“Quiet” is not necessarily a word that I, or any of my close friends or family, would use to describe myself. I love nothing more than deep conversations or getting an intense debate or discussion started. I have learned over the years that I am definitely an extrovert, a sharer, and an external processor. Talking is one of my favorite activities, especially when it comes to discussions about my passions.
However, during my first week of camp as a peace intern in hot and humid Gonzales, TX, I often found myself in silence. Several times, a camper in my small group would ask, “Aly, what are you thinking about?” More often than not, I was thinking about how amazing it was to be hearing such an abundance of personal stories, experiences, and reflections from the 46 campers at the Blue Bonnet Area’s CYF camp at Disciple Oaks Retreat Center.
The keynote and discussions were centered on storytelling. Although I have sometimes seen that high schoolers can be unwilling to share many personal details or go “too deep”, I found this to be a very effective and interesting way to learn more about others. At the beginning of the week, I reminded myself that I needed to sit back, rein in my chatty tendencies, and let the campers tell their stories and steer the conversations, only interjecting when there was a lull. I was shocked to find that, especially in my peace lab, this reminder would be unnecessary. Even though this camp hasn’t had a peace intern in decades, they felt right at home discussing such difficult topics as white privilege, sexism, and what it means to be a peacemaker. If there was any silence, it was usually immediately filled by another camper’s story or question. Often our time would expire after feeling like we had just sat down to begin, with the campers wanting to continue our discussions well into lunch or free time.
I began this summer’s journey of a lifetime knowing that I had been blessed with a unique opportunity to change many lives, but I also knew that I would be changed. That’s why this camp’s theme, Romans 12:2, truly struck a chord within me.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This dynamic and diverse group of campers, youth ministry leaders, and adults graciously welcomed me the very first night I was in Texas, as we shared a meal at the local Whataburger. I was definitely transformed by their Christlike love, acceptance, and willingness to share over the course of the week. I was truly able to hear the voice of God in their stories, the worship services underneath the bright Texas stars, the challenging discussions about peace and justice, and in their meaningful and touching prayers. What a blessing Camp Gonzo has been.
This week I am thrilled to be in Detroit, Michigan for a week with Motown Mission!