Sweet Home, Alabama!

As an Oregonian at heart, there is truly nothing that can be mistaken  for that hot, salty humid air that only the Gulf of Mexico can can deliver.  Although it is only Wednesday here with my new friends from Alabama/Northwest Florida Disciples region, I feel safe in saying that I have made new friends here who I will cherish for years to come.  As the 2013 Peace Intern crew spent long hours last week bonding, praying and learning in Indianapolis, I must admit I came to my first week of camp feeling a little uneasy about catching the swing of the whole “peace intern” thing.  As a camper, I grew up with peace interns in my home region camps so if nothing else, I was pretty sure that this summer, I would need to be a good listener, open to sharing the mystery and exploring complex world questions.  To put it frankly, that’s a tall order to make!  But, as we are called to do things we never thought we could, here I am, sitting on the fourth floor of the Romar Beach Baptist Church retreat center after having spent a long, spirit-filled day at the South Baldwin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) with 35 middle and high schoolers, and about 10 of the most dedicated, hospitable members of a rural congregation.  Together, we worked – planting flower beds, eating new southern favorites, moving furniture, polishing wood and doing what I love best, playing piano for our evening worship service.  The scripture that was read for our multi-generational family of Disciples from all over Alabama was about the one body of Christ.  Here is where it hits me – truly we are one.  Truly, this is where peace can and does begin.  To breathe in the smells of old buildings, to laugh and sing with people old and young, to help brighten the day of a congregation who has low numbers in the summertime.  It is a God thing – to see the old folks sing “Step by Step” and in turn, seeing the young folks chime in as we all sing “Amazing Grace” and “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
I have spent lots of time worrying and wondering just exactly what I would bring to campers this summer.  In the midst of my chaotic mind with new ideas distracting me left and right, this week has made me recall yet another Disciples institution that has prepared me thus far to recognize that learning, service and leadership must all be married in a trinity of sorts. One is not possible and should not be done without the other two.   With the vision of our Disciples foremothers and forefathers who began Eureka College, and as newly graduated alum at EC, I leave that place with the knowledge of leadership development and interpersonal communication. I have learned (and I am continuing to realize) that most, if not all conflicts in the world arise out of one simple disconnect: the failure to recognize the humanity in those whose lives we do not understand and secondly, the lack of respect we have for our own story and for the beauty that we bring to the table.   So, here it’s begun.  I spent Monday teaching campers about the value of each persons’ story.  We must love others enough to listen to them and to hear them.  On Tuesday, we went into depth discussing the ways in which we can honor the needs of those we have difficult discussions with rather than beginning with an expectation to “win” the argument.  And today, what better fit can there be than to work and pray with here who are living our their faith and exemplifying just what the world can look like if start with peace?
I am learning, making mistakes, noticing changes in my campers’ perspectives on how we treat each other and loving it all.
 
Peace, oh God.
Breathing in, watching, noticing.
Strumming the guitar and breaking new ground,
This is our call.
 
Amen.

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