Center Lines - September 2007

This past summer, I directed a week of Sky Lake camp: Camp L.E.A.D. (Leadership Education and Development) Alumni Shalom. The six senior high campers were "graduates" of last year's Camp L.E.A.D. directed by Karyn & Rob Kazinski. The young persons' local churches had to recognize them as active and growing leaders, affirm them, and pay for them to attend Camp L.E.A.D. last year These were not just any youth. These were youth in whom local churches saw leadership potential and were willing to invest in that potential.

My Camp L.E.A.D. Alumni Shalom campers were young people who had attended Camp L.E.A.D. and wanted to come back to learn more, even if it meant paying their own way this time. We spent our week together learning interpersonal communication techniques, conflict resolution skills, and problem-solving strategies - all in the context of daily Bible study, worship, and environmental awareness; being good stewards of earth.

We, Wyoming Conference United Methodists, may fuss and stew about our weaknesses and short comings. It is often our favorite past time, and one not unique to us. However, my week at camp confirmed my long-felt belief that we do not celebrate our strengths and successes nearly enough. This truth was brought home to me in powerful ways.

The counselor assigned to assist me was from a church on the Oneonta District. She is a college student, a "graduate" of our conference's youth program. As a youth she had been active in her local church and our conference youth council. She returned now as a young adult to share her life and her lessons. She was a woman of faith, energy and optimism. She gave of herself to touch campers' lives in profound ways. It is true that she was paid for her time, but she went far beyond anything which mammon could purchase. She shared herself, her soul.

And she is just one example. As I looked around at the summer staff, I saw faces familiar from their years as annual conference youth. They, too, were now young adults nurturing new generations of children and youth-to-be. Young people from our churches went to camp to have "fun." They had fun in abundance, but because of our young adults they also learned much, much more than they can yet comprehend.

Several guest speakers met with my campers to talk about mission and leadership opportunities. One was a woman from a church on the Binghamton district who only four or five days before had returned from three months of service as a Global Justice Volunteer through our General Board of Global Ministries. She had witnessed, ministered and learned in Japan. She was another example of one who carries the lessons of our local church and annual conference youth ministries programs into young adulthood. The Camp L.E.A.D. participants were moved and energized by her witness.

Another guest was a woman from a Wilkes-Barre district church who this past year participated in the Northeast Jurisdiction Youth Council's Mission of Peace trip to Nicaragua. That life-changing experience moved her so profoundly that she has returned there for a year of post-high school service. Two youth - one each from an Oneonta and a Scranton district church - will participate in the 2008 Mission of Peace trip to Cuba. Camp L.E.A.D. campers too late for 2008 are energized for the 2009 Mission of Peace trip - wherever it will go!

The stories are legion. Two youth who our churches and annual conference nurtured into young adulthood have married and are working at subsistence level at the Red Bird Mission Conference's Henderson Settlement in Frakes, Kentucky.

Other of our local church and Conference Youth Council-trained young adults now serve our churches as pastors and as committed, trained and motivated laity.

The self-formed and self-directed Young Adult Revelation (YAR) group organized and supervised the inspiring July 28 Bish-Bash for our youth this summer.

A cadre of our former youth - now young adults in college - have formed the Bread & Juice Club as a way of maintaining their fellowship and keeping their faith's fire alive.

My own Camp L.E.A.D. campers (high school youth, remember) told me story after story of the ways they employ their faith at home to serve their peers whose lives are fraught with difficulty.

Our own youth and young adults are not immune to the troubles that beset our communities: broken homes, gangs, temptations of drugs, promiscuous sex, shallow relationships, and more. Yet our young people - youth and young adult leaders - have learned to trust God in Jesus Christ. They have experienced the Spirit's working in their lives. The result is a vitality of faith, an optimism of spirit, and a passion for mission and ministry lived out in love and joy.

What gifts we have in our midst right now! What a future we have! God deserves our very best. In terms of our youth and our young people, we are indeed offering it! For that I am thankful, I am grateful, and I am inspired. Amen, Amen and Amen!

In Christ,


By: Reverend Mark Marino On 9/5/2007