“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.” II Thess. 3:16
The week of July 19-22 was Learning Peace: A Camp for Kids at the Hispanic Cultural Center in Nampa. I had the honor of shepherding a group of nine-year-olds, mostly boys, for the four days. I love this role, shepherding, because it takes me back to being a camp counselor. There is nothing better than helping foster relationships and helping turn a group of individuals into a functioning group. A great deal of our bonding happened during lunch time when, after we were finished eating, every item on the table was examined for its worth in tower-building.
The other aspect of shepherding that I value so much is that I get to move through the curriculum alongside the youth. This year I was struck by how applicable every lesson was to adults. The eight and nine-year-olds started each morning in Mindfulness, which for the first two days was led by a great yoga instructor. I loved starting each day with deep-breathing and different poses, each reminding me that I am in fact an embodied human. “Why don’t I start everyday this way?” I asked myself. I am so much calmer and more centered. In Conflict Resolution, we spend the first day learning one another’s names. Again, I was reminded of how important names are and how when we learn just one little thing about someone, like the motion they chose for our name game, it changes the relationship. Individuals are humanized. Think of all the important naming that happens in scripture and the way Jesus really saw people, whether he was calling disciples or healing a stranger or offering forgiveness to the thief on the cross. Our Conflict Resolution teachers also had us play the old game of Telephone and we recalled how important good communication is to both avoid and resolve conflict. Our final class each morning was Connecting with Nature. Walks outside have been essential to my inner peace for a long time. For some of you readers an equivalent activity might be biking or gardening or camping. As we demonstrated with the help of a ball of yarn in a Connecting Nature class, we are all connected to the natural world, part of a great web. Being mindful of these connections grounds me to the natural world and to our Creator.
Peace Camp is not a utopia. There have always been challenges, struggles, conflicts, and bumps during those four days and this year was no different. I sometimes comment that the gift and beauty of the experience is that we adults, trying so hard to equip the youth to be peacemakers, are reminded each day that none of us have arrived. We are all still on the journey of learning to create peace, be peaceful, and model peacemaking. We all need practice. We are always living in the already but not yet, recipients already of the peace of Christ, but not yet living in a completely peaceful world. Thanks be to God for glimmers we get throughout of our lives of the Peaceable Kingdom.
Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen. (ELW p. 76)