By Rev. Brian Frederick-Gray, mission director
This has been a summer unlike any other. That is particularly true for this summer’s DPF Peace Interns. In a typical year Disciples Peace Fellowship sends three young adults to church camps all over the United States and Canada to serve as ambassadors for peace and justice. With the COVID-19 Pandemic, that simply wasn’t possible. Instead, 2020 DPF Peace Interns Wendy Davidson, Raphael Guillen, and Jennifer Williams have spent the summer working remotely, partnering with Disciple Justice Ministry groups, and connecting with online camps and conference.
Below you will find their reflections on a summer unlike any other. In these excerpts taken from the online, intergenerational, peacemakers training event they recently led you’ll get to hear first hand from Raphael, Jennifer, and Wendy on what it was like to be a Peace Intern during the pandemic, the projects they have been working on all summer, and the places where they see hope.
Looking back on your experiences this summer, what projects have you worked on and what was it like to be a part of online church camps?
Jennifer: I had the opportunity to make an interactive, video keynote speech for the Ohio Region with Wendy, and then be a part of the online camp experiences in the Florida Region plus the Northern California/Nevada Region. It was a humbling experience to do this and be part of someone’s world, because they don’t have to let you in! Yet those camps treated me like family. I got that sense even in these virtual spaces. All in all, doing these online camps has inspired within me a passion for teaching, and that was a really big calling for me this summer.
Wendy: Living in Texas immigration is one of those things that is important to me. I’ve had the chance to work with Refugee & Immigration Ministries. We are currently working on the #40for40 campaign — sharing 40 stories over 40 days of congregations that have engaged in resettlement ministries. One of the other groups I’ve been working with this summer is Green Chalice. That culminated in an online, intergenerational eco-camp. I had the opportunity to craft a video keynote on making shalom in small spaces. I’ve been in apartments and dorms for the last seven years of my life, so figuring out how to grow things and care for creation can be a challenge but it is worth it!
Raphael: We’ve all been writing stories for the Disciples News Service for the #DOCjustsummer campaign. I’m also working with AllianceQ on educational resources for transgender and gender diverse folks. Plus, Wendy and I led our PRIDE workshop for CAMPDD in Virginia. It was very fun! They had all of these camp games that really worked online! There was one where you picked a card with a word on it and then you had to sing a song that included that word. It was totally amazing! Camp can happen on Zoom. The youth still have it in them and it can work out beautifully.
DPF had to scrap all of our plans for the summer and reimagine the Peace Intern Program on the fly. Given that reality: What were you hoping to get to do this summer that didn’t happen?
Jennifer: My biggest disappointment was postponing the 2020 Experience (the first ever joint meeting of National Convocation, Obra Hispana, and NAPAD that was scheduled for July 2020 at TCU). I was SO looking forward to it when I heard about it at General Assembly in Des Moines, but I never thought I’d be able to go. Then DPF said “We’re sending you to the 2020 Experience!” but then it had to be postponed due to COVID. I was so excited to gather in a meeting with more Disciples, but then it couldn’t happen.
Wendy: It is disappointing not being able to be in person at camps and sit in a small group with excited youth who are passionate about making the world a better and brighter place. Not being able to have the conversations about justice with them that come after a week of bonding in a holy place like a church camp. Not being able to have those difficult conversations either — it is just harder to have the most difficult conversations when you are not in the same room together, and you can’t look into each others eyes because you’re separated by computer screens.
Raphael: For me, honestly, my disappointments are missing everything that could have been done in person. I wish I could have gone to in person summer camps. The Poor People’s Moral Assembly and March on Washington was something I was really looking forward to. Coming to the end of the summer I wonder, “How would this have been different if the Peace Interns all saw each other and met in person?” Because we still haven’t! It is amazing that we’ve done all of this work together and yet we’ve never met each other in a traditional sense of the word.
While writing Disciples News Service feature articles for the #DOCjustsummer you spoke with a number of Disciples Justice Ministries partners. You ended each of those interviews by asking “Where do you see hope right now?” It only seems fair that you get to answer that question too! So, where do you see hope right now?
Wendy: The people, the people, the people. I see hope in my fellow Peace Interns and the passion they have for justice and peace. I see hope in all of the people that we’ve had the chance to work with, and all of the people that were faced with this COVID-19 pandemic. I think of all the ways that people are making sure that refugees and immigrants are still being cared for in the midst of a pandemic. To make sure that LGBTQIA+ youth are still being cared for an heard and have resources to find each other and find support, even as in person gatherings are so severely limited.
Raphael: I agree with Wendy. For me, I see a lot of hope in the younger generation because they have a lot of good things that they are striving for. The younger generation has a good idea of what they want to work towards, so I think that we should keep empowering them in their work for the good of the world. I think we should keep amping them up! I have a lot of hope for the younger generation; they are where the hope lies for me.
Jennifer: Two things. Number one: The grace that we are giving each other, especially during this time. There is a lot we can achieve when we do it together. It has been amazing to work together this summer with my fellow Peace Interns. I know that doesn’t usually happen in a typical summer. Number Two: Being introduced to new and different things. At the Northern California/Nevada Region Camp I learned about Christian TikTok. That is just so amazing that this younger generation is taking on the issues of this world and are not afraid to say “Hey, look I am a follower of God!” and “I can still have fun and bring laughter and peace and joy into this world!” That is where I see hope right now.
Watch the complete conversation with the 2020 DPF Peace Interns from “Passing the Peace!” an online, intergenerational peacemakers training event.
Subscribe to DPF’s YouTube Channel, where you can find all of the videos reference in this article plus additional video resources.
Join DPF on Thursday 8/27 for a Facebook Live Event that will highlight their work.
Learn more about the DPF Peace Intern Program by visiting the “What is a Peace Intern?” page on their website.
Sign-up for DPF’s quarterly newsletter “News Notes”.