Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Pine Lake

I’m exhausted. I’ve got a serious farmer’s tan, several bug bites, and my hair desperately needs cut. Eight straight weeks of either helping lead camp or traveling to the next one takes a lot out of a person. I have been fighting off a cold for the last couple of weeks. As soon as camp this week ended and I had time to really rest it hit me with a vengeance. But I wouldn’t trade my experience this summer for the world!

            Camp Pine Lake in Iowa was my final week of the summer and the youngest age group with which I worked – those who have finished third through fifth grades. This group definitely skewed more towards the third-grade side. While I had run a couple sessions for campers of this age group or even younger before at other camps, this was the only week where they were my primary target age. I had to readjust and revise my planned sessions for this age group, but the camp staff was more than happy to help.

            It was fitting to end at Pine Lake; in a way, it was also the place I started the summer. The week after graduation Manchester University’s A Capella Choir goes on tour. This year we were heading for Kansas City, and stopped for a concert at Pine Lake. While helping to move everything inside, I mentioned to the leadership that I would be back in a couple months as the Youth Peace Advocate (YPA). At the end of the concert, I was formally introduced by them as this summer’s YPA for the first time.

For most of the days, I ended up incorporating parts of my sessions into the Bible study for the day. On Friday, I led the “Little Red Riding Hood/Maligned Wolf” session with some help from the week’s “Camp Grandpa.” The campers seemed to particularly enjoy the games I used as teaching examples.

            My favorite memory from Pine Lake was our Monday night campfire. We had reordered the daily themes for the week, so we were focusing on Agape and how Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. That night, staff left our four basins for the campers by the fire. Three were for feet washing and one for handwashing. Nobody was forced to participate, but campers and staff were encouraged to participate as they felt led to ask another if they could wash their feet. Unlike most Love Feasts I’ve attended, where the act is primarily symbolic, the water the campers were using quickly got dirty with the dirt and grass of a long day spent in God’s creation. After washing each other’s feet, some of the other staff and I brought around communion bread that had been made by previous camps and offered each camper and staff to break off a piece, and prayed together “This bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ.” (One of the councilors who is a pastor explained to the campers that some churches ask people to be baptized before they receive communion, but the decision to participate was “between you and God.”) We they brought around the cups of grape juice and prayed together “This cup which we drink is the communion of the blood of Christ.” For me, this was one of the most significant moments of encounters with God and moments of community of the entire summer.

While this was my last week as the Youth Peace Advocate, it was Pine Lake’s Program Director Barbara Wise Lewczak’s last camp before retiring from that position. Given what I was feeling with it being my last camp as the Youth Peace Advocate, I cannot imagine what it must have felt like for her. I was glad I was able to be there and work with her just before this era of Pine Lake history draws to a close.

            Thinking about legacies and cycles, when I mentioned my parents had visited Camp Pine Lake under similar circumstances thirty-three years ago one of the long-time councilor’s ears perked up. After some discussion he remembered meeting them, as he had been a councilor during their week at Pine Lake with the Outdoor Ministries Association Team in 1986! I hope I have left a legacy worth of all those I’ve built on and trust God to continue to lead us into the future.

            This summer was hard work. During orientation and my first week at Camp Colorado, I felt underqualified and overwhelmed. But as I figured out my sessions and developed a rhythm, I fell in love with the job. I wasn’t always sure if what I was trying to get across was reaching the campers. But I almost always had at least a couple of campers come up and tell me how much they loved my sessions. I was invited to a baptism. I helped lead anointing and communion. I was pushed outside my comfort zone to hike up mountains and lead campers in geocaching. I led campfires and learned many new songs, and variations on old ones. Many campers asked if I would be back next year. I would be more than happy to volunteer at any of the camps I was at this summer again in some other role. It was an amazing summer. Now I am looking forward to a couple weeks of rest before I start the next part of my journey as this years BVS intern in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in Elgin. It is in God’s hands now. Remember, Peace Works!

            God of Peace,

In the scriptures you show us your call for peace and reconciliation, and what happens when we fail to live out your peace. Help us to remember Jesus’s example that Peace Works. May we bring the lessons we have learned together to our communities and be empowered by your Holy Spirit to bring forth the kingdom of God in this world.

In Jesus name,

Amen

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

Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Mack

Being the Youth Peace Advocate at Camp Alexander Mack was a very different experience than doing it anywhere else this summer. Camp Mack is my home camp, where I’ve been attending in some form for twenty-three years. Everywhere else I am Nolan, this year’s Youth Peace Advocate. At Camp Mack I am Nolan, the former camper/CIT/councilor/Ministry Summer Service intern who most people have known forever and is the Youth Peace Advocate this year. It was good to be home.

During the week I was primarily working with the Followers and Splash camps. Both were for campers of Jr. High age. The team leaders (the same role as deans at almost every other camp) for Splash camp were my parents, Rosalie and Ryan McBride, which combined with my brother and sister working summer staff meant my entire family was at Camp Mack last week. After about a month of traveling across the country it was good for us all to be together. Additionally, I knew several other staff members of both camps, so it was very different to begin the week knowing so many people.

My daily schedule and responsibilities as the Youth Peace Advocate were also different. While exactly what was expected of me was different at each new place, all the camps before this week had explicitly set aside time for me lead my own sessions with the campers during the week. At Camp Mack both sets of team leaders already had schedules set up, and I was invited to participate and bring what I’ve put together into their plans as much or as little as I wanted. The Splash Camp leaders did explicitly ask me to lead a tour of the Brethren history murals in Quinter-Miller auditorium. Painted in 1949, the murals tell this history of the Church of the Brethren up to then, and include the artist’s prediction up to the 300th anniversary in 2008. A newer mural of more recent Brethren history was created in 2000. The murals have long been one of my favorite parts of camp, and I was excited to get to share about them. Of course, me being a History and Religious Studies major whose era of emphasis is the early modern period, this was kind of a dangerous thing to ask of me. Having recently studied the origins of the Pietist movement which shaped the Brethren movement, I might have spent a little longer than intended on “historical context.” (Hey, to understand the Brethren’s break with the state churches you need to know about the relationship between church and state in the middle ages, which means you need to know about Constantine, and so on.)

I also went boating twice with Splash Camp: kayaking Tuesday in Goshen and sailing Thursday on Lake Michigan. It was a great time, even if I fell into the river kayaking and took at least ten minutes trying to get back in.

The word of the day for the fifth day of camp is “heiwa,” a Japanese word meaning “balance.” The scripture is Mark 12:28-31, the two greatest commandments. I usually start my session for this day by asking the kids to play a game where they stand in a circle with one person being “it.” That person chooses another in the circle whom they attempt to make laugh any way short of touching them. If the laugh, they are now “it.” Afterwards I ask the campers how it was to try and not laugh, what techniques they used, and if they think it would be easier if they practiced this game every day. We then discuss the importance of practice in peacemaking, using the Civil Rights movement as an example, and the Christian life more generally. I play a section from the first episode of the Episcopal Church’s Way of Love podcast (11:38-17:36).[1] It is an interview with the denomination’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who recently made headlines around the world for his sermon on love at last year’s royal wedding. Bishop Curry uses the metaphors of firefighter/first responder springing into action or an athlete training for their sport to talk about how practices such as prayer, Bible study, gathering for public worship, and others mold us to be more like Jesus, so we live out his call without having to think about it. It becomes our instinctual reaction. After discussing the main points of the interview, I ask the campers to list the practices we have been following at camp that mold us to be peacemakers and help us live more like Jesus. After we have a good list going, I challenge the campers to consider how they can incorporate these practices into their daily lives.

Redeeming God, We thank you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and accepted and loved by you not because of anything we have done, but because of your very nature. Grant that through our life we may be drawn closer to you and molded into the image of your son, our savior, Jesus.

In His name we pray,

Amen


[1] https://wayoflove.episcopalchurch.org/episodes/season/1/episode/1

Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Ithiel

Camp Ithiel is by far the most diverse camp, ethnically and religiously, I have visited so far this summer. According to the program director, most of the kids who attend camp at Ithiel are not Brethren. (Not to say none of the campers were Brethren. (However, we did have a whole group from the Miami Haitian Church of the Brethren.) I really appreciated having the chance to work with campers and staff from a variety of different backgrounds and traditions.

The camp is located in the middle of a well-to-do neighborhood in Gotha, Florida (near Orlando). It felt kind of weird to see large mansions just across the lake from the camp!

This week I led stations, part of a daily rotation for family groups. There were four groups and only three stations, so one of the sessions I led each day was extra-large and made of two family groups. This week was their Jr. High camp, and junior higher are a tough crowd to read. Yet on the last day, several campers thanked me for what I’d taught and asked if I was coming back next year. Something must have resonated!

This week I incorporated part of what Camp Brethren Woods developed for Shalom time, and I expect to continue doing so for the rest of the summer. It has been an adventure learning the “ins and outs” of each camp and what makes them each unique. I hope I am able to share other good ideas and traditions between them as I move towards the second half of my summer.

We only had one campfire, but had Vespers in the camp’s chapel  – which is also where the New Covenant Church of the Brethren worships on Sundays. We didn’t sing any of the silly/secular camp songs I usually enjoy leading, but had an excellent team of worship leaders. Two of the staff were charged with leading Vespers, and a couple of the councilors helped as well. I learned on the last day that they are part of a band named “Civilization of Worship” and are working on their first album. Here is a cover they released last Christmas (https://youtu.be/WF02_8LaFl8).

The dean for the week led Morning Watch overlooking the lake every morning. I appreciated getting the word and theme for the day into the campers’ minds at the start of each day. In some of the previous camps, I have not had the chance to see how the campers are engaging with the scriptures outside my sessions. As I had the mornings free this week, I appreciated having that chance to here. The worship leaders were very in-tune with the feeling of worship (orthopathy or “right feeling” if you’re like me and like big, theological words) and often provided underscoring for the reflections and prayers at Vespers.

At the same time we were there, Camp Ithiel rented out one of its buildings to a local Jewish day camp. A couple of campers struggled with sharing our space, but I apricated their presence. Although we did not have any sort of cross-over between the camps, it was good to see and hear them around.

The fourth day of camp is “Agape” and the scripture is John 13:1-17, that gospel’s account of the Last Supper and Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. The intended theme is “God’s Reconciling Love.” This week, Camp Ithiel, I choose to use the “Little Red Riding Hood/Maligned Wolf and M&M game” portions of Brethren Wood’s Shalom session. I felt the mediation lesson was important to share.

Loving God,

In your son Jesus you modeled for us what it means to serve one another and work for peace and reconciliation in this broken world. Grant that we may follow his example to love our neighbors as ourselves and be peacemakers in our own communities.

            In your son’s name we pray,

                        Amen.

Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Brethren Woods

To be honest, I was a bit on edge the first couple of days at Camp Brethren Woods. While I root all my sessions in scripture and avoid getting too political, I am cautious as I learn the context of each new camp. For the first couple of days, I am unsure of how what I say will be received. As I got to know the staff, campers, and camp and after some conversations with my mentor for the summer, Ben Bear, I realized I shouldn’t have worried.

Brethren Woods has a tradition of Shalom Time which they asked me to lead, and has a curriculum for this session they developed with the Fairfield Center, a local organization offering mediation services. Using two retellings of Little Red Riding Hood, one from her perspective and one from the wolf’s perspective, helps to get kids thinking about how people can experience the exact same event and yet interpret it very differently.

I also helped with several other activities around camp, including the water carnival and a geocaching session. One evening, the camp held a World Fair. The camp had three counselors from South Africa and one from the Netherlands. As an alumni for BCA’s Cheltenham program, I volunteered to represent the UK (as well as Japan and India) with teatime.

I was frustrated after the World Fair. One of my favorite parts of camp is campfires, and at Brethren Woods I looked forward to Vespers every evening. While we were cleaning up after teatime, one of the staff noticed the pile of unwashed dishes in the kitchen and asked that while we were cleaning all the cups from the tea that we wash those as well. I was frustrated because washing dishes isn’t in my job description and having to clean meant I would likely miss Vespers. The camp lifeguard called me out on my complaining, challenging me to remember I am serving this summer for the Gospel. It’s not about me – it’s about the campers. I should strive to serve cheerfully, even if I’m not doing something I enjoy. I tried to change my mood, and we finished in time to catch the very end of Vespers. On the way there we caught an amazing view of the sunset, which we wouldn’t have seen if we had left earlier.

The third day of camp’s theme is Shalom, the focus in on responding to conflict, and the scripture is Genesis 27: 1-26, the story of Jacob tricking his father Isaac into giving him the blessing Isaac intended to give to his brother Esau. In my session I take the story further to explain the how they later make up, but I also note that Jacob told his brother he’d meet him in Seir, but then headed to Succoth. We usually end the story when Jacob and Esau make up, but generations later the book of Obadiah records that Edom (the nation descended from Esau) is fighting and oppressing the defendants of Jacob. Jacob and Esau forgave each other but failed to solve their core conflict. Consequently, the conflict transferred to their children and later descendants. When I asked the Sr. High campers if they could think of any similar unresolved generational conflicts in the modern day, one brought up the Civil War. Regardless of individual perspectives about that conflict, it is still very relevant to our country’s conversations and struggles today. I’d suggest that the treatment of Native Americans and the legacy of slavery in the United States also reflects this Biblical narrative.

God of Jacob and Esau,

In the history of the decedents of Jacob and Esau, you show us the cost of failing to address conflict and passing it on to the next generation. Help us to see where these conflicts are present in our own lives, and to be discontent with thinking the past is none of our concern. May we strive to make your peace present in the world.

Amen

Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Blue Diamond

Each of the camps I have visited so far this summer have felt at once familiar and new. Located in the midst of a state forest, I was there for Camp Blue Diamond’s first full week of camp. Working with junior (elementary age) and junior high camp was a definite change of pace from senior high the week before. I got to lead sessions with each cabin group or unit, which combined with the different age groups meant I needed to make some changes and revisions to the outlines I had drafted the previous week and the way I presented my material. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time in Pennsylvania.

 This week I really began to feel settled in as the Youth Peace Advocate. While changes were made and plans improved, I had a solid foundation to work from with what I developed in Camp Colorado. Because there were two camps there while I was, I only had two individual sessions with each cabin group.

Because each cabin group scheduled their time with me based on what fit best with their larger schedule for the week, I did have some lopsided days. Wednesday was also hike day, and I joined the Jr. High group taking Tussey Trail. I was warned it was the hardest, but figured after last week’s hike through the Colorado mountains I would be fine. That was a mistake. On the other hand, the view was amazing, and I got a chance to share some of my favorite camp songs with campers on the way down. (Their counselors were so happy I taught the kids “Cheese” and “The Green Grass Grew All Around.”) Another highlight was homemade ice-cream with one of the Junior camp groups.

The Sunday before camp started, I attended Stone Church of the Brethren on Juniata College’s campus, and got to see Connor Ladd, a friend and fellow Ministry Summer Service intern. Connor and I attended Camp Mack together, and he is a current student at Manchester University, where I just graduated from. We were also both involved with ROBOT (Radically Obedient Brethren Outreach Team), a group of Brethren students at Manchester students who lead worship at local congregations. I had met Ben Lattimer, one of the congregation’s pastors and Connor’s mentors for the summer together with his wife Cindy, during Ministry Summer Service orientation. It was good to see Connor and Ben again! It was my first-time visiting Juniata’s campus, and I was glad to see another Brethren school.

The camp curriculum’s theme for the first full day of camp is “Ubuntu,” a South African word that Archbishop Desmond Tutu defines it as “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours… [A] person is a person through other persons… It is not, ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Rather, I am human because I belong. I participate. I share.”[1] The scripture passage of the day is 1 Corinthians 12:1–27, Paul’s description of the church as the body of Christ made of many different members. In the camps we have been using this day to build our camp community for the week.

In the session I have run these first two weeks after meditating on a portion of the scripture passage, I ask the group to consider the pros and cons of four different metaphors for community. I ask them to think of community as: a melting pot, where those who enter in melt into and conform to the dominant group; a boiling gumbo, where each person keeps their own individuality and contributes to a greater whole although there is tension and conflict; a seven-layer salad, where the individuals keep their identity and contribute but there is a hierarchy where some are valued over others; and a kaleidoscope, a unified whole where differences are valued and no part is more important than any other. While each metaphor has limits, I have been intending to lead the conversation to the kaleidoscope as the best model but have been surprised by the number of times so far when the campers have suggested the gumbo or melting pot as the best. What do you think? The session ends the campers making a web of yarn, telling each other something they appreciate about and/or how they see God in each other.

Loving God,

            In the scriptures it says you gather your children under your wing like a hen gathers her chicks. Gather us together into one community that we may come to know, love, and serve each other following the example of Jesus, in whose name we pray,

Amen.


[1]  Desmond Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 196, 197.

Youth Peace Advocate: Camp Colorado

The campfire circle (more than a mile high!) at Camp Colorado.

A friend of mine who was raised Catholic once compared attending an Anglican worship service to someone coming into your house and rearranging all the furniture. I think this is an appropriate metaphor for my week at Camp Colorado. The basic format was very familiar from my years as a camper and councilor at Camp Mack, but Camp Colorado also has its own distinct identity. I have the sense this will be a continuing pattern this summer.

As someone who enjoys ritual and liturgy, I appreciated that on Sunday night for the first campfire of the week we celebrated the ordinances of communion and anointing, though I’ve never used chocolate chip cookies for communion bread before. We also celebrated communion with fruit snacks later in the week. I was prepared to learn new camp songs and different variations on familiar ones, though as someone who loves leading campfires it was a little it felt weird to be the one who didn’t know the songs.

Camp Colorado has a beautiful campground located high up in the mountains in the midst of a national forest. It had been built up as one of the most beautiful Brethren camps and did not disappoint. On Tuesday we hiked to the to the top of Devil’s Head nearby. It was a long hike that I certainly wasn’t prepared for, but the view from the top was breathtaking. By making it to the lookout station I officially joined the “Ancient and Honorable Order of Squirrels.” (I would have thought that was headquartered at Manchester University, but apparently not.) Thursday, we had a chance to swim in a nearby river. The water was ice cold, unsurprising given the river starts with melted snow from the mountaintops. I did eventually submerse myself, though it took a while. One of the campers was kind enough to warn me against leaning my elbows on the table during meals unless I wanted to run around the main lodge.
           

Camp Colorado was a great place to start my journey as the Youth Peace Advocate. This week was their Sr. High camp, and we had set aside “Peace Time” every full day of camp. Highlights included making a web of yarn while sharing with each other what we appreciated about them/how we saw God in them, playing charades with the camper’s ideas of how they can work for peace in their communities, and making skits that adapted the parable of the Good Samaritan to the modern day. When things were drawing to a close they told me that despite only knowing me for a week, they felt like they had known me their whole life.

The word of the day for the first day of camp curriculum this summer is “Aloha.” The scripture is Luke 14:15-24 (The Parable of the Great Banquet), and the theme is hospitality. May we remember to never be too wrapped up in our own lives to ignore what God is calling us to, and to welcome and love everyone we meet just as he welcomes and loves us.

            Abundant God,

            Your kingdom subverts the powers and expectations of this world. You provide a place at the table for everyone, not because of what they have done but because of who you are. Help us to live out your example, especially among those we would rather not share the meal with.

            In your son Jesus’s name we pray,

            Amen

Meet 2019 Youth Peace Advocate: Nolan McBride

Hi! I’m Nolan McBride, and I will be the Youth Peace Advocate this summer! I am extremely excited, as I have wanted to be on the Youth Peace Travel Team since they visited Camp Mack when I was a camper. Having just graduated from Manchester University (with a double major in History and Religious Studies with a concentration on Social Justice and a minor in Peace Studies in case you were wondering), I am finally getting the chance to live that dream this summer!

I am from Elkhart, Indiana, and am a member of Union Center Church of the Brethren in Nappanee, where Frank Ramirez is the pastor. Just over a year ago I became bi-denominational and also worship at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Elkhart. Camp Alexander Mack is my home camp, and I’ve been going there all of my life – literally! I am a triplet, and my sister Jamie and brother Alex are both working at Camp Mack this summer. In college, I was active in the A Capella Choir, theater department, Simply Brethren (the Brethren student group on campus), and the Campus Interfaith Board. I also spent my Junior year studying abroad at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, England. I also contribute to the Dunker Punks podcast. (My episodes are 39, 52, 65, and 79 if you want to hear my voice!)

As Youth Peace Advocate, I am being sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s offices of Youth and Young Adult Ministry and Peacebuilding and Policy, Bethany Theological Seminary, On Earth Peace, and the Outdoor Ministries Association. I will first go to Camp Colorado, followed by Camp Blue Diamond, Camp Brethren Woods, Camp Ithiel, Camp Alexander Mack, Camp Brethren Heights, Camp Emmaus, and finally Camp Pine Lake.

Peacemaking and peacebuilding is central to my understanding of the teachings and example of Jesus. I hope to be able this summer to encourage campers engage with the scriptural foundations of the Brethren’s peace witness, and help them understand that peacebuilding is not simply the absence of violence, but actively pursuing nonviolent methods (which are statistically more effective and quicker than violence) to address and transform the injustices in our world. To that end it is convenient for me that the camp curriculum this year is “Peace Works,” which focuses specifically on the Biblical foundations of peacemaking, especially as practiced by Jesus.

Recently, I’ve be preparing for the summer – first with Youth Peace Advocate orientation, followed by Ministry Summer Service orientation. I hope you will enjoy following along this adventure with me!

A Cup Full in Southern Ohio


“Fill up my cup, fill up my cup let it overflow. Fill up my cup, fill up my cup let it overflow. Fill up my cup, fill up my cup let it overflow! Let it overflow with love!”

My cup is full as I enter in to the rest of my summer, starting with the beautiful souls at the Southern Ohio Creative Arts Camp. Over this week, these campers blew me away with their love for one another, their willingness to have conversations about tough subjects, and to open their hearts to many brand-new faces, including my own.

The folks here were open to me bringing new ideas that might have seemed a little out of the box at first, such as clowning and improvisation. But after a little time, I think they started to celebrate their own passions, realizing that they can be mouthpieces for the campers’ causes as my passions have become for me.

My first session was with a group of 12 campers ranging from 6-18 years old. They all had so much to add to our conversation about peace and were so willing to jump into the little bit of clowning we did. Bible Study gave us many openings to enter discussion about what it meant to speak up. We talked about the causes we felt most passionate about and how we could be advocates for the things we feel are important. For one of the girls I talked to, that issue was women’s rights, and I got to have a lovely discussion with this young activist about what that meant to her.

During one of the sessions, I asked the campers to explore different words or phrases they associated with “peace.” I got some great answers! Words such as: reassurance, love, Jesus, singing, the ocean, nature, standing up for what you believe in, and color! These words were the threads that built the tapestry of meaning that our group had for the word “peace.”

On Thursday night, I saw a true show of peace during a foot washing service. Before feet washing, Pastor Carl asked the campers and the counselors that if anything was laying on their hearts to let it be lifted by going to the person and giving them a hug. Adults, take notes! These children, who during camp became practically like a family even to the point of bickering, put away the jokes and the arguments and embraced each other. They asked for forgiveness, and pardoned their brothers and sisters in Christ. It was a truly beautiful thing! As we washed feet, we sang “Will you let me be your servant?” During the last verse, as everyone finished, we joined together in unison to sing the last chorus. The peace of Christ was truly tangible in that room!

It was a joy to be in community with the joyful Christians at Creative Arts Camp in Southern Ohio! I am excited to see what is yet to come this summer! Peace will be Prevail. On to camp Stover! 🙂

Until next time,
Laura, Youth Peace Advocate

Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Debriefing and Harrisburg workcamp

IMG_8740

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