The exposition begins at Camp Brethren Woods, where four peace-loving young adults join forces to begin a summer of exploration and transformation together. The scene is set as our main characters set out to spread Jesus’ gospel of peace to young people in their formative years at formative places – summer camp. The action rises as each new week follows a familiar rhythm of getting to know campers, presenting a message that we find important, and subsequently discovering how we can all work together to further the Kingdom in a world of violence and corruption. The climax? In the short-term, it comes when we form genuine human connections that enable us all to be tied up together in the work of peacemaking and justice-building.
But we, as the Youth Peace Travel Team and members of a wider network of Jesus people, are part of a much larger story. The resolution is perhaps unidentifiable at this point in our lives, although we work toward the ultimate goal of worldwide inclusivity, justice, and earth-shaking peace. This is but a snippet of the story of our summer and of our lives. Our Author is busy at work, constantly editing our story with sweeping pen strokes that intertwine the birds of the air with the songs of our hearts. This week will go down as a colorful page in the story of our lives.
At Song and Story Fest, we were inspired and encouraged to listen and share the stories that impact us. Whether these narratives are shared through words, music, or moments of sweet Quaker silence, each have the potential to speak to those around us in a powerful way. Our team came into the week as porous sponges, ready to absorb the wisdom of seasoned storytellers. We soaked up tall tales and tear-filled testimonies around the campfire each night. We clapped our hands (or paws, or anything we got now) and joyfully sang along to witty political interpretations and heartwarming Kumquat tunes. We used our free time to get to know distant relatives, system fighters, and each other, and hear what stories their lives have told.
The team contributed our stories in our two most preferred mediums – skits and raps. We challenged the youth and ourselves alike to confront wrongs on both personal and global levels, through leading reflective workshops and inviting open discussion. We truly loved learning new songs, whether we were called to join in groovy dance moves or simply let the chipper mandolin strumming permeate our souls. We often sang loudly with our voices, but were further encouraged to let our lives sing louder. We will sing the message of love and reconciliation, of the urgent need for action, of the power in numbers of people who embrace life and share it abundantly.
So, what is your story? What are the prevailing themes of your life that beg to be shared? As we continue along this journey of teaching and intentional self-reflection, we invite you to join us in the discovery and singing of the story of our lives.
During the week the Youth Peace Travel Team were called upon to lead what was entitled the “Youth Rap Session” scheduled for 3:30 pm on Wednesday, between the women sharing stories on Tuesday and the men sharing stories on Thursday. Although rapping is our forte, the team decided we could open up this time for youth to talk about their own struggles. Adults were encouraged to join in and lend some insight into how one grows out from adolescence. Fitting with Song and Story Fest, the moment that most touched me was a story my brother told. Alex and I both told stories, and he began with a story about how we got caught in a snow storm at Mammoth Mountain on the last day of a trip. He talked about how I had kept pushing him to “not die” (how dramatic he is) and the hilarity of traveling with my father. Afterwards I shared a story about how Alex taught me to be a better brother and truly listen. Alex taught me that I was not being an equal with him and that restricted our relationship. But above all he showed the profound healing of forgiveness.
Both of us had heard all of these stories before, but then my brother got up and shared a story I was surprised to hear. Our mother and father split up when Alex was young and my father remarried which became increasingly difficult for my brother. One summer we were to spend time in Washington with our stepmother at the new house on Beaver Lake. Alex expressed his discomfort and apathy at the house until I forced him to go out on a paddle boat with me. Alex explained that we would swim, paddle, enjoy little games and not give a care about when lunch was because we were together. Being brothers mattered, being together mattered, being away from it all and focusing on fun mattered. I had never heard how much paddle boating with him in Beaver Lake had meant. I had always heard my brother tell me about how I was a big part of his life and how he would not have been the same without me. But this time he gave me a story in which I had helped him deal with his own issues. I enjoy telling stories as well of the influence of Alex on my own life. I was captivated though when he finally started telling his own stories and how I had helped in some way. My brother is one of the most special individuals in my entire life and I cherish every moment with him. In this one moment he encapsulated all the events we had shared, and what it meant to be brothers to me. Thank you so much Alex. I love you.
There are many stories in my life. Stories of success and stories of failure. Stories of my passions and stories of my displeasures. But the story that I had the opportunity to share at Song and Story Fest is one of peace and family. Every year on Martin Luther King Junior Day my father and sister were advocators of the McPherson, Kansas community showing support for equality on that holiday. Because of this support I got a lot of exposure to MLK and his teachings.
One of the storytellers for the week was none other than Matt Guynn, the program director for nonviolent change at On Earth Peace. Matt presented on the Beloved Community, an idea made very prevalent by Martin Luther King Junior. Matt presented us with an informational packet regarding the Beloved Community which started with a handful of MLK quotes and historical context for them being said. As soon as I read these quotes I knew that I had a story to tell using them. I took the quotes from the packet and broke them up into lines, as if it were a poem. I then made couplets using the lines from MLK’s quotes followed with my own lines. My lines were parallel thoughts to the MLK quotes but related to issues I see prevalent in today’s society. Many of these issues easily relate to racial inequality because they are movements occurring today over social justice, i.e. political representation, homosexuality, and women’s rights. The team received high marks after the presentation of my poetic interpretation of these quotes.
I typically am not a poetic guy. In fact, in high school I absolutely dreaded English class because I knew I didn’t enjoy poetic interpretation or extensive reading/writing. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why this project stood out to me. It may have been out of my comfort zone, but my heart told me that I had a story to tell and that this was the way it was meant to be told. I think it just goes to show you how sometimes we can surprise ourselves with passion and drive we didn’t know was there.
Song and Story Fest at Camp Inspiration Hills truly brought with it a breeze of refreshment. With tales that evoked much shared laughter as well as tears, the life stories brought to fest were real. It’s difficult to describe the unique vibe found there, a place where anyone can go to the microphone and share their thoughts. Some memorable ones for me:
1. One woman, who ended up having one of the most calming voices I’ve ever heard, came to the mic and paused. The first words that came out of her mouth were, “Y’know, I love you all.”
2. A small boy came up front and sang The Element Song (listing all the elements of the periodic table) at the top of his lungs and in a key only wolves can hear—and it was beyond impressive!
3. Mutual Kumquat (with my marvelous bro, Jake, playin’ bass) did a concert including a fruit and vegetable song battle that was the definition of epic.
Soaking up the atmosphere that radiated positivity and love caused me to have a renewed peace within myself in more ways than one. As cheesy as it sounds, I really was inspired at that camp! Especially after hearing Matt Guynn’s chant (with accompanying dance moves):
If we want to move this mountain, we must work together.
If we want to move this mountain, we must work together!
With love & a rejuvenated passion for peace,
Camp Inspiration Hills, July 6 – 12, 2014