I got to finish my summer in the Windy City at NAPAD Convocation. I have to admit that I was pretty tired after the many weeks at camp, but the energy and passion of the conferees helped invigorate me during my final week as a DPF intern. Lively worship, impassioned preaching, delicious food, and a memorable culture night were the highlights of my week and some of my favorite memories from the summer.
Convocation presented many opportunities to discuss social justice issues and challenges unique to NAPAD congregations. Our first day began with anti-racism training. The session encouraged us to look at the role race has played in the history of the US and to see how racism continues to adversely affect our society. Later on I had the opportunity to give two presentations to the youth, one on key leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and another on just war, pacifism, and faithful responses to conflict.
Our keynoters, Drs. Russell Moy and Russell Yee, helped us understand the challenges facing immigrants to the US to worship in ways that honor their culture and heritage. Discovering a unique voice in a new land, regardless of how long one has lived there, is a difficult task, especially when confronted with the expectations and traditions of the dominant culture. Our speakers also gave us a crash course in biblical geography, reminding us that the majority of the stories and important figures in the Bible came from Asia and Africa. Abraham “from Ur of the Chaldees” was likely from modern-day Iraq, Paul was from Turkey, and the Israelites spent quite a few years in Africa while in bondage to
the Egyptians. Needless to say, these biblical figures moved a lot during their lives and were often immigrants and strangers in new lands.
Although the workshops and presentations were interesting, the fellowship, worship, and celebrations are what I will remember the most from convocation. I discovered how much fun it is to get covered in paint, to stay up late playing cards while feasting on ramen noodles and candy, and to dance the haka. I tried new foods from Korea, Samoa, and the Philippines. I enjoyed the beautiful dances and music that were shared during our worship services. I was moved by the powerful prayers we offered together, each person praying in his or her own tongue, for healing and unity in our church and world. And I got to partake in and enjoy the performances at cultural night where people were free to express themselves in beautiful music, art and dance.
NAPAD Convocation was a highlight of my summer, and I hope I have the opportunity to attend again two years from now. Like my experiences at camps, I met amazing people, had meaningful discussions, and had the chance to spend time in a beautiful place. I am sad to end my summer as a DPF intern, but I know the memories and friendships I made will continue to live on and inspire me for years to come.
Jonathan Cahill is a 2014 Disciples Peace Fellowship Intern, sponsored by Federated Church of West Lafayette.