner. Dinner is very intimidating. Often around 15 people show up, and the children don’t eat anything that might contain nutrition for healthy development. So I leave dinner to the professionals (unless of course they’re not around), and chop vegetables for them. We may be unofficially part of what is called the Slow Food Movement (correct me if I’m wrong). Since I’ve been here, I have made/or experienced the making of: salad dressing, bread, jelly, orange juice, tomato sauce, pralines, mixed drinks, pizza, vegan chocolate, vegan cheese, mashed potatoes, African chili salsa, guacamole, fufu European style, applesauce etc. I’m not gonna lie, one of my initial thoughts during my very first week at B & R was: uh-oh. Yeah, sometimes I still feel like that, but it’s all good, that’s why I live in community, so other people can take over when they see me start on a crazy culinary maneuver.

It is my job to buy everything that is not donated by the food bank, organic food store, or ordered from said store. So, a large portion of my shopping includes cooking oil, lemons, noodles, tomato sauce, and toilet paper. Sometimes I have to make more than one trip, even though I use a rolling shopping-hamper-thingy. (I don’t know what we call them, but they are all over Germany.) And sometimes the cashier is like, “Oh it’s you again!” and I think “Yeah, because if you only had a wheely cart and two little chicken-bone arms you’d be back again, too.” Then there’s the whole discussion of what we should buy fair-trade, regional, and organic. And, if organic tomato sauce from who knows where is worth the price, or even really organic, and whether it’s better to buy organic sugar or the normal sugar that says on the package that it’s made in northern Germany from sugar beets but is probably not organic etc. As usual with Brot& Rosen, as soon as I ask a question as to what I should buy, I get eight different answers. So as usual with Brot& Rosen, I just do whatever I want to.

That’s Christian Anarchy for you!

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