By Gimbiya Kettering, Intercultural Ministries coordinator
Five years ago, Daniel D’Oleo and Dava Hensley met over a shared vision. As Church of the Brethren pastors (one of a new Spanish-speaking congregation, the other of an established “Anglo” one) they had decided to share a building. They discussed the practical details about shared space, utilities, and timing of events, and trusted that the Spirit would move in their midst. But neither could foresee how deeply Roanoke First Church of the Brethren and Roanoke Renacer would unite in their shared space. They certainly couldn’t have imagined how it would impact their youth.
Just over a year ago, the two youth groups decided to merge into one, big, multicultural crowd. The youth quickly bonded, and the groups became woven together into an inseparable mix. What started as a practical consideration of resources was revealed to be the Spirit of God blessing a vibrant gathering of young people.
There was just one problem: Roanoke First Church of the Brethren had been raising and saving money to send “their” youth to National Youth Conference since 2010, but the new, combined group was much larger than they had planned. Roanoke Renacer had not had as much time to plan for the conference, so they couldn’t send all the youth who came from that congregation.
Separating the youth group was unthinkable, so the two congregations combined their resources and the youth began joint fundraising in earnest. Between carwashes and luncheons, camping en route to save money on the trip to Colorado, and scholarships from Congregational Life Ministries, they made their goal. All the youth from Roanoke Renacer and First Church of the Brethren, as one large group, are NYC-bound.
For some, attending NYC will be a continuation of a faith and family tradition. For others, it will be the first time anyone from their family will have attended. Regardless of their history, each is excited to join a multitude of Church of the Brethren youth at National Youth Conference. And all are excited to do so together, as one, big, beautiful group, born of a shared vision, moved by the Spirit.
National Youth Conference is July 19-24. Register at www.brethren.org/nyc .