Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Emmaus

            I’m almost the end of my summer. Camp Emmaus was my second to last stop as the Youth Peace Advocate. Weirdly, this summer has seemed simultaneously quick and long. On one hand, it seems like starting out at Camp Colorado was just a short while ago. On the other hand, I am really starting to feel the drain of each week of camp. As I move towards the end, I have a whole mix of feelings. But for now, I enjoyed my time at Camp Emmaus.

            After a camp of ten at Brethren Heights, Emmaus, though still smaller than some of the other camps I’ve visited this summer, felt like a return to a larger group. I was with Jr. High age campers again. Many of the councilors and staff for the week were old friends who have been doing this for years, but I was not the only new person and never felt excluded or unwelcome. Being in Illinois, I also got to meet several people who I will probably get to know better when I move Elgin next month to work in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries as a BVSer.

            I also appreciated having the chance to reconnect with an old friend. Walt Wiltschek was the campus pastor at Manchester University (MU) for the first semester I was a student there; this week he was the was the chaplain for Camp Emmaus. I appreciated getting to hear his perspective and share his sense of humor this week. It was an interesting experience now that I’ve come out the other side of my time at MU, with all the ways I’ve grown and changed since. It was a pleasure to work on my sessions with him.

            On Tuesday we hiked to a state park nearby for most of the morning and had lunch and horizontal hour at the park. It was not near as steep as the hikes up the mountains I took at Camp Colorado and Camp Blue Diamond, but walking down the road, stopping for rest, singing songs and telling jokes and stories reminded me of my time on the Student Cross pilgrimage when I studied abroad in Cheltenham, England through BCA. Like that trip, the bonding and friendship that developed during the walk far outweighed any exhaustion we felt.

            Once again, I got a chance to lead campfire songs for the camp. The campers and councilors enjoyed learning a couple new songs and experiencing some new-to-them variations of old familiar ones. For the talent show on Friday, the councilors sang a parody of “Proud Mary,” recounting our week at camp. I got a chorus about me and my work as the Youth Peace Advocate. Unfortunately, due to some other things I had to take care of, I was unable to join the camp when they visited and sang at Pinecrest, a nearby Brethren retirement community. At the end of the final campfire, we all lit candles we arranged in the shape of a cross. Standing on the balcony of the main lodge we looked down at the cross and sang together.

            The theme of the final day of camp is “aloha” again. The scripture is John 14:25-27, and the focus going out. To be honest, this is the probably the daily theme I have engaged with the least. Because most of the camps I have visited end on Friday, sometimes we didn’t make it to this theme at all, or it was combined with “Sí Se Puede,” or if we did reach the theme it was often overshadowed by the fact this was the last day of camp. In this passage, Jesus assures us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Christ is always with us, empowering us to be peacemakers.

            God of Peace,

You have promised to send your children your Holy Spirit and grant us your peace, which the world cannot give. Help us to rest in your peace and share it with the world. May we let it be known each day, building up your kingdom and making it present here on earth.

            In Jesus name,

            Amen

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