Youth conferences and mission trips always involve long days—late nights and early mornings, with lots packed in to the many waking hours. Often we get to the end of the day and say things like “was that just today?” By the end of the week, we either get much much funnier or much less…but it’s a minute-by-minute thing, really. One moment we are so tired everything we say or hear is hilarious. The next, we stop hearing or saying anything. ha!
So Thursday was…full! The morning keynote asked us to think about who are our enemies and what it might mean to sit at table with them, a la Psalm 23 (and Jesus). One of the most thought-provoking moments of the morning, which we were still discussing in the evening, was when Loli (the keynote speaker) showed a picture of Hitler as an infant and asked us to consider whether we would be willing to kill that child, knowing what he would later do. It was a hard question, and continues to be a hard question—since every child has such potential (for good and for evil), what would we do? As followers of Jesus, what would we do? What do you think?
Ultimately the keynote and the small group discussions had us thinking about who is at the table with us, and who God calls to the table. As Loli has said many times this week, “all God’s creatures got a place in the choir”…even if we don’t like them. In the evening, John Bell continued the theme by letting out the dirty little secret about the scripture readings we hear in church each Sunday: the lectionary (the schedule of scripture readings, which is a 3-year cycle) often leaves stuff out. A lot of stuff. In the example he used, the part that was cut out featured women as heroes who deliver the people of Israel. This happens regularly—that women are cut out of the lectionary, or stories that make us uncomfortable will just be skipped over—but most people who simply come to church most Sundays would never notice. This is one of the reasons that our pastors can often be heard saying such things as “the lectionary is just a guide—we can use it or not!”
In the afternoon we headed up to join a group of 130 other youth conference attendees to help package meals for Stop Hunger Now. At some tables, people were filling bags with vitamins, vegetables, soy protein, and rice. Then those bags were brought over to our table, where we weighed and adjusted until each one was perfect, then we sealed them and sent them over to be packed and sent out to places that experience famine, natural disaster, drought, etc. Each meal costs 25 cents. Each time the gong sounded meant that we had packed 1,000 meals, and the gong sounded 10 times before we were done. That’s right, in about 45 minutes we packed 10,000 meals for hungry people. It was a great afternoon that rounded out the mission portion of our week really nicely.
In the evening we had a wonderful opportunity to practice hospitality and get to know people—we had the Covenant Presbyterian (from Staunton Virginia) over for dinner. First we had to get the house ready for guests—despiderfying the porch, sweeping the deck, and cleaning up the main floor.
The leaders cooked up a delicious dinner of local farmers-market salad, garlic bread (the main portion of the meal, haha), and Laura G’s famous fettuccine alfredo with roasted broccoli (also from the farmers market!). We picnicked out on the awesome deck, 13 youth and 6 adults, having a great time playing games, singing our prayers, and eating deliciousness! It was very fun to welcome another group into our home and offer them one of our favorite meals.
After dinner it was time for worship (it was a communion service), then the variety show—complete with many awesome acts: music, dance, and skits. We got home late, enjoyed some ice cream sundaes, and talked about all these great places God was revealed to each of us, before heading to bed to rest up for the last day.