“Summer Stories”- testimonies from former DPF Peace interns

Applications are now open for the Disciples Peace Fellowship summer Peace Internship. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing stories from former interns about the life changing, transformational time they had serving their church. If you know someone between the age of 21 and 30, make sure to send them to our application page: https://www.dpfweb.org/apply-to-be-an-intern/
Our first entry comes from Rev. Steve Mason, who served as an intern in 2006. He currently serves as the Pastor of First Christian Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. 
My world before serving as a DPF Peace Intern seemed a lot smaller.  Church camp could only be understood through the lens of my experience at Kamp Kaleo in Nebraska.  Justice meant promoting the few issues that I was versed in.  And the church…well, it felt a lot more tame and predictable before I could see the larger picture.  That all changed during the summer and I was transformed as a DPF Peace Intern.
Each year, there are certain foci for the Peace Interns to be sure to share with the youth they counsel.  The summer I served, aside from advocating for just immigration policies, humanitarian aid for worldwide systems of provision for sustainable agriculture and clean water; we interns became especially versed in the issues surrounding The Iraq War and giving youths information on how they could respond faithfully.  Not only were these vital issues for youth then—and now—but many of the campers lived in places where the war wasn’t only a political issue but their very families often served the military or for companies whose primary contractor was the military.  This cultural context began to teach me how to not only advocate for issues, but how to understand the complexities that faced the youths who felt pulled in opposite directions.  I learned how often this tension happens in any issue of justice, where an issue isn’t simply right or wrong, but it’s enriched and complicated by personal experience.  I listened to problems facing youths in North Carolina that were surprisingly similar to those in Colorado.  I worked with youths in Indiana who faced worlds vastly different from Kansas.  I even worked through a flood in the hills of Pennsylvania that threatened to divide our very camp into two.  In all these situations that summer, as I began to see the diversity of the church, as I saw the many ways that a region could do outdoor ministries, as I began to hear stories from campers earnestly seeking to love God and love neighbor in this interconnected world; I began to fall in love with the joy of ministry, which is always at its beginning and end…about people.
Now, less than 10 years later, as an ordained pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) I talk to many of my colleagues who also were Peace Interns and we share those lasting stories—which, for many of us were formative in our call to ministry.  I look back on that summer, thinking of the experiences I was able to have, the people I was able to meet—in campers, counselors, chaplains, volunteer hosts and airport chauffeurs—and I see what a valuable gift this was for me.  The ministry that DPF creates through the Peace Internships is one of the most meaningful ministries that shape the larger church.  And this transformative experience is not just for the interns.  Every ministry I serve as pastor is informed, to some degree, by my Peace Intern experience.  Campers who were shaped by Peace Interns often dig deeper in their faith and sometimes even go on to be Peace Interns.  Churches who encourage their youth to help them develop are gifted when they share in the transformation that DPF offers through this ministry.  As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy, “I am grateful to God…when I remember you constantly in my prayers day and night…for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”  I thank the DPF for this ministry which gifts the church by shaping young adults through the spirit of God’s power, love and self-discipline.

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