Join the conversation on Palestine and Israel – What can U.S. Christians do?

Advocating for a just peace for Palestine and Israel – What can U.S. Christians do?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

8-9 PM EDT

Dial:  1-866-740-1260

Brethren in Palestine and Israel

Brethren Delegation in Israel/Palestine in 2012

The aftermath of 50 days of fighting has left devastation in Gaza which still struggles under a suffocating blockade. More and more land continues to be confiscated for expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The occupation of Palestinian lands continues unchecked. Israelis and Palestinians both suffer from the lack of a peaceful resolution. Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers look to the international community for support in their efforts to change the status quo and work toward a just peace. With the breakdown in peace talks, what direction should U.S. policy take? How can persons of faith be part of the solution through their public policy advocacy? Join us as we take a look at these questions, hear perspectives from experienced advocates on what churches are doing and can do, and engage in conversation about directions for advocacy.


Catherine Gordon
Representative for International Issues
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Office of Public Witness

Mike Merryman-Lotze
Israel-Palestine Program Director
American Friends Service Committee 

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

There will be time for questions and answers, as together we seek a constructive way forward in advocacy for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.

Sponsored by the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, a network of national Christian denominations and organizations working for a just peace in the Middle East with a primary focus Israel and Palestine.

If you have any questions please contact the Director of the Office of Public Witness, Nate Hosler, at

Speaking the language of Camp Koinonia

Youth Peace Travel Team at Camp Koinonia

Three quarters of the 2014 Youth Peace Travel Team at Camp Koinonia

“In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.”
-1 Corinthians 7:24

This verse has been an encouraging reminder in my life that God meets us wherever we are. Even in my lowest of low times, God is willing to walk (and struggle) with me back up the mountain. I don’t have to raise myself up to a heavenly ideal in order to follow Christ or receive God’s love. If I can find peace with myself and my current condition, then I can spread peace to others.

This is the verse that immediately came to mind when I thought about the YPTT’s week at Camp Koinonia August 10-16. As this was a camp more diverse and free-flowing than we had experienced all summer (by far), I found myself honestly frustrated at the beginning of the week. I didn’t know how to harness the campers’ energy (we’re talkin’ kids doing backflips at Sunday night’s campfire) or how our team would fit into the loose schedule of the week. From lax rules about technology usage to a propane-based campfire each night, there were many differences to our typical routine that sure proved to be a challenge for us as we thought about how to interact with and teach our new friends. As exhaustion wore on me, I let these differences overwhelm me at first.

But then this verse came to mind. I realized that if we were going to make an impact and have a relatively worry-free week, we would need to learn to speak the language of Camp Koinonia. So, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and did just that. On Wednesday night before campfire, I spent about 15 extra minutes hanging out with the campers, where the informal activity of the night happened to be a dance party. I let them teach me their favorite moves and joined right in. At this point, I felt like I connected with the kids and earned some mutual respect (and had too much fun in the process). After that, I joined Melen and her iPhone, and together we laughed at satirical Instagram pictures of her favorite musician. While this definitely wasn’t a normal camp activity I was used to, it was a moment that we shared. I found that there was so much more power and joy in joining campers in their fun rather than trying to chastise them and make them fit a mold of what I saw as “good camp fun”. Once we joined the campers at their level, we were much better able to teach from a place of understanding and respect. From hikes through train tunnels to singing Smashmouth at campfire, the consistent unexpectedness of Camp Koinonia shenanigans turned out to be highly rewarding.


Child drawing the words "No violence" at Camp Koinonia

“Use words – No violence”: Activity at Camp Koinonia

As Shelley described, the diversity of Camp Koinonia was spectacular. From small town kids two miles down the road to those from inner-city Seattle, we got to experience campers from all ethnicities and walks of life. Venturing to a majestic waterfall and natural water slide was a highlight for me. Getting to talk extensively with campers on the hike to get there, swimming in that exhilarating glacier runoff, and soaking up the Washington state atmosphere were all entirely awesome. The last night, I was asked to counsel the older girls’ cabin because their counselor was leaving and I had created some strong bonds with them. We had a 300+ balloon late night water balloon free-for-all, got serenaded by the boys’ cabin, and stayed up until past 3am talking about our feelings, struggles, fears, desires, and lives. Although our sleep stores were depleted, our hearts were filled with care for one another and the peace of Christ was tangible in the bond of trust we created with each other. I know my relationship with these campers will live on and that both my impact on them as well as their impact on me will never dissipate. This week perfectly ended a summer that has pushed me insanely hard to better follow God’s call for my life and to journey with the hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people I’ve come into contact with as they strive to follow theirs. Thanks be to God!


Like many of the camps we visited this summer, Camp Koinonia was full of beautiful opportunities for pictures. The venue of Franklin Falls provided me with one of the most thought provoking sights I’ve had all summer. Off to the left of the main fall is a small trickle of water coming down onto a hillside covered in rocks. Mind you these rocks, while more closely resembling a backpack than a boulder, were placed in a way that didn’t make your footing entirely guaranteed (oh and did I mention that they were mostly wet with the fall runoff). Regardless of how stupid of an idea it was, Chris and I both found ourselves climbing this moderately steep potential rockslide about 5 minutes offset of each other. I had arrived to the other side of the falls via swimming, Chris through bouldering a rock face. Either way, we both climbed up to a bit of a cliff near the top of the rocks. We sat there for a moment looking down at the pool at the base of the falls and at all the people far below. At this moment I had the realization of A) just how far we had climbed and B) just how huge this waterfall was! The people down below were so much smaller from all the way up there. The only thought that my brain could then process was “How amazing is our God?” Throughout this summer I’ve had the chance to meet countless faces, both young and old. People have impacted my life in huge ways. Yet these people are so small, just like those below me at the waterfall. To think that God has created so many amazing people that can impact my life and to understand that I’m that person to some people too, was humbling to say the least. The impacts I’ve made this summer and that this summer has made on me amaze me – not because of their severity, but because they have been made by people so small yet so big. I’m thankful for this opportunity I’ve had. Blessings to all who read this. Just remember that from boulders to pebbles, all of us can make ripples.


A quote that has quieted my mind during turbulent times was pertinent to Camp Koinonia. Norman Maclean writes in his novella A River Runs Through It, “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved on who is in need and ask the same question: we are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them- we can love completely without complete understanding”. The group of campers at Camp Koinonia were an eclectic rowdy bunch and so connecting with them for me, I expected to be something that needed to be worked at. I needed to ask them about their upbringing, struggles, and influences. I needed to put extra effort to get to know them. I needed to be more attentive to how I worded my statements. I needed, I needed, I needed. I never stopped to ask what the campers needed. What they needed was unconditional love and the place to explore themselves and at Camp Koinonia they found that. The camp allowed them to be themselves in a lot of ways we had not seen at previous camps: phones were used extensively, meals were left at whim, and attention was given sporadically. At times it was a struggle to know if they cared about what was happening around them and I struggled with fitting in. But the more I let go and allowed myself to go with the campers flow rather than fight the current, the more I was accepted and let in. Letting others take control, even campers, is not always a bad idea. Activities or camp may not happen the way we want it, but it will happen in the terms that matter to the larger audience: the campers. Camp Koinonia was about the campers, and I appreciated how they owned that. I loved them all without ever understanding.


As this was the 2014 YP-double-T’s last week in action, we’d like to thank you all as we sign off. We have immense appreciation for all those who have faithfully supported our adventures throughout these 12 life changing weeks. Our peacemaking efforts will not cease, but will rather be transformed as we have gathered a new community of young earth-shakers to join us. As the invitation to peace is always extended to you, allow us to leave you with “A Franciscan Blessing”, which “Uncle” Josh Brockway left with us seven wonderful weeks ago:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may wish for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.

-Yours truly, the 2014 YP-double-T

Laughter and Freedom

Porch time at Camp Hammond Mill

Porch time at Camp Hammond Mill

Something that we have greatly enjoyed throughout our summer on the YPTT is getting to experience the different culture of each camp we visit. While each camp does indeed have unique and memorable traditions, the culture of Camp Hammond Mill was joyfully unlike any other. Christy had been talking up her home camp all summer, informing us that it was “different”, but incredibly special. We agree!

Laughter at Camp Hammond Mill

“Joyfully unlike any other”: laughter at Camp Hammond Mill

Two of the biggest components of Camp Hammond Mill’s culture that I noticed were laughter and freedom. The modest campground was alive with the sound of laughter at almost all hours of the day. The campers interacted enthusiastically during the our morning sessions, bringing their own life and spunk to small discussion groups and skit performances alike. Mealtimes were full of jolly banter, especially when the “Pretty Pants” made an appearance (a stylish Camp Hammond Mill tradition). We heard resounding chuckles in the water, from frigid early morning polar bear swims to a day-long youth float trip. My favorite instance of laughter came from late night games with the youth on Thursday. We played a few simple rounds of Telephone Pictionary, Psychiatrist, and Signs, but their bonds with one another were apparent as we were all doubled over and genuinely enjoying each others’ company.

Freedom came from the abundance of free time throughout the week. While some camps’ free time leads to campers retreating from one another, Camp Hammond Mill’s free time often encouraged creativity and deeper bonding. We enjoyed “porch time”, where whoever was free would gather on the mess hall’s porch and simply spend time together. Some of the younger campers took every ounce of freedom they were given to make dozens of dragons out of pipe cleaners – refreshing products of active imaginations. Campers and staff alike would take time to write each other goofy notes and notes of affirmation to place in each others’ envelopes throughout the week. Even organized volleyball and ping pong tournaments took up our free time, but each involved getting to know new opponents and sharing in victories or losses together.

Pipe cleaner dragons at Camp Hammond Mill

Pipe cleaner dragons at Camp Hammond Mill

Through laughter and freedom came peace, as the small but mighty group of Camp Hammond Mill campers became a family together. Despite many injuries and illnesses, late nights and early mornings, torrential rain and stifling heat, each person gave of themselves. We made new friends, looked out for the best interests of one another, and ultimately relished in the joy and learning that came from a relaxed but quirky camp culture.


One memory of Camp Hammond Mill that will stick with me is the first day we went down to the river to swim. A pair of trees had fallen down during a storm and washed up on a rock that the kids usually climbed onto and jumped off of into the river. We decided to try and move it as a group, so a few of the counselors, campers, and myself positioned ourselves around the trees to try and move them. After about ten minutes of slowly rolling the trees (largely helped by the use of a large branch as a lever, yay physics) we finally dislodged the trees from the rock and into the rest of the river. We then proceeded to pull the trees down river in an attempt to bring them away from the swimming area and up onto the bank. It wasn’t easy, and most of us got a few decent scrapes from the trees. But, it was definitely a fun and memorable way to get the
week kicked off and I’m sure that I will remember the time that I helped move a freaking tree!


Comfort. Camp Hammond Mill brings me an overwhelming sense of comfort each time I arrive. Most likely ‘cause it’s home. This year was no different, besides the shift from camper to staff member that being on the YP double T brought. Reconnecting with some of my greatest friends there, meeting the new faces that come each year, and seeing the familiar, beyond beautiful gorgeousness of the crystal Blue Spring and cliffs at the White River all brought me great joy. My roommate Laura from college came on Tuesday of camp and counseled for the rest of the week. We took campers on runs and reeked havoc together on the river during the float trip. Getting to share my fellow YPTTers with her as well as the experience of my home camp was a huge highlight for me. Another wonderful moment occurred on Thursday night when the rain was pouring down. We relocated our campfire to under the pavilion and were singing songs. One of the young girl campers had to go to the restroom badly, but no one wanted to take her. So, I took her hand and we ventured into the rain together. We ended up having a ton of fun jumping around in puddles and running in the torrential downpour. Soaked to the bone and laughing, she made it to the restroom in time and all was well. Those moments of pure exhilaration and happiness are just priceless. I feel so fortunate to have gotten to share Camp Hammond Mill with the YPTT!


I cannot stress how cool canoeing for nine hours is. I understand it seems like a long time to be doing anything but this was truly a unique experience (not just because I didn’t get sunburned although I was exposed to the sun for more than two consecutive hours). The experiences of the river were exhilarating, a bald eagle that perched twenty feet above the river’s surface on a branch, conversations on the water, and going out of one’s way to pick up trash. It was a touching experience as nature, man and the spirit all came together to form what we call beauty. I appreciated the majesty of the surroundings and the respect that the campers felt for the river and springs of the area. The campers collected an impressive amount of trash during the trip and this just further distinguishes the people of Camp Hammond Mill.

The canoe trip was not all. Ping pong managed to be more than a simple competitive outlet for me at this camp. Previously I enjoyed ping pong for its simplicity and good natured competition, but I bonded with an individual over the game. Having faced off in the tournament of the camp together, we had enjoyed each other’s company. One day in which I took time for myself to reflect on the journey I had been on this summer I was approached by Vanita. She quickly challenged me to a game of ping pong remarking that the previous game was a fluke (I am only teasing, Vanita, you were a pleasure to get to know). As the ball was hit back and forth and the rally became more heated we each opened up. Both of us spoke of experiences that were integral to who we are now. The importance of role models for children and how to grow into an individual you yourself respected. It was refreshing and new for me to open up so quickly to someone. I appreciated the honesty of my newfound friend and the moment meant a lot to me. Sometimes we try to do so much and impact everyone, but a moment need not be monumental. It need only help an individual, a single person, and that can mean the world.


Camp Hammond Mill, August 3 – 9

Dirty work

Footwashing among members of Brethren Volunter Service Unit 305. Photo by Ben Bear

Footwashing among members of Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 305.
Photo by Ben Bear

By Ben Bear, Brethren Volunteer Service recruiter

My placement during my second year of Brethren Volunteer Service was in Cincinnati at a shelter for families with kids. Our office was a former rectory and we used the adjoining unused church for storage. During my first week there, the office manager, MerryBeth, took me on a tour of the extra space on the other side of the courtyard. We hadn’t visited it the first day because my pants were too dark. Yes, too dark.

The building was infested with thousands of baby fleas from feral cats who had found a way into the building. Lighter-colored pants were necessary so you could make sure that you knocked off all of the tiny fleas clinging to the lower half of your pants once you left the building. That was some dirty work!

Loving people we don’t know can feel like dirty work—sometimes because we don’t understand them. Loving people we do know can be dirty work, too, sometimes because we assume we know them better than we do. We are called to love others as we love ourselves, but even loving ourselves can be a dirty, muddled topic. We are dirty work, and we have lots of work to do.

But why do we feel compelled to do the dirty work of love? Maybe we do it because loving ourselves allows us to see ways to love the rest of the world. Maybe we love the world because Jesus calls us to it every day, to follow his example from the very first Love Feast when he did the dirty work of washing his disciples’ feet.

What are you doing to find the dirty, necessary work of loving and serving? Whom will you try to understand better? To whom will you apologize and start anew? How are you striving to love yourself? We are called to serve: the faces we may have yet to meet, those who are familiar to us, and even ourselves. It’ll be downright hard a lot of the time, and yes, it can be a mess, but that’s okay. Let’s get some dirt under our fingernails. Let’s do the work of loving.

Join or support the dirty, loving work of Brethren Volunteer Service at .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

More than just a place

Activities at Camp Pine Lake

Activities at Camp Pine Lake

Space. While the boundaries of Camp Pine Lake didn’t stretch far or wide, we fell in love with the large grassy field that it centered around. It gave the camp and its campers a feeling of refreshing openness and a space to be free. Standing from the back porch of the dining hall or the deck upstairs, one could look out over the expanse and see boys and girls cabins, the outdoor chapel, and far away fields. Looking closer, we could observe and remember fond memories of what occurred in this lush grass – playing new games with the spunky summer staff, soaking our feet in the dew each morning while traipsing to Morning Watch, holding hands in a closing circle filled with genuine affirmations and plentiful hugs. The transparency was inviting.

Throughout the week, we explored, used, and created open space beyond the physical. It would not have been possible without the exceptional group of campers at Camp Pine Lake, who immediately accepted all members of their family and vowed to look out for one another. Campers who had spent the previous week at NYC together and campers who were there for the first time interacted and bonded alike. I felt especially welcomed as a YPTTer, as I was constantly being asked questions about the team’s work and my views of peace. I even got myself a stylish hair wrap from Trevor, who selflessly offered his time and supplies all week to wrap anyone’s hair who asked. It was also invigorating to see the campers consistently give their full attention and energy to all activities, despite frequent complaints about being tired from all the late nights and early mornings. It was apparent that these youth highly value camp and the community it creates, and so the affirming space that defined our week was created almost entirely by them.

But, we like to think that maybe we had a part in some of this space, too. We were excited to finally be back with a senior high camp, so we aimed to provide space for deeper discussions during the sessions that we led. During our Just Peace activity, where small groups pick a “hot topic” sort of issue that interests them, two separate groups chose to discuss LGBTQ rights. We found this coincidence to be encouraging, as the youth (and counselors too) yearned to make change and create spaces of equality and acceptance for this oppressed population. Another highlight came when campers used conflicts that had actually occurred throughout the camp week during their skit demonstrations of how to use interpersonal conflict resolution strategies. It was clear that they truly wanted to put these skills to use. A unique part of our week came with the discussion surrounding Human Body Image on Wednesday, which Chris will discuss further.

As our week showed us many examples of the importance of space, we are called to look at where space needs to be created and utilized in our own lives. We can use our physical space creatively, just like the campers and staff who set up a makeshift slip-n-slide on a hot day. We can make space in our homes to be hospitable, just as the summer staff opened their doors to Christy and I when we realized at quite a late hour that we were locked out of our bedroom for the night. We can create space for open conversation with friends and strangers alike, just as the campers welcomed all into their family and built up their relationships together. And as we do all of these things, we can sit on the deck and enjoy the beautiful open spaces that God has already provided, from lush meadows to the loving arms of a friend.


Small group discussion at Camp Pine Lake

Small group discussion at Camp Pine Lake.

Camp Pine Lake was, for me, just another wonderful example of a loving community that I’ve seen this summer. It was clear from as soon as we started our journey with them back from NYC on the bus that these kids cared about each other. They were totally willing to talk to us and get to know us. I had an especially great time on our canoe trip we took during the week. I had some really good conversation with the two guys I was teamed up with. We spent the first part of the trip canoeing as hard as we could, passing other canoes and barreling down the river. But, the later part of the trip was spent drifting down the river playing 20 questions. During this time we connected over various issues that the three of us all face in our lives, and were able to give each other our various perspectives and advice on these issues. I greatly appreciated their willingness to open up and share about themselves with the group. That canoe trip will definitely stick with me.


The youth at CPL were some of the most inclusive, fun campers we’ve been with this entire summer. Despite the shortened week of camp, the bonds of community created there were exceptional. We were asked as a team to emcee the talent show on the final night. This request thrilled us because it gave us the opportunity to be ridiculously silly as well as witness the variety of talent in the group. As the talent show got on its way, I was touched by how receptive the group was of each individual and how comfortable kids were to share. A girl who hadn’t said more than two words in front of the group all week got up and belted out one of her favorite rock songs. Another pair of campers reenacted the “we are siamese if you please” song from Lady and the Tramp. One hilarious camper even shared a Youtube video of her dancing with a blanket on her head and knocking over a large glass lamp. This got the whole camp rolling around laughing for an extended amount of time :). Meanwhile, the YP double T did improv skits between each act to introduce the next one using locations, actions, and characters that the campers wrote on slips of paper. I may or may not have acted as a shoe that Jake then pooped in. Needless to say, the nonjudgmental environment was key to the community built this week. I am so glad we were warmly welcomed in such a tight-knit camp environment!


When one is working at several different locales, one must adapt to the varying demands of these locations. During the planning of Camp Pine Lake a mysterious acronym “HBI” appeared before us on the schedule. As we were told that this meant Human Body Image, an activity I had seen popped into my head. I quickly told the staff that we would like to lead an activity tackling this topic and this was the first time the members of the team had heard of an activity we would like to do. Entitled “Misrepresentation”, members of the team were to cast a negative light on activities they engaged in or to stereotype themselves. The activities chosen, though were to be positive for ourselves, but could be cast in a negative light. For example, I said that I was manipulative and intentionally put others in uncomfortable situations. This related to the fact that I was a wrestler and in wrestling one must control their opponent. Each member for the team talked about different aspects of themselves that were meaningful to them but could be perceived negatively. For the presentation of activity, we read one another’s and allowed them to guess which personality we read matched up with which member of the peace team. The campers struggled with determining who was who, but the message was that we and they are more. We are all more than the stereotypes, labels, and (hash)tags that people pile on us. Shelley is not the money hoarding college student, but someone who is looking to invest in her future. Jake is not the self invested power lifter, but someone striving for inner peace and bettering himself. Christy is not the ditzy politician concerned with power, but is a serious person looking at the issues of the world and attempting to come up with solutions. Camp Pine Lake was more than just a camp. It was a community of acceptance and love. Each member looked out for one another and made sure the others felt welcome. Camp Pine Lake is more than just a place for a lot of people.


Camp Pine Lake, July 27 – Aug. 2

Pass the Peace, Please!

group at National Youth Conference 2014

Fun at National Youth Conference 2014

National Youth Conference 2014. Ever since we were called by Christ to join the Y P double T this summer and blessed for our journey together, we had been anticipating the mountaintop whirlwind that is NYC. Not only would we get to experience the powerful worship services that we had remembered so fondly from NYC 2010, but we would get to share our message of radical peace with a larger-than-usual audience and check back in with youth we had met in our travels throughout the summer. Our responsibilities at this Spirit-filled conference were far and wide, so I’d like to run you through our typical day and throw in some heartwarming highlights. My teammates will share their favorite moments as well, along with highlights from some of our bigger events of the week.

I arose bright and early each day for a breakfast meeting with all of the wonderful folks of On Earth Peace. We checked in about the day’s tasks and how previous events had gone. From there, we headed to Moby Arena to put on different displays and demonstrations for youth and advisors to view and participate in on their way into worship. This was one of my favorite responsibilities of the week. I got to hold a sign for the Stop Recruiting Kids campaign, which I delivered a speech about in my public speaking class last semester. I got to witness youth writing heartbreaking but very real things that keep them from claiming their identity, from fear to a mom with cancer. It is moments like these that remind me that we are all in this struggle of humanity together, regardless of age or background.

We then entered worship, where Christy and I often joined forces with YPTT alumni and friends to dance our way through the theme song. We soaked in the skits, scriptures, and sermons alongside the youth, carefully noting what stirred our hearts so that we could lead good discussion with our small groups after worship. In one of the rare moments that all members of our team were split up to provide leadership, we all had slightly different approaches to small group time. We would exchange stories about how our respective youth were interactive, honest, and brave, which was always encouraging. After lunch, we led workshops. Alternating between a general introduction to YPTT and leading games with a peace twist, it was a blast to share our message with a more intimate, interested crowd, learn new dance moves, and ultimately get excited about meeting the next generation of peacemakers. The evening led into helping once more with displays and activities outside of worship, and then experiencing the power of music and dynamic speakers. After worship came late night activities, where we either attended concerts, caught up with our youth worker friends, or went to bed for some much needed rest.

It is impossible to record all the life-giving moments that comprised NYC, but we came away from this time so grateful for the many lives that intersected ours. Perhaps above all, we are encouraged by the hordes of youth that we have to join us in the work of bringing heaven to earth.


Arm wrestling Alexander Mack at National Youth Conference 2014

Arm wrestling Alexander Mack at National Youth Conference 2014.

This summer we have run into the same people numerous times at varying places. From camps to Annual Conference to Song and Story Fest to NYC, multiple faces showed up again and again. Some of my favorite faces to see at these places were those that belonged to the band Mutual Kumquat. This Brethren soul-folk-pop band who plays songs focusing on social change and fun is a joy to listen to as well as hang out with. I’ve gotten to know each bandmate, especially since my brother Jacob Crouse had the opportunity to play with them this summer! Furthermore, in a late-night convo between some YPTTers and Kumquatians, we came up with the idea to collaborate on a song for NYC during their concert. Thus, we did so! Combining the wrap-up raps for a few of our peace sessions with a catchy hook & chorus by the band, we came up with a peace melody that we performed for the NYC body. I had a blast feeling like a rock star, performing with some of the coolest human beings I know, and spreading a message that I’m ridiculously passionate about. Pass the peace, pass the peace please! Pass the peace, yeah, pass the peace please!


One of the many tasks we were given for NYC this year was to come up with a booth for the Brethren Block Party, carnival games sponsored by various organizations for the attendees to have fun partaking in. Having our only parameters be making an easily portable and cheap game was, at first, a pretty difficult task. The only idea that really came up was arm wrestling, but we still wanted something better. After weeks of failing to come up with anything new we settled on “Wrestling With Peace” as a title for our arm wrestling booth. We had hoped for moderate success and for a chance to talk to youth about the things in their lives that cause conflict. What we got was way more than we expected! Not 15 minutes into the block party we found ourselves surrounded by a crowd of youth watching Chris tear through challengers left and right. With color commentary provided by any YPTTers not currently arm wrestling, the crowd continued to grow and cheer for challengers and YPTTers alike. By the end of the block party, the booth had evolved from just us versus them to youth asking to use the table to challenge their friends too. Building community and getting to know the struggles in these youths lives was so much more fun and rewarding than I had imagined.


Each member of the Youth Peace Travel Team was given a small group to lead. My group was Small Group #117 (SHOUTOUT!!!). The entire team missed the introductory lesson as to how one should conduct small groups and so we were left to our own creative energy. The time allotted were four different 45 minute sessions. Somehow in a combined three hours spent together we were to meet and form a bond, reflect and grow together, and leave better than we came. How one individual could manage all of this with 12-14 other individuals baffled me, but I gave it my best effort. Get to know you games were a must, as names are not so easily remembered when you are meeting one hundred new people a day. This was followed by some feeling out of the group as far as how they wanted to go about talking. My group decided they did not enjoy large group discussion, so I had to work without one of the easiest activities to lead. But we managed to get to know each other, check. The next day we did some team building and then got into concentric circles so that individuals were paired up and could share their experience in more intimate manner. The group seemed to enjoy it and the room was buzzing with conversation. I asked them what they wanted to change about the small group and to my surprise very little was suggested, and they enjoyed the concentric circles. So I challenged them that the next day we would be sharing stories about a lesson we learned in our lives. The next day I opened with my own talk and a speech about how this is a safe space. Everyone shared and went deep into their own lives about very serious issues that each of them were facing. I was touched that they all trusted each other. Bonding reflecting and growing together, check. The next day we did an activity I have talked about in the Camp Colorado Blog, Taps. The game correctly expressed the feelings of the group. We all appreciated how far we had come in the four days we had together and we were all going home changed, but blessed for the journey together. It was a wonderful experience to lead a small group and I truly appreciate the youth that are willing to put themselves out their to learn more about themselves.


National Youth Conference 2014, July 19 – 24, Fort Collins, Colorado

Camp Blue Diamond

As most parents, teachers, or camp staffs could tell you, one of the biggest differences when working with campers of different age groups is the amount of energy required. For example, I distinctly remember detesting rest time as a junior camper, but begged my counselors for more as a youth. In the Youth Peace Travel Team’s one and only week working with junior campers, we experienced these differences in energy output, and utilized it to the advantage of peacemaking.

polar bear swim at Camp Blue Diamond

Polar bear swim at Camp Blue Diamond

Camp Blue Diamond’s energy started right from Sunday night, where we learned the gem that is Gaga Ball, assigning chores became a lively game show, and our introduction rap got the loudest applause we’ve received all summer. Our favorite sleep-depriving tradition started bright and early on Monday morning with an all-camp Polar Bear Swim (accompanied by song, of course). Christy and I tapped into our creative energy as we helped campers make heaps of friendship bracelets, and we used our energy of patience as our hair was yanked and twisted by campers each day at the “salon” (fateful picnic table). At a camp with a full-time counseling staff and over 60 campers, the level (and volume) of all activities was kicked up a notch, which brought us great exhaustion but mostly great smiles.
crafts at Camp Blue Diamond

Crafts at Camp Blue Diamond

As we were given one hour with each unit, we decided to revamp our interpersonal conflict session to present something that would be most relevant to junior campers and most matched to their energy level. Complete with motions to help remember our three highlighted conflict resolution strategies and improvised role plays, we were able to harness some of the energy of the campers and staff and direct it to the task of peacebuilding. One of the most rewarding aspects of this week was that we frequently heard buzz about “detriangling” and “I feel statements” throughout the week, and two units even decided to share what we had taught with the whole camp during skit night. It was so exciting to see and hear that they had really internalized our strategies.

The rest of our time was spent hanging out with campers in their units, whether we were eating “darn goods” around the fire or taking a ride in the giant swing. I really enjoyed hiking to the Lost Lake with my new friend Skye, where we asked each other endless questions about our lives and understandings of peace. The team even had the chance to conquer the climbing tower with the junior high canoe camp and build fire with the senior high Outdoor Living Skills campers. No matter what we were doing, we were impressed by the constant enthusiasm of both campers and staff, and challenged ourselves to keep up. It was a joy to jump into the high energy culture of Camp Blue Diamond, and while they left us exhausted, they impressed us with their willingness to use their energy for earth-changing good.

One of the most meaningful aspects of my Camp Blue Diamond experience came with the impact that our team was able to have with the campers. On the third day of the camp, the older canoe group came to us saying they had been having some conflict while out on the river and were having a hard time resolving it in constructive ways. We had a quick session with them to teach some conflict resolution strategies and just get to know the youth a bit more. After doing so, we heard from both the campers and counselors of the improvement in communication and overall cohesiveness of their group! I got to make a couple solid connections with some of the canoe-ers, even to the point where they wanted me to come stay in THEIR cabin. This made me excited that the youth were looking up to me as a role model and hopefully becoming better peacemakers in the process.

The biggest take away from Camp Blue Diamond for me was how great of an impact a counseling staff can make onto a group of kids without even necessarily realizing it. I had the opportunity talk to a lot of campers both during meals and while just hanging out with them while playing games. There was one common theme that really stood out to me, the phrase, “I just really like (insert any counselor’s name), he/she is awesome!” Some of these counselors got praise for being funny, others for being really nice, but the most notable one for me were how many of them were said to make their campers feel accepted and loved. I can’t blame the campers for having such high praise for their counselors. At no point during the week did I see a counselor unwilling to be there for their kids. I was especially touched on Friday when the camp closed and campers started going home. So many of the campers were hugging counselors over and over again, and a plethora of “Cinnamon Roll Hugs” coming from an all girls unit that had really bonded, it was clear to me how meaningful of a place Camp Blue Diamond is to both children and adults alike.


hugs at Camp Blue Diamond

Hugs at Camp Blue Diamond

I experienced the most energy from Camp Blue Diamond with the Junior High Canoe Camp on the climbing tower. The tower was a rock climbing wooden structure that utilized a zip line as its method of dismount. There were six different ways to climb up to the top each with their own particular challenges. Climbing was amazing, the perseverance and strength required to do any of the six different paths certainly taught the campers a lesson (that it takes hard work to reach a goal and sometimes you have to really push yourself). But what really struck me was the community exemplified in this activity. Ryan, one of the Outdoor Living Skills instructors, explained the do’s and don’t’s of the Tower, while Nathan and Sara took care of belaying the campers. At the end of the zip line were Karly and Gabe who aided people in detaching themselves from the zip line and making sure the line was clear. Each person communicated clearly what was occurring at their specific station to ensure that the next person knew what to do. Nathan would yell that someone was climbing and Ryan would acknowledge. Ryan would motion to Karly that the zip line was ready and Karly would signal to go ahead. Each of the staff members worked together to build a happy and safe environment for the campers. The interesting aspect of all this work was that this sense of community carried to other actions of the campers. In the dining hall each table was its own community, bringing in dishes and dishing out food to every member. Campers needed no encouragement to help and engage in the process of cleaning or of retrieving food for their body’s members. It truly impressed me how far reaching this sense of community was at Camp Blue Diamond. From the Jungle Breakfast to “Darn Goods” to camp bonds that hold true, there was a tightly woven and loving community here at Camp Blue Diamond.


Song and Story Fest

Group singing at Song and Story Fest 2014

Singing at Song and Story Fest 2014 at Camp Inspiration Hills

The exposition begins at Camp Brethren Woods, where four peace-loving young adults join forces to begin a summer of exploration and transformation together. The scene is set as our main characters set out to spread Jesus’ gospel of peace to young people in their formative years at formative places – summer camp. The action rises as each new week follows a familiar rhythm of getting to know campers, presenting a message that we find important, and subsequently discovering how we can all work together to further the Kingdom in a world of violence and corruption. The climax? In the short-term, it comes when we form genuine human connections that enable us all to be tied up together in the work of peacemaking and justice-building.

But we, as the Youth Peace Travel Team and members of a wider network of Jesus people, are part of a much larger story. The resolution is perhaps unidentifiable at this point in our lives, although we work toward the ultimate goal of worldwide inclusivity, justice, and earth-shaking peace. This is but a snippet of the story of our summer and of our lives. Our Author is busy at work, constantly editing our story with sweeping pen strokes that intertwine the birds of the air with the songs of our hearts. This week will go down as a colorful page in the story of our lives.

At Song and Story Fest, we were inspired and encouraged to listen and share the stories that impact us. Whether these narratives are shared through words, music, or moments of sweet Quaker silence, each have the potential to speak to those around us in a powerful way. Our team came into the week as porous sponges, ready to absorb the wisdom of seasoned storytellers. We soaked up tall tales and tear-filled testimonies around the campfire each night. We clapped our hands (or paws, or anything we got now) and joyfully sang along to witty political interpretations and heartwarming Kumquat tunes. We used our free time to get to know distant relatives, system fighters, and each other, and hear what stories their lives have told.

The team contributed our stories in our two most preferred mediums – skits and raps. We challenged the youth and ourselves alike to confront wrongs on both personal and global levels, through leading reflective workshops and inviting open discussion. We truly loved learning new songs, whether we were called to join in groovy dance moves or simply let the chipper mandolin strumming permeate our souls. We often sang loudly with our voices, but were further encouraged to let our lives sing louder. We will sing the message of love and reconciliation, of the urgent need for action, of the power in numbers of people who embrace life and share it abundantly.

So, what is your story? What are the prevailing themes of your life that beg to be shared? As we continue along this journey of teaching and intentional self-reflection, we invite you to join us in the discovery and singing of the story of our lives.


During the week the Youth Peace Travel Team were called upon to lead what was entitled the “Youth Rap Session” scheduled for 3:30 pm on Wednesday, between the women sharing stories on Tuesday and the men sharing stories on Thursday. Although rapping is our forte, the team decided we could open up this time for youth to talk about their own struggles. Adults were encouraged to join in and lend some insight into how one grows out from adolescence. Fitting with Song and Story Fest, the moment that most touched me was a story my brother told. Alex and I both told stories, and he began with a story about how we got caught in a snow storm at Mammoth Mountain on the last day of a trip. He talked about how I had kept pushing him to “not die” (how dramatic he is) and the hilarity of traveling with my father. Afterwards I shared a story about how Alex taught me to be a better brother and truly listen. Alex taught me that I was not being an equal with him and that restricted our relationship. But above all he showed the profound healing of forgiveness.

Both of us had heard all of these stories before, but then my brother got up and shared a story I was surprised to hear. Our mother and father split up when Alex was young and my father remarried which became increasingly difficult for my brother. One summer we were to spend time in Washington with our stepmother at the new house on Beaver Lake. Alex expressed his discomfort and apathy at the house until I forced him to go out on a paddle boat with me. Alex explained that we would swim, paddle, enjoy little games and not give a care about when lunch was because we were together. Being brothers mattered, being together mattered, being away from it all and focusing on fun mattered. I had never heard how much paddle boating with him in Beaver Lake had meant. I had always heard my brother tell me about how I was a big part of his life and how he would not have been the same without me. But this time he gave me a story in which I had helped him deal with his own issues. I enjoy telling stories as well of the influence of Alex on my own life. I was captivated though when he finally started telling his own stories and how I had helped in some way. My brother is one of the most special individuals in my entire life and I cherish every moment with him. In this one moment he encapsulated all the events we had shared, and what it meant to be brothers to me. Thank you so much Alex. I love you.


There are many stories in my life. Stories of success and stories of failure. Stories of my passions and stories of my displeasures. But the story that I had the opportunity to share at Song and Story Fest is one of peace and family. Every year on Martin Luther King Junior Day my father and sister were advocators of the McPherson, Kansas community showing support for equality on that holiday. Because of this support I got a lot of exposure to MLK and his teachings.

One of the storytellers for the week was none other than Matt Guynn, the program director for nonviolent change at On Earth Peace. Matt presented on the Beloved Community, an idea made very prevalent by Martin Luther King Junior. Matt presented us with an informational packet regarding the Beloved Community which started with a handful of MLK quotes and historical context for them being said. As soon as I read these quotes I knew that I had a story to tell using them. I took the quotes from the packet and broke them up into lines, as if it were a poem. I then made couplets using the lines from MLK’s quotes followed with my own lines. My lines were parallel thoughts to the MLK quotes but related to issues I see prevalent in today’s society. Many of these issues easily relate to racial inequality because they are movements occurring today over social justice, i.e. political representation, homosexuality, and women’s rights. The team received high marks after the presentation of my poetic interpretation of these quotes.

I typically am not a poetic guy. In fact, in high school I absolutely dreaded English class because I knew I didn’t enjoy poetic interpretation or extensive reading/writing. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why this project stood out to me. It may have been out of my comfort zone, but my heart told me that I had a story to tell and that this was the way it was meant to be told. I think it just goes to show you how sometimes we can surprise ourselves with passion and drive we didn’t know was there.


Children at the microphone at Song and Story Fest 2014

Song and Story Fest 2014 at Camp Inspiration Hills

Song and Story Fest at Camp Inspiration Hills truly brought with it a breeze of refreshment. With tales that evoked much shared laughter as well as tears, the life stories brought to fest were real. It’s difficult to describe the unique vibe found there, a place where anyone can go to the microphone and share their thoughts. Some memorable ones for me:

1. One woman, who ended up having one of the most calming voices I’ve ever heard, came to the mic and paused. The first words that came out of her mouth were, “Y’know, I love you all.”

2. A small boy came up front and sang The Element Song (listing all the elements of the periodic table) at the top of his lungs and in a key only wolves can hear—and it was beyond impressive!

3. Mutual Kumquat (with my marvelous bro, Jake, playin’ bass) did a concert including a fruit and vegetable song battle that was the definition of epic.

Soaking up the atmosphere that radiated positivity and love caused me to have a renewed peace within myself in more ways than one. As cheesy as it sounds, I really was inspired at that camp! Especially after hearing Matt Guynn’s chant (with accompanying dance moves):

If we want to move this mountain, we must work together.

If we want to move this mountain, we must work together!

With love & a rejuvenated passion for peace,


Camp Inspiration Hills, July 6 – 12, 2014

Statelessness & the Least of These: Nationality, Identity, and When You Have Neither

A week ago I boarded a flight from DC to Amsterdam to head to the World Council of Churches’ Consultation on Statelessness and the First Global Forum on Statelessness where participants from over 70 countries were present. We had booked a flight, made sure I had a place to stay, and I quickly packed about 2 hours before leaving for the week long trip. The organizers of the World Council of Churches’ Consultation on Statelessness knew I was coming but other than the airline and the hostel, the Netherlands was unaware of my imminent arrival as was the US of my departure. Though unannounced I sailed through passport control barely breaking my stride.

While as an Anabaptist/Church of the Brethren variety of Christian I am rather ambivalent concerning nationality and the notion of national identity this ease of border crossing (and my presumption that they will let me back in upon arrival in DC) is a level of assurance that is, well, assuring. This is, however, far from universal experience.

The two conferences I have been attending, both the WCC’s consultation and the First Global Forum on Statelessness, deal with people on precisely the opposite end of the spectrum. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million people throughout the world that are stateless. By stateless we mean they are without a nationality and without the benefits that this typically confers. People can be de jure or de facto stateless. The former is when a person is legally without a nationality and the latter is when someone is unable to effectively establish their nationality or whose nationality is either disputed or ineffective.

Nate WCC-Stateless-Hague

Director Nate Hosler with other World Council of Churches participants

Some discussion around statelessness focuses on the lack of identity that people feel. During this part of the discussion is where I feel some ambivalence. As a follower of Jesus, in whom “there is no Jew or Greek” and presumably no American, Canadian, or Nigerian, I hold that the nation-state is not the locus of identity. So while I don’t wish to under value people’s sense of displacement I find the lack of national identity a less poignant of the many concerns bound up in statelessness.

Much discussion however, focuses on those communities and individuals who suffer severely from neglect and active repression. At the WCC consultation we were visited by Imon Khan. He was part of the Rohyinga ethnic minority in Myanmar. In 1982 a change in citizenship laws rendered thousands of Rohyinga stateless. Iman was one of those who ended up in Bangladesh stateless. Eventually after both parents died and someone convinced him that he would easily find a job in the Netherlands he paid a smuggler to get him to Amsterdam.

Upon arrival he was alternately conned out of his money and pushed to the streets. When he visited the consultation he wore a hat pulled low. In addition to telling his story he said he suffered from high blood pressure from the anxiety and uncertainty. Eventually throughout the afternoon and evening he spent with the group he removed his hat and began to relax. Upon leaving he said that this was the first time in his 26 year life that he felt like people had treated him like a human. While I don’t want to over analyze this brief encounter it illustrates the double component of lack of identity and belonging as well as the risk and deprivation that stateless persons experience.

In hopes of helping people like Imon, we drafted a statement affirming the the WCC’s 10th Assembly statement adopted last year on statelessness and recommending ways in which we as member churches can begin or continue to address statelessness in our corners of the world. The statement we released this week set our theological commitments alongside the problem before moving on to concrete recommendations

  • “The underlying theological assumption of active concern for those who are suffering is the belief that all people created by God constitute an inextricable unity. Solidarity and compassion are virtues that all Christians are called to practice, regardless of their possessions, as signs of their Christian discipleship. Compassion and care for one another and acknowledging the image of God in all humanity is at the core of our Christian identity and an expression of Christian discipleship.”
  • “These biblical and theological bases motivate us as churches and Christian bodies to express our Christian commitment and to be engaged in our prophetic witness to speak for the rights of those who are voiceless and marginalized as stateless people.”—(Full Statement Here)

As I board the plane tomorrow and make the journey home I will certainly be thinking about the many things I heard and remembering the many people I met. More importantly, however, I will be reflecting on the ways the Office of Public Witness can bring the issue of statelessness and the people affected into our work.

In Christ’s Peace,

Nate Hosler

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