How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ (Isaiah 52:7)
The last week of June around 95 youth ages 6-13 participated in the 5th year of Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids. We have had a few bumps, like so many other organizations, these past few years and I always sweat if we will get enough volunteers, if the lunches will be delivered, if the afternoon guests will appear, and so many other details. We plan and plan and finally execute. As with most things, it is not what we plan for that finally brings the most joy or that we will remember in years to come. It is the surprises, the grace moments in which the Holy Spirit has clearly taken over and we are simply along for the ride.
This year those times included a moment of repentance and reconciliation between a youth and adult, a family welcomed last minute who brought so many gifts to the week, a spontaneous dance party that no one could resist participating in. I shepherded a group of 12 ten-year-old youth through the week and grew to absolutely love them all. I loved that when they were creating their public service announcements for Media Literacy there was a deep care for all of God’s creation—other human beings and the natural world. I loved that they explored being embodied as our Mindfulness instructor led us through various yoga poses. I loved the way the City of Nampa Forestry staff included absolutely everyone when we planted trees at Stampede Skate Park on a gorgeous and cool morning. I loved that though most of the youth had untangled a human knot many times, they were up for the challenge when our Conflict Resolution teacher kept making the knot bigger.
A favorite moment was with a girl who made it known she preferred the Play for Peace games over crafts each afternoon. One day I insisted she go color a tile and then drop rubbing alcohol on it. The next thing I knew she was dragging me over to show me her piece of art. Could we all be so willing to try to new things, to go out of our comfort zones, to take risks, big or small? There are so many powerful reminders about the reign of God that we receive when we spend time with children—the ability to make a good friend in just four days, the wonder about so many things, the ability to fully be oneself. Because we are all different, not every kid is able to carry all those traits, but they were on display collectively throughout our time together.
The week was a pure gift for me amidst all the sad, hard, and exhausting things we are living through. As hopeful and uplifting as my time was alongside the 10-year-old group, I also gleaned hope and deep joy witnessing the many adult volunteers. We were curious how so many one-day volunteers would impact the group but they each came so eager to give their time and other adults and youth welcomed their participation eagerly. This was a group of adults who had, beyond the planning team, not spend much time together, but with some clarity about our mission and roles they bonded over shared experiences and watched out for one another.
I always anticipate those moments in the week when someone’s actions or inactions gets on my nerves and I am asked to practice peace-making, not passivity, but active peace. Even with the anticipation I am annoyed that the Holy Spirit interferes in the week that way. Why can’t I simply help lead the kids’ learning, why do I have to grow too? It does remind me why we are all there. Peace is not something that just happens. It is something we practice. We bumble along. We pick up new tools or insights or perspectives. We get better at it. Together we work towards and for peace. The Holy Spirit woos or beckons the whole community toward a more peaceful world. We get such a small glimpse of that peaceful world during the four days, but it’s a glimpse I return to throughout the year. Where have you had a glimpse of people actively working toward a peaceful community or world?