That Summer

This is a submission by Ben Hudson Saunders, a 2011 DPF Intern:

That summer will always be that summer. That summer was a chapter in and of itself, but was also the birth of a new self. This, quite possibly, sounds cheesy and unrealistically cinematic – unless you have also lived the DPF intern experience or something similar that was transformative to the point of no return. By that, I mean, your eyes were opened to a new world understanding, you arrived at a feeling of alignment with your (general) life direction, and you were empowered to believe that you can and will change the world. That summer set a fire in my soul; One of both righteous anger for all injustice and oppression and also of hopeful enthusiasm for healing a world in need of love.
Since that summer, I have done some traveling through North and South America, I’ve done some documentary film work, and I lived on a farm in Carrboro, NC for a few months learning about their sustainable practices and organic food. Mostly because of the DPF summer, my focus for all of these experiences (as well as any future endeavors) has been community. There is so much beauty in shared experience and I have learned to see and feel the Spirit of God in the diversity of the human race and in everyday communal interactions.
During training week for the DPF internship, we were informed (or warned, depending on how you look at it) of the overwhelming number of interns who end up pursuing some sort of formal ministry after that summer. For me, it was at least a case of foreshadowing as I currently find myself in my second semester of divinity school. Through my experiences growing up in the Church, I’ve already seen examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the beloved institution that has been substantially influential in who I am today. My frustrations with Church politics and structural fallibility developed over time until I was in limbo between [running as far away from it as possible] or [intentionally being a part of the conversation to revolutionize it]. I learned a lot about the Church by traveling to various regions during the internship and I heard various perspectives and theories about the direction of faith communities in the years to come. By the end of the summer, I was convinced that the Church is already amidst a time of major change and that we must err on the side of revolution in order to keep up (because simply keeping up isn’t enough). So, that led me to divinity school.
As I participate in classroom conversation and dissect theories of ethics and justice, I can’t help but think about that summer when this passion began building momentum. I recall the songs that yearn for peace. I envision the games and activities that model justice. I sense the Spirit of community that embodies love. These experiences are not a fairy tale that has to solely exist in the ideal bubble of camp. They are pillars for the “World House” that MLK so deeply encouraged. It just depends on how we implement them in everyday life. These are thoughts that I think because of that summer. I don’t know where life will go from here, but I’ll know I got there by way of the DPF internship.

“World House” by Martin Luther King Jr.:

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