Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – Camp Bethel

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Hello again friends! We have just finished up our second week of camp, this time at the amazing Camp Bethel! Camp Bethel is HUGE and incredibly beautiful! It seems like almost everyone we’ve met out east has some sort of connection with this camp, and now we get to share in that! Here are some of our thoughts from the week! Hope you enjoy!

What can I say about Camp Bethel? First of all, the camp itself in absolutely massive, but secondly, it is not even big enough to hold all of the energy and incredible fun that all the wonderful people bring with them! This camp prides itself on being a family style camp, even though their camper numbers are super high! It was truly awesome to get to interact with all the super enthusiastic staff and campers throughout the week! I got the opportunity to go on a canoe trip with one of the units, and it was without a doubt a highlight of the week! Another highlight was getting to work with the Day Camp that Bethel puts on! The YPTT got to lead a session with each of the six units at this camp (all elementary students). We led some fruit of the spirit discussion and games and some fruity songs as well! It was super fun and filled with all the energy and excitement that young kids bring! Another highlight from the week was getting to sing and goof off with all the campers and staff throughout the week. There were constantly games and songs that we were always more than welcome to jump into and join! Camp Bethel was most definitely an incredibly fun and exciting week! – Kerrick

What a fun week at Camp Bethel! The staff here has the highest amount of energy that I’ve ever seen in a camp staff. It was so awesome! Singing is a part of almost every camp, but at Bethel it is a GIGANTIC part of camp and worship. We sang songs after every meal, before worship and units would sing as they walked between activities. I loved hearing familiar repeat-after-me songs that I could join in on everywhere I went. Bethel offers a free Day Camp and over 80 children registered. YPTT spent two days with them. Our first day we led sessions with the elementary students about the fruit of the spirit and the second day we led cardboard games. It was such a joy to spend time interacting with the little ones. Another highlight was skit night. Each unit performed a skit that they created. Some were even based off of funny events that happened during the week. Camp Bethel was quite an exciting time. – Annika

The first thing I noticed about Camp Bethel was the water. There were streams winding their way throughout the camp, and a couple shallow ponds. I found the setting to be very peaceful. Yet as people began arriving the peace was quickly balanced by incomparable energy and enthusiasm. There were so many people, and so much energy that I was a bit overwhelmed at times-but song time was a blast. It was interesting to get to know a camp that was so different from my home camp (Mardela) in both size and worship styles. The people who call Bethel home are so different than those from Mardela, and it was fun getting to know them and doing my best to keep up with them at song time. I especially loved visiting campers and staff during “Home in the woods,” when people sleep out in the woods for a night. One group fed me! Around the fire, I was able to interact with some cool people, and was sad to depart the camp early on Friday for National Junior High Conference before being able to get to know these people more. Overall, Bethel was a unique experience. – Brean

Thank you for reading and sharing in a part of our wonderful journey around the camps! Thanks to Camp Bethel for the wonderful and exciting week! Until next time friends, spread the peace! – YPTT 2015

 

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – ECHO Workcamp

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Hello from Florida again friends! We spent the last week as directors for the workcamp down here in Fort Myers at ECHO Global Farm! We got to not only help lead devotions for the youth, but also got the chance to work alongside them. It was an excellent experience for all of us, and here are some of our thoughts from the week.

I was already excited to see ECHO again, as I went there as a workcamper back in 2009. Having that experience gave me some know-how, but it didn’t help me “know how” to be a director – that was the biggest difference! But I still had a great experience at both the farms and with my campers. These campers were an awesome, hard working, energetic and song-loving group. Sing-alongs were a must during the week. But it wasn’t all play. The work was dirty and tiring, and we drank so much water. We were all inspired to live more mindfully of the earth and the resources we use. I daydreamed about having my own garden of multi-use plants and produce. My parents say that I came home daydreaming about a garden back in 2009 too! ECHO must have a great impact on people as well as their staff. Proving just how dedicated to their spiritual calling, two elders of ECHO prayed for me for something I’ve been struggling with. I was definitely happy to be back. The beautiful gardens, the wonderful staff, and the great campers made it an unforgettable experience – one that was definitely worth the fire ant bites!  – Brean

Last week the Peace Team played the role of the director, which was new for everyone. I really enjoyed ECHO for many reasons. I love the philosophy they have on global farming and helping people around the world learn how to grow their own food. Food insecurity is something that interests me a lot so ECHO was a perfect opportunity to learn about and participate in helping to alleviate that problem. Echo has sections of the farm that replicate different regions of the world including: rainforest, mountain, wetlands, semi-arid, urban farming, community garden, and more. I worked in semi-arid by weeding and planting okra. I also worked in the community garden by hauling and mixing sand and soil to raise the beds in the garden. I haven’t ever done farm work so ECHO was very new and exciting. On our free day we got to go to Barefoot Beach. It was gorgeous! We got to swim and dolphins swam by us about 200 meters away! We also found crabs, sand dollars and sea stars; I’ve never seen that much wildlife in the day at the beach. It was wonderful! – Annika

This past week at ECHO was a wonderful time! We played the role of director and worked alongside one of the workcamp coordinators (shout out to Hannah). We had a great group of campers and advisors that we got to lead through devotions and just hang out with. During the day we would all head over to ECHO Global Farms where they would split us up into different work groups that would go with interns at the farm to work for the day. And when I say work, I mean WORK! It was tough work of all kinds, from weeding and planting to building shelters to mulching and everything in between! And on top of that it was in the Florida heat! But our campers persevered and did an excellent job! Everyone was always tired when we broke for lunch and at the end of the day, but then we could rest knowing that we had done great work for an amazing cause. The staff at ECHO were all super great and helpful, and incredibly excited to have our help for the week! One of my highlights was getting to work with a big group of campers to replace one of the shade coverings at the nursery. We spent all our workday up on ladders or running tools around to take boards down and put new ones back up! The coolest part was that it couldn’t be done as a one-person job; we needed everyone and all had to work together to get the job done! Another highlight was how welcoming the Saving Grace Church of the Brethren in Fort Myers was to our camp. They let us use their building, and also had a cookout meal and concert for us one evening! ECHO was a great experience and an excellent week! -Kerrick

We all greatly enjoyed the week at ECHO, and if you ever get the chance to go down to Fort Myers and volunteer there, we definitely recommend it! (Although maybe not in July) J Thanks to everyone who helped make this workcamp happen and thank you to all who took time to read our blog post here! Blessings to you all!

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – Camp Ithiel

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Hello friends! We just finished up a very energy filled and exciting week at beautiful Camp Ithiel! We had 49 junior high youth there with us for the wonderful journey that is church camp! Camp Ithiel gave us the opportunity to lead a session everyday with the youth, (Two sessions actually, because we could only do half the group at one time), which was super awesome! We also got to hang out and join in on the rest of the activities throughout the week!

At the beginning of the camp week, I was adjusting to both the hot weather and the number of junior highers attending – 49 in total! It was such a diverse group, and I loved it! During Vespers, the kids turned singing songs into dancing for Jesus, and the energy was almost overwhelming. We also enjoyed our sessions with the campers, especially since it was the first time we had a chance to do all five of our topics. As the week went on, the campers offered more and more insightful comments, so I really hope that they continue to be passionate about peace. Outside of sessions, the campers were so much fun to play with: nine-square-in-the-air, gaga ball, and then even a crazy game of clothes pin tag! I loved the camp and their staff, and I’m enjoying my time in Florida.

-Brean

I had a fantastic week at camp Ithiel! It is such a unique camp because it is located right in the middle of an Orlando suburb, while most camps that we have visited are out in the middle of nowhere.

This week 49 junior high campers came to camp!  There haven’t been that many campers at Ithiel in years. Each camper was so unique and full of energy. The campers came from very diverse backgrounds and it was such a joy to get to know them.

On Thursday, I was sorting the recycling and one of the campers came to help me. I said, “Thanks for your help” and he told me that he didn’t like what happened to his sustainable village when they were destroyed yesterday, so he wanted to become actively involved in living more environmentally friendly. On Wednesday, we had done our Creation Care workshop where the campers designed an environmentally sustainable village and then when they finished the YPTT drew in business, coal mines, etc, to show what happens to the environment when new industries are built. I was so happy that he continued to think about the topic the day after the session!

Another part of the week that I really enjoyed was going to worship with the campers. A couple times a bunch of the campers and staff started dancing as we sang. It was a completely different worship experience than I’ve ever had, but it was AWESOME to see how joyful they were!

-Annika

Camp Ithiel is an incredible place. As you are driving into it, you are completely surrounded by suburban neighborhoods and then Boom! There’s the camp entrance, and a whole new world behind it.

This week was an excellent experience for us on the YPTT, the staff were so welcoming and great! And the campers. The campers were CRAZY!! And I mean that in the best way possible! They were all so full of energy and it was such an great opportunity to get to work with them and try to channel that energy into the activities we had planned in our sessions!

One of my highlights of the week was the chance to join the campers in their Rec Choice time, playing alongside them in volleyball and soccer and all other types of games! Another highlight was getting to do our sessions with the youth. It was definitely challenging at times to get them to pay attention, but when we succeeded the ideas that they had were so insightful and awesome! This week was definitely a fantastic experience that challenged me, but at the same time was incredibly rewarding!

-Kerrick

Camp Ithiel is a beautiful place full of beautiful people, and we definitely want to thank them for a wonderful week! We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work with the youth each day and the chance to hang out alongside them as well! Our summer as the YPTT is flying by and we would like to thank the people who have been praying for our ministry and for us! Thank you for all you do! Until next week, so long! Keep spreading peace and love!

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – National Junior High Conference

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Hey all you awesome people! YPTT here again! This time to tell you about the wonderful weekend we just had at National Junior High Conference! We had the opportunity to help lead some workshops and some recreation activities and of course hang out with the awesome junior high youth that attended! Here are some thoughts!

We spent June 19 – 21 at National Junior High Conference at Elizabethtown College! It was so fun to be able to hang out with the youth and leadership there! One of my highlights from the weekend was leading Ultimate Frisbee during recreation time. Being able to just go out and have fun with a bunch of youth from all over the place while playing a game that I love is definitely one of my absolute favorite things to do! Another excellent experience that I had this weekend was all of the wonderful worships that we all had together. In my opinion, there are very few things cooler than singing and worshiping together with a massive group of people! We also got to lead a YPTT booth at the carnival we had together, and we led the youth in Peace Hopscotch!! This was my first NJHC and it most certainly did not disappoint! The leadership did an amazing job of planning, and the youth all seemed genuinely happy to be there together! What a great weekend!!

-Kerrick

If I wasn’t annoying everyone with my knowledge of Elizabethtown College by day one, then surely it was obvious by the last day that I’m a student at E-town and I was excited to visit. As if I needed the extra excitement-National Junior High Conference was a blat. I saw many familiar faces, and met a bunch of new people. There was so much energy during worship and I loved the music. The worship services were so easy to relate to, even if I was a few years older than the target demographic, and I absolutely loved seeing Alexander Mack and Walt Wiltschek as Peter on stage in a skit together. The weekend brought back memories of when I attended NJHC and NYC, and I was reminded of why I loved those events so much.

-Brean

This past weekend was my very first National Junior High Conference. It was so cool to be with so many Church of the Brethren youth in one place at the same time. I helped lead peace games, and really enjoyed doing activities with a peace purpose. We played step tag to represent different ways to handle conflict. Additionally we played giant Jenga. As the youth took down each block they said a way they could peacefully begin to resolve conflicts. As the structure came down, each person wrote their thoughts on the blocks and we rebuilt a peaceful structure. I loved seeing the awesome and insightful ideas the junior high youth had. Eventually the original structure fell and a new peaceful structure was created.

-Annika

P.S. We also got to ride to NJHC with a super awesome group of youth from Virginia! We got the chance to get to know them a little bit and road trip together! We also got the opportunity to stop at Hershey Chocolate World with them, which is always a super amazing experience!! So a huge thank you to the two youth groups who allowed us to tag along with them to conference!

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – Brethren Woods

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Hello friends! Welcome to the first YPTT 2015 blog! Here’s how this tiny glimpse into our weeks at camp will work! Each week we will have a little intro that says where we were and then each of the team members will write a short blurb about their experiences that week! Hope you enjoy reading!

We of the YPTT 2015, Annika, Brianna, and Kerrick, have just finished up our first week of camp here at Camp Brethren Woods. If you have not been to this amazing place you most certainly should take the trip out!! We got to work alongside the wonderful staff here and had a great group of campers to work with as well! Here’s what we each thought about the week!

Hello! My name is Kerrick and I love donuts! Our team just finished the week at Brethren Woods, which was an awesome and different experience for me, personally! I have grown up going to church camp my whole life, (shout out to Camp Colorado and Camp Mt Hermon!!!) but Brethren Woods was by far the largest camp I had ever been to! It was so cool to have multiple age groups there at the same time, and for our team to have the chance to work with all of them. One of my highlights from the week was the Water Carnival that we had one evening. I got to help run the snack station (ICE CREAM!) which meant that I got to talk to all of the campers as they came by to get their snack. It was so cool to see all of them having so much fun together and was just an awesome time in general! I also really appreciated the sessions that we got to lead with the campers and the discussions that accompanied those. It is always so amazing to see how smart and wise kids can be, sometimes completely out of the blue! This was an excellent first week, and I am definitely looking forward to the rest of the summer as well!

Greetings, this is Annika.  The week at Brethren Woods went swimmingly!  A highlight was hiking up a mountain to a waterfall where we lead a peace session and cooked dinner over the fire.  The hike was so beautiful and the water felt wonderful to jump into after hiking for 2 miles. It was also a great time to get to know some of the campers as we scaled the mountain. The sessions we led were quite dynamic. I was excited that there were many different opinions spoken during our time with the campers.  This was my first time at a Church of the Brethren camp because I went to a Mennonite camp called Menno Haven. I was so impressed by the enthusiasm of the campers and staff.  Brethren Woods was so welcoming to the Peace Team and I couldn’t ask for a better start to the summer.  Until next time!

Brianna here! When I first arrived at Camp Brethren Woods, it was dark, so I couldn’t see much of the beautiful sky and mountains that framed the camp.  On the inside, I must have been the same way. I started this summer worrying about everything I could do wrong, and it distracted me from all the fun I could have been having. Brethren Woods boasts a hilarious and hospitable staff, as well as energetic, fun loving campers. I was so distracted that I ran into some obstacles – quite literally. (Word of caution, if you are canoeing, try not to run into any trees dipping into the water. I became caught in the branches, covered in bugs, and was nearly knocked out of the canoe!) I had to learn to fall into the rhythm of things. Kids are an insightful bunch, and I was reminded of that throughout the week. I stopped worrying so much about perfection and let the kids lead things where they needed to be and we had some great discussions. I definitely enjoyed hearing all the perspectives each kid had, and all their worldly awareness. I made it out of the branches, and got some good pictures of the mountain scenery.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, friends! As you can probably tell, we greatly enjoyed our time, and are off to a great start this summer! Until next time, stay awesome and bring the peace!

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.

-Shelley

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!

-Christy

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.

-Jake

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.

-Chris

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.

-Shelley

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!

-Jake

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!

-Christy

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.

-Chris

Camp Hammond Mill, August 3 – 9

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.

-Shelley

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.

-Jake

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!

-Christy

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.

-Chris

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.

-Shelley

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!

-Christy

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.

-Jake

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.

-Chris

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.
-Shelley

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.
-Christy

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.

-Jake

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.

-Chris