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

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.

-Shelley

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.

-Christopher

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.

-Jake

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,

–Christy

Camp Inspiration Hills, July 6 – 12, 2014

Y-P-double-T hits the big city

Youth Peace Travel Team at Annual Conference

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

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

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

Peace doodles

Peace doodles: destroying injustice (Annual Conference 2014)

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

-Chris

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

-Shelley

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

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

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

-Christy

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

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

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

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

-Jake

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

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

-Chris

 

Putting the “why” in family

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

Singing around the campfire at Camp Stover

Singing around the campfire at Camp Stover

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

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

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

-Shelley

Art project at Camp Stover

Art project at Camp Stover

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

-Christy

Hikers at Camp Wilbur Stover

Hiking at Camp Wilbur Stover (Idaho)

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

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

-Jake

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

-Chris