As I sit at the kitchen table of my Montana host and enjoy some blueberry yogurt with fresh fruit, looking out over the beautiful Montana landscape, I reflect on the past few weeks and all the transformational moments I have experienced.
At Tall Oaks camp in Kansas City I experienced the closest family group that I have ever been a part of. For some reason our group just clicked and from the very first day campers felt comfortable to openly share the struggles they were facing in their lives. We were group number seven but we quickly adopted the name Peace 5! (You know, a peace sign (2 fingers) plus a high-5… pretty cool huh?) Throughout the week our group bonded in powerful ways as we laughed together, shared stories of brokenness together, rejoiced in our accomplishments in the low ropes teambuilding course, and partook in communion together through eating the bread our group had made. Seeing the campers come together and grow in love for one another was truly amazing.
The theme for the week was Secrets of the Kingdom and we talked extensively about the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. I enjoyed talking about the literal call to be generous and extend justice towards those in our communities who are day laborers. I created a simulation that enabled the youth to experience a glimpse of what it might be like to be a day laborer or migrant worker in the Kansas City area today. Here’s one of the resources I drew from in creating the simulation. It does a great job debunking many of the stereotypes and myths that exist about this population. I have heard it said that during Jesus’ time day laborers had many of the same stereotypes put upon them that we hold today, making this story all the more relevant in how we treat those who live and work among us.
Through a quick Google search I came across this organization which looks to be doing wonderful work to support migrant farmworkers in the Kansas City area. It was neat to be able to show the kids how easy it is to become involved. They expressed how powerful it was to suddenly have their eyes opened to an issue so close to home and feel like they could do something about it. Here is the website for the organization working in the greater KC community and the list of requested donations that would be easy for youth or churches to collect.
After Tall Oaks I got to spend a few days at home in Colorado before my next endeavor. At home everyone wanted to hear what I had been up to this summer and it
provided beautiful moments of being able to really share what I have been talking about, experiencing, and learning this summer, even with people who I normally would not discuss my faith with. It was transformational for me to experience carrying back to my community what I have been learning at camp. I also found a house to live in when I move back to Boulder in just two weeks. That was exciting and deeply needed as well! Yippee!
Then came the Hispanic Ministries Conference – La Asamblea in San Antonio. I was there less than 36 hours but Oh My Goodness it was a powerful experience!!!
I have never felt so welcomed and included as I did this weekend. I worked with the youth the majority of the time I was there and saw them come together and form a community in a very short period of time as well. I got to spend the day at Splashtown – a water park – and got to know the kids through sharing screams on water slides, cheers in a game of water basketball, and conversation over a highly anticipated lunch. When we returned to the hotel for worship, a friend of mine who hadn’t gone to the water park remarked how much of a difference he recognized in the unity of the group. By sharing a day of fun in the sun our group bonded and was inseparable for the rest of the weekend. Another highlight was the midnight pajama and pizza party on my last night there. We ate together, laughed together, and talked and talked for hours. I was sad to leave these newly made friendships behind.
Worship throughout the weekend was indescribably powerful. Many of the songs we sang were ones I learned at the church I went to in Bolivia while studying abroad. I felt my heart opened and my spirit soared in new and powerful ways. Experiencing worship in Spanish brought back memories of other transformational moments of connection with God through Spanish over the years that have so clearly shaped who I am today.
I had the opportunity to share my experience of being a Peace Intern and led the youth in an activity that practiced dialogue amidst dividing issues. I led them through the Take a Side activity where I would make a statement and they had to choose to stand on the Agree side of the room or Disagree side. We started with easy statements and moved to more thought provoking ones. (The questions are at the bottom of this post). The last question created a very divided group with many people standing on both sides. I invited them to pair up with one person from the opposite side of the room and discuss their reasoning behind their choice to agree or disagree. We then came together as a whole group and debriefed
the activity and discussed the importance of dialogue, search for understanding, and coming together as one community amidst our differences. One thing that the youth really hit on was the importance of listening to others’ stories to better understand their worldview. It was evident that they really understood how our experiences really shape how we see the world. This became very significant when I was discussing my understanding of God and homosexuality with a couple of the youth into the wee hours of the night. My stories of relationship with friends and family shape the way I understand this aspect of life. When we share our stories, even if we come to different conclusions, we are growing together in community and in the body of Christ. Jesus never allowed himself to be insulated within his cultural community but continually broke the boundaries, pushed the limits, and made himself vulnerable in sharing stories and meals with different types of folk.
As Disciples, amidst our differences, we meet at the table. The diversity of life experience and cultural richness within our church is something to be valued and actively embraced. Coming together as one church at the table of communion is something I have such a deeper appreciation for now.
Our church will continue to be divided over many pressing issues. We see the world differently. We see different faces of God and expect different things of ourselves in our journey of faith. But the more we come together, play together, eat together, share stories together, the more united we are becoming. We ARE one church. We ARE one body of Christ. We ARE brothers and sisters. We ARE Disciples.
Hugs to you all!
Take a Side Activity
Indicate one side of the room as Agree and one as Disagree. Have participants take a side for each statement.
Texas is the best state to live in!
I live in an urban area
I have graduated from high school
I work a part time or full time job
I have specific goals for the future
Rap is one of my favorite kinds of music
Bullying is a problem at my school
I am happy with my life right now
Homelessness is an issue in my community
I know about and support the DREAM Act
Global Warming is an important issue to focus on
Women should be able to have leadership in the church
Women should be able to be ordained leaders of the church
Students have access to bilingual classes at school
Tradition inhibits growth, progress is more important than tradition