Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Debriefing and Harrisburg workcamp

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As the summer wraps up, we had a team debriefing session before our Junior High workcamp in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For three of us, Harrisburg was our first workcamp! It was quite an experience to simultaneously step into a directing role as a team. We had the opportunity to serve with several organizations around Harrisburg for three days before we were off to our final camp! What a joyful time.

Hello friends!

Debriefing went very well. It is so difficult to wrap up all the amazing experiences and lessons we have learned this summer in just a few conversations. But the laughs, backyard swims, and just a few days off were really nice and refreshing.

The work camp theme this year was “blazing with holiness.” The worships, devotions, and just the conversations and ideas the team had really seemed to flow well. I personally had not heard the metaphor of fire in worship in quite a while. The rhetoric I seemed to associate with that metaphor was fairly negative, but this week has turned it right upside on its head. And what a place to do it! Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren was undeniably ablaze with service. It seemed like their doors never closed, with people always in and out for all different needs. The workcampers definitely recognized it too. We discussed the kindling of their own faith. It really touched my heart how blessed we are as a team to be part of these faith journeys at such a pivotal point of growth.

It was also awesome to be in a city again! I remember in Iowa at some point saying “I need to stop somewhere and use the bathroom” and the person driving us replied, “Okay, you’ll have to wait about fifteen minutes until we get somewhere.” I grew up in a city and currently live in a different city. There is nothing quite like the hustle, bustle, and immediate diversity of cities like Harrisburg or Cincinnati. My favorite part of the week was going to an authentic taqueria. I loved supporting a family business while being reminded of my childhood. Love was abundant in this city and in all the service done here. Urban ministry is groovy! Not to mention the tambourines!!

Peace out, Kiana

Yo! We have finished another amazing week, but this time with a twist. Our experience with a junior high work camp was all-around awesome. Since the work camp started halfway through the week, we got to start our week with a few relaxing days. Once work camp started, we moved over to Harrisburg First, and began co-directing with Marie.

Working with junior high at a workcamp is a similar and yet different thing than working with them at a camp. These young leaders touched my heart through their abilities to spread joy, lift each other up, work hard, and serve selflessly. God was at work in so many ways as we moved furniture for Brethren Housing Association and worked in green spaces and city gardens. He was at work in those of us who served at local soup kitchens and resource centers, like Downtown Daily Bread and Bethesda’s Women’s Shelter. I saw Him at work when the campers learned about interpersonal communication by making coke floats-with blindfolds on. His spirit flowed in our worship with the Harrisburg First praise band, and His love connected us with the local youth group as well.

This week definitely was an amazing first work camp experience, and God’s hands and feet were all over Harrisburg last week.

Phoebe

This past week in Harrisburg was a time to gain a greater connection to the city that I had previously only known as my state’s capital. Shortly after our arrival, it became apparent that Harrisburg First Church is an exceedingly alive congregation with a perpetually active ministry. Both the tradition and the praise services, led this Sunday by the youth, were filled with energy and joy as each person there was greeted by a smile and great music! However, this week we got to really see what it means for church not just to be for Sundays. People visit the church building all week long to attend parenting classes, nonviolent conflict resolution workshops, Bible studies, fresh food distributions, and so much more.

The work project where I spent the majority of my time was building raised vegetable beds to be used by Brethren Community Ministries. We got to watch as a lot went from empty to a fully planted garden in just a couple of days and as the work camp youth stepped out of their comfort zones and began to master power tools.

It was a blessing for me to see what an urban Church of the Brethren can be and do. “Blazing with Holiness” was a perfectly fitting workcamp theme; at many points during the week, the church felt on fire! Coming from a more rural district, this week stirred me to explore many more creative and varied ways to be the Church in all of my communities.
What an inspiring week in my home state, Pennsylvania!
The workcamp in Harrisburg was my 7th workcamp, and it was really awesome to be in a leadership role for the first time! Workcamps have always been one of the highlights of my summer and have been such a large part of my faith journey. This summer was no different.

At first, the workcamp wasn’t one of the spots along the team’s travel that I was looking forward to the most because it was in such close proximity to my home However, I learned so much about myself and from the youth that the week became one of my summer highlights.

I would typically identify as a “country girl” who was raised in Lancaster County. However, going on a tour the first night of the workcamp showed me the value and pure awesomeness of growing up in a city. 1) THERE ARE SO MANY FOOD PLACES YOU CAN WALK TO, including a really awesome ice cream shop this week. 2) I’d probably know how to parallel park. 3) Urban ministry is awesome. I really enjoyed worship and Harrisburg First. The list goes on and on. Sometime in my life, I want to experience living in a city.

The workcampers that week were also truly amazing. I generally have difficulty opening up to people. However, this past week a few youth just found ways to pick on me in a loving way that meant they were comfortable with me. Also, seeing how much these youth could get done was awesome.

They were hard workers and were so efficient!

Peace, Love, and PA
Jenna

Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Camp Brethren Heights

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Hello dear friends! We just finished up our 8th week of the summer at Camp Brethren Heights with Beaver Camp! What a different change of pace to work with 9-11 year olds in such a fun atmosphere. This week the team practiced what it preached by stepping out of our comfort zones in differing ways. “Beaver one, beaver all, let’s all hear our beaver call!”

Michigan was full of fun, nature, and a sense of family (both literally and figuratively), which we were welcomed into immediately. I admired so dearly the leadership present at camp; from the Dean to the CIT’s, from the counselors to the worship and Bible study leaders, everyone there was amazing in their ability to demonstrate the family of God.

A unique thing about Brethren Heights was that it was our first experience where Bible time was sort of built off of, or continued from, our content. The message of peace was strongly desired and emphasized at Brethren Heights, a camp who hadn’t experienced the Peace Team in a long time. I was humbled to hear the conviction and passion of the leaders as they led in a continued learning experience of peace, communication, and justice. I learned so much about teaching and using my resources from the way these leaders used theirs.

Our team was somewhat nervous going into a week of elementary campers, as they were younger than our typical crowd. But we were able to see just how much these kids retained, even in the act of playing foursquare and observing how the language of that activity changed throughout the week. We were not disappointed in the slightest, and we were able to bond and connect with these campers and this staff so wonderfully.

Michigan was great, and I can’t wait to head back for our final week!

See ya’ soon,
Phoebe

Our past week was spent singing and dancing at the endless hills of Brethren heights! This was the team’s first state that was new to all of us; it didn’t disappoint. This week was full of love and laughter for all involved. And also many naps. As the end of our summer draws near, I felt fatigued and a little sick. I deeply appreciated the gracious staff that let me rest.

Sometimes, even when you feel like you aren’t at your best is when the Holy Spirit decides you are needed the most. I struggle with feeling confident in my ability to lead younger kids. I know when I was that age most things went in one ear and out the other. My mind at that point in my development was probably focused on what the clouds looked like outside or what my favorite Jonas brother was doing at the time. I also had forgotten just how it sounded to hear children communicate with others their age – far from peaceful or patient! However, it was an amazing experience to see the campers grow through the week in the smallest lessons they took from our sessions. Foursquare games got a lot friendlier when we brought up speaking to each other in love! So simple, yet a teaching most of us forget day-to-day. It is always so moving to see kids develop in ways you never expected them too. I am thankful for the patience and peace they ended up teaching me.

Another favorite part of this camp for me was to see the family values held by leadership. Being on the road and so far from home does instill a sense of homesickness. Instead of saying “homesickness,” we referenced the word “potato.” Yet just to see a mom, who was also the camp’s dean, hug her son every morning at breakfast warmed my heart. This was a week I felt the fruits of the Spirit in abundance. Thank you, Brethren Heights.

Peace,
Kiana

We have been blessed each week of this summer to be welcomed into new families and communities with open arms, and this week was no different. Listening to stories of Brethren Heights from generations past, particularly how this camp and the Church of the Brethren shaped the lives of the many volunteers who now return to work with current campers, was inspiring.

If there were two ideas we hoped to leave with the campers this week, it would have been that words are powerful and stepping out of your comfort zone is necessary. We noticed early in the week that in times of excitement, such as a foursquare match or the cabin cleaning competition, emotions often ran high and words spoken unintentionally often hurt. It was awesome to watch throughout the week as with the prompting of counselors and staff many campers began to pay attention to the way they were expressing themselves. Campers were also encouraged to get out of their comfort zones and try new things. Many tried praying in public or leading a song. Many campers realized that trying new things makes camp an even better time and that what is comfortable for one person isn’t always what is “just.”

In the words of a song adapted by Dan West:
“Beyond the hills of Michigan our unseen camper friends, now walk beside us all the way in life that never ends.”

We will remember our camper friends at Brethren Heights as well all daily seek to learn how to speak to each other in love and do justice beyond our comfort zone.

— Peace, Sara

Working with these young people was exhausting, and yet inspiring.

One moving moment was at the beginning of the week when we played “One fish, two fish.” The campers had to work together to take a water bottle from between the caller’s legs and get it back to the starting line without the caller seeing it. It took some strategizing, cooperation, communication, and teamwork, but the campers successfully completed the task after a few trials and errors.

Another awesome thing was when campers were able to share back with us important lessons that we had been teaching. Also, this camp was really big on memory verses and it was neat to see the campers retain Matthew 5:9 the best.
I’m always amazed by random conversations that are just happen, whether they happen in a car with a respected elder or around a fire with campers and counselors. This summer has been full of deep and meaningful conversations.

I’m so excited to return to Brethren Heights with their adventure senior high camp at the end of our summer!

Peace, Love, and Beavers,
Jenna

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Pine Lake

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Hello from among the miles of cornfield! This past week we were blessed to fellowship with the Senior High at Camp Pine Lake. These youth blew us away with their many gifts of singing, sharing their journey, and bracelet making.

This week the team was invited to lead a large group Bible study session as well as our normal peace-related sessions each day. All of the camps that we have visited are using a curriculum this summer titled “Fearless Faith.” Each day has its own theme, one of which is “together the courage to trust” for which is used the story of Ruth and Naomi in Ruth 1:16-18. One thing that I have been trying to work on this summer, with the support of the team, has been creating more space for others to share and lead, especially during our sessions. This week, I felt a new level of trust throughout the team as we allowed more flexibility in our sessions and each shared out of our own places of understanding. All of this came together in ways we could have never planned and truly demonstrates the beautiful work of the Spirit in community. I am so grateful for the many friendships that we were also blessed with this week. Many of the campers are already active members in the broader church, and they eagerly look forward to serving in Ministry Summer Service, Youth Peace Travel Team, and Brethren Volunteer Service. I cannot wait to see the beautiful work that these leaders will do. Their love is such a blessing and inspiration.

Sara

What an amazing week in Iowa! The warm welcomes started with the Nehers and their amazing muffins, continues by the community church gathering, and then the campers and staff letting us join into their already tight-knit community. It was really awesome to see the campers from the get-go inviting us to join in on all of their favorite activities like Eagles Nest, Ultimate Frisbee, friendship bracelet making, and night games. The campers’ opinions and thoughts on the Bible and our peace session led me to think in different ways this week. One of my favorite activities we led this week was during “Change Day.” We asked, “What makes a car a car?” and then continued with “how would you change a car?” We also did this same exercise with the concepts of school and church. It was awesome to hear about what they thought was essential to each of these and how they would change them. I fell in love with this camp and Iowa in my short time there.

Peace, Love, and Corn
Jenna

Another wonderful week has come to pass! I can’t believe how much I loved Pine Lake. The camp atmosphere there felt like home almost immediately. The connection of the youth in that district was already so strong, but didn’t feel exclusive. It was such a welcoming group, and I’m thankful that they so quickly brought us into their community. They were all insightful and well-spoken youth, and I benefitted as much from their leadership as they did from ours.

In addition to our normal sessions, we also got to lead Bible Study, which ended up being one of the biggest blessings of the summer. The team fed off of each other and the Holy Spirit flowed freely in the group. One of my prayers before leading anything is always: “Your words, not mine, God.” I think that prayer was answered so wonderfully this week, not only through the team, but through the youth and camp leadership as well.

Another thing I loved about Pine Lake was campfire, which always started with silly songs. I was pleased to find that I knew a lot of their songs and vise versa, and I was thrilled to learn some new songs and new versions of some old songs. The youth got to lead campfire in small groups, and one of the most intense moments all week was when people shared stories of forgiveness in their lives. Every day there was an emotional experience and a ton of fun.

Overall, my time in Iowa was incredible. Full of jokes, love, camp songs, and corn, I can vouch for Iowa: it really is 75% vowels, and 100% awesome.

Phoebe

Hello pals!
What a week at Pine Lake! Not to say my “city slicker” sights had anything to do with this, but I had some low expectations for a camp in the middle of miles of corn. That expectation was quickly melted away with the warm hospitality of the Nehers when they picked us up from the airport. What waited for us at their home was four individual beds (while I love my team, it is a treat to get our own beds) a breakfast of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and tea, and wonderful conversation. I was in awe of the hospitality from these two. And the camp was beautiful!! I would have to say my favorite thing about this week was the group dynamic of the team. We led Bible study as well as our sessions. I believe this was the first time it really clicked for us to have an outline of what we were going to do and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. I was blown away at what the Spirit did for us as a team, and hopefully the campers as well. It was refreshing to be with senior high youth again. Some of these senior high youth were also with us at Annual Conference and had just returned from a work camp. I am always excited to see young people moving in the denomination. I was also moved at the senior dedication camp fire. I felt so proud of these campers I had known only a week! They had become fine young adults in that week. I look forward to seeing them at Young Adult Conferences!! Thanks for all the smiles and silly songs, Pine Lake!!

Peace,
Kiana

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Ithiel

IMG_8428.edited Greetings! This past week we had an amazing time at Camp Ithiel in fellowship with Junior High Camp! We were able to refresh from the hot sun with a trip to Twisty Treat with some of the support staff. Again, we were amazed by the youth’s insights during our justice workshops. It was awesome to have a session with each small group and dive deep into our curriculum.

This past week at Camp Ithiel was a blast – full of love-filled conversations about faith, enthusiastic singing, and lots of sun! Because the majority of the campers and staff at Ithiel are not members of the Church of the Brethren, I was less accustomed to the spiritual practices and theological language used. Although I am often quick to share my own thoughts and opinions, this week I spent deliberately practicing open listening. It saddens me to think how easily I could have missed the many blessings that were shared with me this week. The counselors, staff, and campers modeled for me a core element of spirituality that I had no idea I was completely ignoring: surrender. In songs, they lifted their hand over their heads in surrender to the powerful emotion of sharing together in worship and the presence of the spirit in that place. In prayer, they would surrender their tongues to a fervent plea for grace for those with whom they stood. When playing camp games, they would surrender themselves to the joy and laughter of the moment, running full-tilt. Individuals modeled the importance of surrender as they told stories of their own faith journeys during which they placed all faith in God and continued on, often in a new unexpected direction. Now I would say that I am an absolute novice in the area of surrender, but boy did this family in faith inspire me to give it more practice. I hope to practice being more present and surrender myself to my emotions during worship. I also hope to quiet my own thought more often to surrender myself to the wisdom of those around me.
Blessings and peace,
Sara

Howdy!
What a wonderful week once again! Camp Ithiel is such a beautiful camp; it was so hard to leave! This week I was amazed by the depth of the youth’s faith, and by how much they yearned to grow deeper in their connection with Christ. Also, the connections being made with counselors and staff are still awesome. They push me to think deeper about my faith, my choices, and my journey. I was really able to open up – even though it typically is a challenge for me.

The campers this week were so awesomely energetic, and they were able to share their energy with me. They shared stories of their lives so gratefully and truly opened up to us. Finally, I appreciated the time I spent with them outside of our sessions, hearing about what life is like in hot and humid Florida, and learning a little bit of Creole.
Peace, Love, and Palm Trees,
Jenna

Hey y’all! One more superb week has passed us by, and I have to say, I’m more than a little sad to leave. Despite the heat, Camp Ithiel was so much fun. My week was only slightly interrupted with some illness, but the campers and staff brought so much prayer and compassion to me during it. I was beyond humbled to experience their love for me, even when they had only known me a few days.

My favorite part of the week was our last session, which ended up being an open-ended “ask and talk” hour. Some of our most meaningful conversations seem to happen during the unstructured times, and I’m so grateful for those moments. In addition to our sessions, another favorite part of my time there was when YPTT got to take a short adventure to the beach! I’m a sucker for the ocean and I loved having some fun family time with the team.

The campers this week were so joyful and energetic, and the staff were incredibly engaged with their campers. Ithiel’s staff had so many gifts, and I continually saw encouragement and inspiration flowing through these counselors to the children. I was again humbled by their confidence and faith in God as He was at work in them and through them.

Although I can’t wait to experience the Iowa weather compared to Florida, leaving Ithiel wasn’t easy. I was able to take with me some jokes, songs, encouragement, and I think a little sand, too (whoops!).
– Phoebe

Hello pals!

We have just finished our week at Camp Ithiel. Returning to Camp Ithiel means a lot to me personally. My Brethren Volunteer Service orientation was held there January of 2015. A lot has happened for me since then. Also, Florida in January and Florida in July are vastly different experiences. Anyway, in some ways returning to this camp felt like home for me. This is where my Brethren journey really took off. As much as I loved my orientation at Camp Ithiel, it was awesome to experience the space in a whole new way. One of the themes from the camp curriculum is “Together, the courage to show up.” Being on Peace Team and running around constantly makes showing up mentally at times very challenging. This week specifically I had the opportunity to not only push myself physically to show up despite the heat, but to show up spiritually and mentally for worships theologically different from my own practices. Both of these I have some trouble with. But as I reflected on why it is challenging to listen to those who share different practices of similar ideas, the importance of such action has been heavy on my heart. As children of God, I think we all believe in the same basic ideas. One is not right and one is not wrong. One is not better and one is not worse. Actively loving your neighbor means to actively listen. And even if there are barriers that keep us from being active, whether it is the heat or our own personal walls, we are called to not just tolerate, but to love our neighbors. We should listen and learn from our brothers and sisters in God.

Peace, blessings and patience,
Kiana

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Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Brethren Woods and Annual Conference


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This past week the team enjoyed a few days at Brethren Woods and then was off to a very busy schedule at Annual Conference. At Brethren Woods, we led one session with each unit, focusing on our “Just Peace” workshop, in which campers think about how different questions are just or unjust. At Annual Conference, we did this same session with junior high and senior high participants at the age group activities. Another exciting part of our time at Annual Conference was leading games, crafts, and storytelling with the K-2 activities! It was quite a busy week traveling from Maryland to Virginia, to North Carolina, and ending in Florida – but it was filled with learning, sharing, fellowship, and fun.

Hey, y’all! Wow, what a great week. I absolutely LOVED getting to go to Brethren Woods and Annual Conference. First of all, I spent a week counseling at Brethren Woods last summer, so it was really fun to go to a place where I was at least a little familiar and had some previous ties too. Not to mention, I go to school near Harrisonburg so it felt like going home in a way. The people there were amazing and we got to spend some time talking with the staff as well as connecting with campers. I even saw a few of my campers from last year! Also, a former Youth Peace Travel Team member even helped us with a family meeting, providing some extra guidance and insight, and encouragement. I hated to leave so early, but going to Annual Conference was pretty amazing too. I got to see some of my church family for the first time in a while, and I realized just how much I missed them. The business was really great-despite differences in belief and theology; what I was able to listen in on sounded respectful and loving. Worship spoke so strongly to this, too. Discussing our differences and working through conflict in love, and doing all of this with Christ as the center through which we are united, is crucial. We also experienced some great discussion in our sessions with the youth, and we got to help serve in a number of different booths and activities. I think what I loved most, though, was seeing people from my home congregation, past and present. Their love and encouragement means so much to me and I really loved getting to spend some quality time with them. Overall it was a great week, and I’m excited to be heading to Florida next! I hope Camp Ithiel is ready for us!
– Phoebe

Greetings pals!
We have just finished up our time at Brethren Woods and Annual Conference. It has been one of our busier weeks so far in my opinion. So many things to do and people to see! One of my highlights from the week was having our weekly “family meeting” hosted by a former YPTT member at Brethren Woods. This was our most difficult family meeting yet. And seeing that this was our most difficult meeting and how smooth and full of love it was, is an insight to the blessing it is to be working with this group of individuals. Our Brethren Woods mentor ended our meeting time with some feedback, saying “I am amazed that you are able to speak so intentionally to each other.” This phrase really touched my heart. Even though we all come from different places, different working styles, and different personalities it is always a joy to come together for a shared passion of peace, justice, and camp. My favorite thing about being a part of this team is getting to dive into what it means to live peacefully and actively love our neighbors and then having the immediate opportunity to live out our teachings. I am so blessed and respected by these gals, I hope to take the message of speaking the truth in love with me anywhere God may lead me. It was also one of God’s many well timed plans, that this lesson touched my heart right before Annual Conference. I was nervous about going into this conference as a young adult with so many “controversial” topics at hand. However, I was amazingly pleased to see everyone speaking their truth in respectful fashions. Even as communications get tough, days get long, and we become tired. We are all children of God. We are all called to be peacemakers.

Blessings,
Kiana

Although our time was short at Brethren Woods, I would like to thank the staff for the especially warm welcome that we received. One of the many blessings of this summer for me has been the chance to engage with young adults in leadership in the church. One of my favorite activities to lead and participate in this summer has quickly become an exercise from our Just Peace workshop. Each individual must decide if they think a certain activity is just, unjust, or somewhere in the middle. We encourage counselors to participate and each week, I am humbled by the contributions that they graciously provide. Each help me think about the questions in a new way, which I can then share with campers in upcoming weeks. From this week, I will remember that perhaps sitting with someone new could be made more just by inviting them to the table where others are already sitting and invite them into the community.

During the remainder of the week as we attended Annual Conference, I was further blessed by extraordinary fellowship as I reconnected with members of my church who have supported me throughout my faith journey, shared further time with many new friends from this summer, and developed a greater connection to the church through interactions with strangers bonded by our shared faith. I was again inspired particularly by the young adults in the church. One night we gathered together to meet the moderator-elect, and as I looked around the room I saw pastors, members of Brethren Volunteer Service, social justice activists, students, and a lot of friends. I cherish these relationships as role models, for I too can live out my faith at this point in my life.

Peace,
Sara

Hey everyone! What a week it was. Even though our time at Brethren Woods was short, I felt like we made an impact with the campers and counselors. From the minute we stepped in the door, the staff was welcoming us with their arms wide open, inviting us to join in on their Harry Potter Movie Marathon. During a break from watching movies, the team and a few counselors had a deep discussion about our faith journeys, how we viewed conflict resolution in relation to the Bible, and our path to discovering our individual theologies. It was really awesome to be able to share something so personal with each other and a new counselor on the first night we were at camp. I also really appreciate the bonds I quickly made with other counselors and campers who connected with me through our interactions outside of sessions.

At Annual Conference, I was refreshed to spend time with my church family and other friends in the larger denomination who I have formed relationships over the years of being involved in denominational activities. This being my first Annual Conference as an adult, I was interested to see the process of how business worked. It was really cool to see the delegates get through all of the queries essentially in one day. My favorite part from conference was my time with the K-2 activities. This is an age group the team will not see again this summer and it was awesome to witness their energy. I read a book to them called “What does peace feel like?” The book asks questions about peace through the different senses. When we got to the big question of what does peace feel like, one kid said, “Peace feels like it fills a hole in your heart.” Hearing these words from such young people are so inspiring to a young adult. This was just one of the many wise descriptions that the “youngins” said. My favorite question from the book was what does peace taste like, and many of the children answered, ICE CREAM! So with that being said, I will sign off with:

Peace, Love, and Ice Cream
Jenna

Youth Peace Travel Team – Camp Mardela

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Wow! We’ve already finished our second camp! This past week we were on the beautiful Eastern Shore at Camp Mardela working with their Tweens Camp! It was such a joy to be with this age group; they were so ready to learn more about the Bible and accept Jesus as their Savior. Their questions amazed us, and our one-on-one conversations with campers and counselors created deep connections. Once again, it was hard to leave such an amazing camp at the end of the week. We all truly feel blessed to have visited such a beautiful place.

 

Greetings friends!

Our past week at Camp Mardela has touched my heart. I entered the week cautious about being able to relate to children at such a different part of their journey than me. Not that I had low expectations for these kids, I just haven’t had the chance to interact with people that age in quite a while. I have become quite comfortable in my own young adult settings. And what do you know, leadership at camp Mardela continually stressed the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone!! I was absolutely blown away by the children’s ability to participate in creating and interacting in a safe space. Our just peace session offered some space for conversation about war. After hearing from a variety of campers and hearing a variety of comments, I felt full with the Spirit. Even though some opinions may differ, we are all children of God. We offered our stances in love and listened with grace. The children at Camp Mardela taught me more than I had to teach them this week.

-Kiana

Hello again, fellow peace enthusiasts!

I cannot believe what an awesome week we’ve just had. A few times during the week, Mardela felt like something out of a movie – like when the giant bell rang for dinner, or when Chief Geita told jokes or announcements over the loud-speaker. It was a little surreal, but SO much fun. Not only was it fun, but we had such a meaningful experience. The leadership and counselors at Mardela were phenomenal, and I loved watching these staff connect so closely with the campers as well as each other. It was only one week, but still such amazing bonds were formed. My favorite part of the week was when our director, Laura, led the entire group during Thursday worship in telling each other something we gained at camp that week. I saw so many kids open up that night, and the Spirit was surely moving. The campers gained new friends, courage, new experiences, and closer relationships with God. I think I gained another home away from home! Mardela, and Inspiration Hills too, now both hold such a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to have more groups and places to fall in love with this summer. I’m sure this will be a recurring theme in the following weeks, but as Winnie the Pooh said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Until next time!

Phoebe

There are not enough words to express my appreciation and connection I feel to this camp. From the moment we were picked up at the airport, we were greeted with willing arms to show us to the wondrous Eastern Shore and saw the sunset over the bay. The next day we began to meet the staff. Some opened up quickly to us and others took a day or two to share conversation and jokes, but by Tuesday I felt a deep connection to a few of the staff their and started to have fun with them. On Tuesday, I was having a conversation with one member who truly inspired me. To preface, I have always been a fairly driven athlete. But there are always days when I know I have not worked as hard as I could and I know I could do better. This staff member was discussing his hardship of not being able to work out anymore after the loss of a limb. Later in the week, he shared his story about his recovery in connection to his drive he got from his military experience in his ability to recover from this loss. These motivational speeches, in his eyes may not have meant to motivate, but have really pushed me to keep my work ethic in check. I cannot remember all the reasons why but I felt like most of Thursday and Friday I was crying more often than not, hearing campers open up about what they want to change in the world/their families/themselves, seeing the staff become more of family (with us included), and witnessing these children’s faith grow. I cannot thank Camp Mardela enough for the time and space we had to share and for allowing us to be a part of their family for the week. It was truly a blessing.

Peace, Love, and Camp Mardela

Jenna

This past week was a time of great spiritual growth and nourishment for me. As all those who know me will tell you, I struggle with change. Warming up to new places, people, and ideas sometimes just takes me a little time. This summer is full of change as each state has a different environment, each district its own theological language, and each camper their own story. As part of our interpersonal conflict resolution workshop, we consider Matthew 18:15-20. We discuss how to talk to each other in love, by acknowledging the feelings and needs of each other as we seek to work through our conflicts. This week verse 20 really stuck out to me. From the New International Version it reads, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” At so many points, I really felt the presence of the Spirit as we gathered with campers and staff. As we worshiped around the campfire we were witness to the life struggles and faith journeys of all. As we discussed what is “just,” we joined as active participants in the discernment of how we live out faith, shaping the world in the process. This recognition of the God here in our interactions not only led me to connect powerfully with the campers and staff at Mardela, but also challenges me to reconsider my approach to change this summer. I hope over the coming weeks when entering a new place to remember the presence of God in each interaction, thus viewing the God in the change. Finally, I also want to especially thank Laura, the director for the week, as through her strong love and determination to bring Christ to those around her, she provided for me an example of how to live that I will not forget. This summer we have had the opportunity to meet and work with many strong passionate women in the church, and each one has empowered and challenged me in incredible ways and for that I am grateful.

Peace,

Sara

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Youth Peace Travel Team – Inspiration Hills Camp

IMG_7999Cicadas! Cicadas! Cicadas! Oh my! This past week the team had the joy to be amidst senior high campers at Inspiration Hills in Ohio. We quickly learned that this was “the summer of the cicadas.” Their deafening buzz, hum, or screech, as some would describe it, left us wondering if we would run into anymore cicadas before their time passes (around July 4th) until the next cica
da summer in seventeen years. With this fascination of cicadas, we would like to share some interesting facts about this peculiar creature.IMG_7352

1. Cicadas will land on you if you are using lawn equipment because they will think you are also a cicada.
2. Cicadas have five eyes.
3. People eat them… but the peace team was not that adventurous.
4. Cicadas pee and it’s called cicada sap. We probably got hit by it and didn’t even notice.
5. You can find other facts at this website dedicated to cicadas. http://www.cicadamania.com/cicadas/the-most-interesting-17-year-cicada-facts/

What a way to start the summer! From building a cabin, to swimming out to the dock, to singing songs of praise, our week at Inspiration Hills brought us closer together as a team and to those that call this camp their home. I greatly appreciated the willingness of all campers and counselors to learn and participate as we ran our workshops for the first time. It was particularly heartwarming to hear that many used the word “safe” to describe their feelings after a challenging activity dealing with interpersonal conflict resolution. Participating together in conversations about how we each choose to live out our peace witness daily was also particularly powerful as a diversity of opinions were able to be expressed in this safe space. We all left the week with many new friends, things to ponder, and stomachs full of excellent campfire biscuits and popcorn!

Peace,
Sara

What’s up my Shalom-makers? We just wrapped up our first week of camp, and it was AWESOME. The staff and the campers were so welcoming and engaged in learning more about peacemaking. It was great to hear them all participate in discussion and activities, and it was also fun for us to hang out with them for camp activities! Some of my favorite parts were hanging out on the dock in the lake, making kettle corn in a massive cast iron bowl over the fire, helping construct a cabin (that wasn’t part of the original plan, but it was fun!), Coffee House night, worship in The Crater™, and eating peach cobbler. I’m going to miss the counselors, staff, and campers at Inspiration Hills, but I’m so hyped for Mardela and my first ride on an airplane! I definitely won’t be missing the cicadas, though. 17 years isn’t long enough.

Peace out,
Phoebe Hart

Hello and good tidings!! Our week was filled with resurrecting a cabin, songs, and water games. That’s only a few of the fun things we did this past week. If you would like to follow up with the rest of our activities, you are welcome to ask the thousands of cicadas that accompanied our journey. A specific highlight for me was the feeling of running our workshops for the first team. It has been an honor to put in so much hard work with the three team members that stand beside me. I personally was pretty nervous, but the willingness to participate from the staff and campers at Inspiration Hills and the support of my team mates has filled me with a confidence of joy and love. I look forward to moving on with this joy but will miss the friends I have made along the way. But another friend worth knowing is down the road!

Blessings, Kiana

Hello my good friends! I am so excited that our summer at camps is underway! This week was full of inspiring moments, seeing campers new to the camping open up and step out of their comfort zone, witnessing counselors new to counseling take campers under their wing and be excellent role models to the campers, and experiencing everyone feel safe about their beliefs in an exercise that forced participants to be vulnerable and share their opinions. On another note, it was nifty to see how camp dynamics changed throughout the week as counselors and campers became more comfortable with each other and interacted more and more. With such a small group, everyone was pretty close by the end of the week. My highlights were making popcorn over a fire and swimming in the lake.

Peace, Love, Mermaids and Mermans
Jenna

Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Orientations!

YPTT 2016 and their mentors. From L to right, back row: Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey, Sarah Neher, Chelsea Goss, Dana Cassell. Front row, L to R: Phoebe Hart, Sara White, Kiana Simonson, and Jenna Walmer.

Hello friends! The 2016 Youth Peace Travel Team is so excited to start sharing our experience with y’all this summer! We just finished up our Ministry Summer Service (MSS) training and are enjoying the first week of camp. We want to introduce ourselves a little bit and get y’all acquainted to the blog again for the summer. Each week there will be an introduction about where we are and each team member will share a little bit about their favorite experience that week.

Hello everyone! At MSS, I really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and creating new friendships. I appreciated the time shared laughing in community, but also the spiritual discussions we had through lectio divina, examen, and other lessons throughout the week. My favorite moment during training was when we pulled into the hotel parking lot and “Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey came on the radio and we all sang it at the top of our lungs.
Can’t wait to share more exciting experiences throughout the summer!

Peace, Love, and Pineapples, Jenna

Greetings friends! We have finished up training and arrived at our first camp. Training was full of connection, community, learning, and love. I am always awestruck by the number of gifts the young adults of the church bring when we gather. I feel beyond blessed to be supported by such grace and sophistication. The Youth Peace Travel Team (YPTT) was able to spend time with representatives from On Earth Peace, Outdoor ministries, Church of the Brethren, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Learning more in-depth information about the organizations and spending time with the faces of each extension of the church was an enriching experience. Exploring our call to peace and service with those of us a little older and wiser was an experience that I will be able to carry with me in my pocket as the team moves forward. The team then joined with fellow MSS interns to build a community of those serving and exploring vocation this summer. The week was filled with laughter and building friendships that we will also carry with us as we travel around the country this summer.

I am thankful for all of the learning we have done so far. But above all, I am thankful for the love that surrounds us as the YPTT, as members of the church, as friends, and as children of God. We are blessed. We are members of one family.

Blessings, Kiana

Greetings all! Over the past two weeks of training I have been blessed to get to know and share many growth experiences with my fellow YPTT members and Ministry Summer Service interns. Particular special for me was the opportunity for us all to plan and lead the Wednesday morning chapel service for those in the Elgin offices. We chose the theme of hope, reading from Romans 8: 22-28. As I head out this summer, I am hopeful for the opportunity to connect with Brethren from around the country, united by our common call to follow the life of Jesus. In visiting the offices in Elgin as well as Bethany Theological Seminary, I found a special sense of connectedness and support as we all head out on this journey together. I hope that we can share this spirit of community, and through it Christ’s spirit of peace, with all of the campers we encounter this summer.

In peace, Sara

Hey, y’all! I am so excited to be at our first camp. Training has been so great, both at YPTT orientation and MSS orientation. At Bethany Theological Seminary, I really enjoyed learning from professors and eating dinner with church leaders and friends of the Youth Peace Travel Team. We had three really great leaders for the week – Bekah, Marie, and Nate. They all had a lot of good advice and wisdom to share.
When that was over, we went to Ministry Summer Service orientation in Elgin, at the main offices of the Church of the Brethren. My favorite part of training was, again, getting to eat dinner with different people around the area. One night we met some amazing local leaders in the church and got to have a sort of “panel” with them. Though the invite wasn’t exclusively given to women, the leaders in attendance were all amazingly inspiring female pastors and leaders in the church, and hearing about their journeys was a wonderful experience. I also really loved talking with my mentor throughout training, because I got to learn a little about her time on YPTT and we got to discuss what it might be like this summer. I’m pumped to see what the rest of the summer holds!

Phoebe

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – Camp Swatara (again!)

campfire rock pileart projectspeace and donuts

Well friends, this is it. Our last post as YPTT 2015. It has been an awesome ride and journey through our summer of teaching and learning about peace together. We couldn’t have done anything without the help of all of you wonderful people! We also would like to issue a HUGE THANK YOU to our sponsors, Church of the Brethren (Youth/Young Adult Ministry and Office of Public Witness), On Earth Peace, Outdoor Ministries Association, and Bethany Seminary! These are the beautiful people that make the experience of YPTT possible. So a big thank you to them, and also to all the people that we have met along the way who gave us advice or even just a friendly smile, you helped us through our summer together! Another thank you to all the camps we attended and their great staff and awesome campers! Without all those people, Youth Peace Travel Team would just be a summer of us traveling around talking to one another and accomplishing nothing! We are so grateful and so blessed to have been a part of YPTT 2015, so thank you to all who helped make it happen. On to our final blog post (sniffle).

We spent our final week together at Camp Swatara, attending and helping with their “Wet and Wacky” Camp. The camp is very aptly named, as it was both wet and wacky the whole week! It was a very fun camp for us to end our summer on, and we had a great time! While at Swatara we also helped lead some sessions for the Big and Small Camp and the Girl Power Camp that were happening this week as well! Here for the last time are some of our thoughts from the week.

I can’t believe we just finished our last camp as the Youth Peace Travel Team! The last 10 weeks have gone by so quickly! Our final week of camp was a fantastic time spent at Swatara again! We helped out in a variety of ways including a little bit of morning praise, Bible and some peace sessions. We led our creation care activity with the intermediate aged, and elementary aged campers. The campers always impress me with their knowledge of environmental issues and solutions. Even the young elementary aged campers had a lot to offer! A big highlight of the week for me was all of the fun and crazy water games we got to play. This week was wet and wacky week at Swatara so we spent a lot of time in a swimming suit doing something exciting. We had pool parties and water games every day. Another pretty wacky aspect of the week was meal times. Each mealtime we had some sort of challenge that made eating slightly more interesting. Some of the challenges were eating in the dark, only talking n questions, no utensils, being tied to your neighbor and opposite day. Swatara was a really swell way to end the summer! – Annika

“Isn’t that wacky? Isn’t that zany?” These phrases seemed to be the battle cry this week, and it was excellent. This past week at Swatara was in many ways the perfect week to end a summer on. The camp itself was crazy and high energy and helped us all to forget how tired we really were, and the campers and staff were awesome! This week we got to hang out and join in on a lot of the wacky and wet activities that happened around camp, such as “Organized Chaos” which is as wacky and wet as it sounds and pool parties and beach parties and all around fun! We also got the chance to lead a couple sessions for the youth, which was awesome! We again led our Creation Care session that focuses on sustainability and caring for the Earth, and got to hear some incredible ideas on how to do that from the campers. We also got to lead some bible times for the different camps that were going on! We led a session about John Kline and Sarah Major that we call our Peace/Faith in Action session! (Shoutout to Nell, who was John Kline’s horse, who we represented with a homemade stick horse. She was beautiful and traveled to 7 different states with us.) A highlight from the week for me was the sacred campfire that we had Thursday night. We created torches out of branches and towels and the counselors carried them down to the lake where we had a floating campfire that we lit and had our service next to. It was a beautiful sight. This week was so awesome and it was the perfect to wrap up our wacky (and wet at times) summer!!

P.S. Thank you to my teammates Annika and Brean. It’s been an incredible ride together, thank you for your ministry and for your part in the awesome experience that YPTT is. Blessings to you both as you continue to spread the peace. – Kerrick

This week at Swatara’s Wet and Wacky camp, I have learned that letting nearly fifty campers loose with mud, shaving cream, ice, Jell-O and feathers is probably both a genius and crazy idea. But that was right along with the theme of the week, and the kids seemed perfectly happy to go along with it-and so did I! I mostly enjoyed the themed dinners, from the resource staff dressing up “fancy”-and coming out looking like we were from different time periods-to only being able to speak in questions. All the themes were equally challenging and wacky. The camp activities were plenty wet too, with both a beach party and a pool party. The water was cold sometimes! A funny moment was when staff started leading dancing and exercising to keep the kids warm, although most of it was just jumping around. Besides the wet and wacky, I also enjoyed hike day, and revisiting the rock pile. The view of everything was just as beautiful as before. All in all, this week was a wonderfully fun week to close the summer on. – Brean

Well there it is. The last blog post from YPTT 2015. Thank you to Camp Swatara for the excellent last week, and for allowing us to have our debriefing there after the week was done. If you haven’t made it out to Camp Swatara, you most definitely should take a visit, it is truly a wonderful place! Another big thank you to YOU for reading and supporting us in our journey this summer, YOU ROCK! Blessings in all that you do, and as always, keep spreading the beautiful message of peace and love. Thank you all again. We love you.

Signing off for the last time, the YPTT 2015.

Youth Peace Travel Team 2015 – Adventure Camp

Bird's eye view by the river gathered by the slidejpg on top of a rock Team

Hello friends! We are winding down on our summer, but that doesn’t mean we’re not having just as much fun as before! We spent the past week in North Carolina, at the Brethren United Adventure Camp (or the Brethren United Mountain Adventure Trip, BUMAT for short, as Camp Bethel calls it.) This camp is hosted by Camp Carmel, run by Camp Ithiel, and also attended this year by Camp Bethel, Camp Brethren Woods, Camp Inspiration Hills, and Camp Harmony!! Each of the six camps had campers and counselors that they sent and we all got to hang out and do adventure trip things together! We all had a blast, and here are some of our thoughts from the week! Thanks for reading!

Adventure camp was super exciting!  Campers and staff from six camps all got together for a giant week of excitement.  We had a new adventure every day.  On our first day we hiked to a natural waterslide. There we got to slide down a gentle waterfall along rock into a pool of water.  On the second day we hiked all the way up to the top of a mountain.  Once we got to the top we could see clouds moving in and they came right on top of us on the mountain.  It was so beautiful, we could see for miles (when the clouds were not in the way). The last day of camp was the busiest.  We went to a high ropes course, tubing on a river, and to a park.  It was so fantastic to spend all day hiking and exploring while getting to know campers. In addition to adventuring the Youth Peace Travel Team lead morning watch, a peace session in the middle of the day, and campfire every night.  A highlight for me was Faith in Action day where we did a session on John Kline and peaceful problem solving.  The horse prop named Nell that we use has now been to seven states!  I also really enjoyed hiking to the top of the mountain and playing Ultimate Frisbee in the park. – Annika

What a week! It was so busy and tiring, I found myself sleeping any chance I received, but I had so much fun! The views we saw while out hiking were breathtaking and so new to me-it was my first time seeing such a grand waterfall, and being on top of a mountain. The views and fresh, light air make me want to live the mountains, even if I’ll have to be walking up hills much of the time, and there were many steep hills. I’m just happy that being up so high didn’t scare me-I found it exhilarating…especially on the ropes course we went to on Thursday. I was expecting that I wouldn’t do well on it, since I have been doing poorly on other high ropes courses this summer, but most of Thursday’s course proved to be a test of courage and balance-not too much strength was needed, which I lack. I was so proud of myself for reaching the third and hardest level on the course, even if it was just because I wanted to propel down from the top. With all the new and exciting experiences, as well as the awesome and fun staff and campers who we accompanied, it truly was an adventure camp. – Brean

This week put the FUN in ADVENTURE(FUN)CAMP! J This was the first time that the YPTT had ever attended this camp and it was a blast. We played the role of resource people, so we led Morning Watch each day and led a quick peace session in the afternoons and then led Campfire/Vespers at night! In between all of that, we got to hang out with the campers and join them on the adventuring that the week was all about! One of my favorite parts of the week was that each morning and each night a different camp was in charge of leading songs for the group. This meant that all the campers and staff there got to experience a little bit of what the YPTT hears all summer, which is a bunch of new, different versions of the good ol’ camp songs! Another awesome thing was that each day brought new adventures, and with those came new spots for our sessions or campfire! Throughout the week we led sessions at a big rock on a hike to a natural rock water slide, on top of a mountain, and at a beautiful park! We also got to have a campfire on the side of a mountain one night. It was so beautiful every place we went, and it made the sessions that much better! This was our largest group of all senior high youth all summer, so it was a lot of fun to get to interact with them. The whole week was super excellent, from the sessions to the adventures, to the amazing food that Carmel had for us, to just being able to play games and have fun with the campers and staff! Whoooo! – Kerrick

We had an awesome time at adventure camp, and would like to send a major thank you to all the camps who helped make it happen, (Ithiel, Carmel, Bethel, Brethren Woods, Harmony, and Inspiration Hills) you all made the week great and are doing great things with your ministry!! This is our second to last week, so as we wind down with our journey, we’d also like to thank everyone that helped get us to this point, YOU ROCK!! And also, a huge ‘Thank You’ to YOU for reading our blog again, blessings to you in all that you do!

P.S.- Shout-out to Camp Bethel for helping shuttle us to and from BUMAT and throughout the week, you guys are AWESOME!!! (And a shout-out to “Gus Bus” our fantastic van that handled all types of terrain!)