Reflections on National Youth Conference 2010

A highlight of NYC for me was the opportunity to lead a small group. The purpose of small groups is to bring together youth from across the denomination who do not know each other and help them process their NYC experience together. It was a challenging assignment, but one that was exciting for me. My group was a bit quiet at times, but they were always enthusiastic to participate and share their experiences together. We had 45 minutes together every day following morning worship, in which we got to know each other, discuss our experiences, play games, and pray together. It was a learning experience for me. I found it to be very rewarding personally, and I hope it was for the youth as well.

An exciting thing about landing on YPTT this year was the opportunity to attend National Youth Conference. As an inspired participant four years ago, coming back to NYC as a staff member was rewarding in so many ways. This year’s conference theme carried a message of empowerment. It was one that focused deep within the heart, not the organ that pumps blood around the body, but the inner person or essential self. We acknowledged the truth that as children of God, we are “More than meets the eye”. One thing that touched me at conference was having the opportunity to see the energy, enthusiasm and zeal that our church youth have for serving God. And because of this reality, they are standing by to lead in the church. They are ready and eager to impact the world for Jesus with the gifts and abilities God has given them. Check this out: more than half of those who attended conference participated in service projects throughout the week. Even more inspiring, over sixteen thousand dollars was raised in one offering alone to help students in Haiti receive a decent education. That’s phenomenal! Hearing the testimonies of young people who left with a new, fresh desire to be more involved in their denomination has showed me that, indeed, there is more than meets the eye with the youth of the Church of the Brethren.

National Youth Conference was a blessing. It was a blessing to be in community with other Brethren – past campers from this summer, former YPTT members, people from my home church, and other Brethren I’ve met along my journey. I enjoyed community when I led a small group, when the team led workshops, when I performed a dance in a flash mob, and when worshiping with almost 3,000 Brethren. I can live peacefully and I can live simply, but it is meaningless unless I live in community with other people. The community of the Church of the Brethren touched me at National Youth Conference.

This week at National Youth Conference made me appreciate how wonderful seeing a familiar face can make someone. After eight weeks of traveling, seeing my home congregation and youth pastor was a delightful sight. I was very glad I got to experience a second round of NYC, especially sharing it with my congregation, my team members, and past campers. Another thing that really was special about NYC was a peace commercial that we were able to perform for the entire conference. It went over very well and everyone enjoyed it. It was a great affirmation and we were proud of our work. After a week of amazing music, wonderful people, flash mob dances, and so much more, I feel like the Brethren are so much more than meets the eye!

Reflections on Camp Pine Lake

It was exciting to come back together again after our mid-summer break. It was good to reunite as a group, be back in a camp setting, and get back into our summer’s work. We just finished a great week at Camp Pine Lake in Iowa! We spent the week with about 30 energetic Junior High campers. This was our first Junior High camp of the summer, which presented new challenges as well as joys.

Our first responsibility of the week was to welcome the campers with get-to-know-you games and icebreakers. One of the activities we led was the “Blanket Game,” where campers split into two teams, each on one side of a blanket. Each team sends one camper forward, the blanket is dropped, and campers must shout the other camper’s name first. The camper who calls out second must move to the other team. It was a great way to learn names and build relationships. Another responsibility of ours was to lead Morning Watch every morning, introducing the daily theme of how to “Be a Hero: Live like Jesus.”

We were also responsible for the large group session each morning, which we used to teach peace, using our framework for the summer (see Peaceful Pines blog for more explanation). Campers responded with much enthusiasm by sharing their thoughts and ideas about peacemaking. One of our sessions was meant to show the effects of marginalization and how to include others. We used the story of the Woman at the Well found in John 4 to illustrate how Jesus calls us to accept others. We played a game in which campers were assigned shapes and told to form groups without talking. Three campers were assigned shapes that did not have a group: they were the marginalized people. The game opened up conversation about how we can include others in our daily lives, in our schools, in our churches, and in our communities.

Another responsibility we had was to help cabin groups plan evening campfire. We led campfire the first night to serve as an example. The following days, we facilitated planning sessions with campers, which included scripture, singing, and skits. The campers were creative and it was rewarding to see them lead campfire.

The week was full of fun activities, such as swimming, hiking, canoeing, fishing, slip-n-slidin’, going to a waterpark, playing water balloon games, and a skit night. One of our favorite activities was the opportunity to cool off on a homemade slip-n-slide, made out of a huge piece of plastic, laid down a hill that was lathered in dish soap and freezing cold water. We also got to fire a giant water balloon sling shot. Everyone loved it! The last evening included an entertaining skit night. Campers were given opportunities to perform with their cabin, individually, or in groups. They were creative and it was a fun event! We ended the skit night by “pranking” the camp manager, which the campers thought was hilarious.

Thanks Camp Pine Lake for a great week! Now we’re off to attend National Youth Conference in Colorado!

-Marcus, Cambria, Hannah, and Tim

Reflections from Camp Peaceful Pines

We just finished a great week in Northern California at Camp Peaceful Pines! The camp is located 6,200 feet up in the Sierra Nevadas, where it gets very cold at night and hot during the day.  We spent the week with 17 senior high youth as the main program leaders.  This role gave us the freedom to utilize the theme, “Be a Hero: Live like Jesus,” and spend an ample amount of time talking about peace. 

Every day we led a morning watch, Bible study, peace workshop, and evening campfire.  Each morning we introduced the daily theme during morning watch, which usually included songs, scripture, reflection, and prayer.  We then went more in-depth with the theme during Bible study, highlighting context, background, and theological issues.  Campers learned from each other by teaching the scriptures through skits. 

Following Bible study, campers engaged in a peace workshop.  We followed our three-question framework that we have been using so far this summer: “What is peace,” “Why do we seek peace,” and “How do we seek peace?”  We split this framework into four different workshops.  The first day was dedicated to the questions “What” and “Why?”  The following three workshops addressed practical peacemaking.  We explored ways to make peace with God and ourself, our neighbors, and our world.  A highlight of the workshops was a “Save the World” movie that the campers directed, scripted, and acted in themselves.  The movie centered on realistic ways of how to make our world a better place.  Overall, campers left us with a sense of hope for the future. 

Each day was wrapped up with an evening campfire.  Campers, adults, and Peace Team members shared their favorite songs around the fire.  We provided devotional time for campers to reflect on and process the day’s theme.  A fun time was had by all!

A Camp Peaceful Pines tradition is a game called “Gotcha.”  This game is played from 10pm to 7am, in the dark, utilizing a colorful and ornately decorated toilet seat. Whoever’s doorstep it rests on when the morning bell rings must sing a song for the whole camp at breakfast.  The Peace Team had to sing four out of the five mornings.  Another tradition that the camp has is to hike to and sleep out on Sunrise Rock.  Sunrise Rock is a huge, open rock, surrounded by beautiful mountains.  We were able to bond with campers and were awoken by a full moon, which seemed as bright as the sun. 

This week we went on an intense eight-mile hike from a lake up to the top of a mountain, where we ate lunch next to a beautiful waterfall.  The hike required us to get on all fours and vertically scale enormous boulders.  We were proud to have completed such a hike, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!  We also brought back the dance this week. The campers responded with excitement, and they got their groove on!

Thank you Camp Peaceful Pines for a fun week!

 -Tim, Hannah, Marcus, Cambria

Reflections on Annual Conference

Last week we attended Annual Conference in Pittsburgh and it was great!

From Camp Peaceful Pines up in the mountains to the city life was a definite change of scenery. Seeing familiar faces from all over the denomination was wonderful

Throughout the week we had various responsibilities as a team. These responsibilities included: various agency meals, a session with the Junior and Senior High youth, helping with an insight session, and performing a scripture drama on stage during worship.

One day, the team split up and attended two luncheons. Hannah and Tim spoke at the Outdoor Ministry Association luncheon, while Marcus and Cambria spoke at the Intercultural luncheon. Marcus and Tim were a part of a singing group who entertained the guests at the Global Ministries dinner. We performed a short “Commercial for Peace” at the Congregational Life Ministries dinner. We also attended the Women’s Clergy and On Earth Peace breakfasts.

We also led a large group activity with the Junior and Senior High youth who attended conference. We sang songs and played a game that focused on the need to come together despite differences. Participants stood in a line and held hands. When facts that were true about themselves (i.e. calling it ‘soda’ rather than ‘pop’), they took a step forward. As they stepped farther and farther apart, due to these differences, the act of holding hands got harder and harder to the point where they almost broke. We enjoyed this time with the youth and felt it was very successful.

We got to help out YPTT alum John-Michael Pickens lead an On Earth Peace insight session about peace retreats. We facilitated two example games that could be used at peace retreats. We learned an important lesson about the need to be creative when doing peace work.

For Monday night’s worship, we shared our theatrical talents and acted out the story of Zaccheaus. Tim played the title role of Zaccheaus while Marcus portrayed Jesus. Hannah and Cambria starred as the wonderful two-person crowd, and Bekah Houff did a lovely job narrating the tale. It was a thrill to be on stage in front of so many people.

Cambria and Hannah had the special opportunity, along with other Ministry Summer Service women interns, to share in conversation with young women from the Brethren Revival Fellowship. It was full of learning and relationship building. We are very thankful for the chance to talk and grow.

We have made it to Camp Pine Lake in Iowa, we are fresh off of our three day mid summer break, and are relaxed and ready to go!

Peace on Earth!

-Cambria, Tim, Hannah, and Marcus