Voices of Youth continue to awaken The United Methodist Church to mission
|Voices of Youth 2013
“In Our Own Backyards” tour next summer will take place June 27-July 14, 2013.
After a time of orientation, group building, and rehearsal, VOY will be travelling for 2 ½ weeks around the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church participating in local mission projects during the day and presenting worship experiences in host churches in the evenings. We are blessed to be a part of an Annual Conference that offers many mission opportunities around the world and right here in Virginia.
Applications for new and returning youth, college staff, and adult staff are now available on the Voices Web site at www.voyva.org for more information and to access the application forms.
Please contact Jennifer Dixon, VOY Conference Coordinator, with any questions at 757-348-7084 or by email at email@example.com
By DeLyn Celec
What a joy and honor to be the piano accompanist on “Voices of Youth 2012: Winds of Change.” I learned that awakening The United Methodist Church to mission in this way is rewarding, fun and a lot of hard work. I am grateful to have worked alongside these young people as each discerns his or her call to future mission.
The song “In Remembrance” by Ragan Courtney and Buryl Red is a Voices of Youth tradition. Chad Hrbek, team coordinator, called attention to its insightful message in our final devotional as we prepared for the final worship celebration. Hrbek pointed to our responsibility as Christians to honor the example of Jesus’ life by acting in ways that emulate Christ’s actions: provide for people who are in need and extend hospitality to all neighbors. When we commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus in Holy Communion, we honor his gracious life, too. I am proud to have been a part of “Winds of Change 2012,” as these young people set a living example of honoring Jesus’ life!
We sang “Care for Creation” by Pepper Choplin in each of our worship celebrations. Its refrain is a powerful theological statement: “I will sing and I will praise, but the measure of my days is how I care for the creation of the Lord.” This song played over and again in my head as we worked.
The mission part of the tour this year was a work week in Joplin, Mo., which was so devastated by a tornado last year. The family renting the first house on which we worked had moved four times in the year since the tornado claimed their former home. Along with pulling seemingly one million weeds, we cleared debris such as several feet of chain link fence, a toilet tank, railroad ties and countless roofing tiles. These tasks had been deemed second priority in the hierarchy of urgent cleanup. As we worked, a lovely yard emerged where the two small children and medium-sized dog could safely play. The sorting of living trees from rusty fence illustrated our commission to honor our Creator in responsible stewardship and care for the creatures residing there.
Many participants’ testimonies cited their initial, and short-lived, disappointment because they were not demolishing or building anything. Over time, it came clear that our outdoor weeding, sorting and clearing was secondary to the relationships we were building along the way. Young people who had met only days before removed stumps that took no less than four people, various garden tools and several hours to complete. The truly inspiring part was the celebration that took place afterward as the stump was held over their heads and cheers went up all over the yard.
Ryan P. Shaw was our blogger on this trip, and more information and photos can be seen at http://windsofchange2012.wordpress.com. Ryan estimates that we spent approximately 60 hours on the bus. Needless to say, we got to know one another well. By Ryan’s calculations, considering the number of participants and hours spent, we put in 1,057 hours of mission work in Missouri and Virginia. Add that to 338 hours of leading worship and you will conclude that this group was busy!
But numbers cannot tell the stories of community built on this trip. Alongside the intensive “togetherness” of the choir and staff were the relationships built with the people with whom we were in mission. I am humbled by the joy and gratitude of those who live in the homes we served, from the little boy who thanked us for helping him wash his toy car to the homeowner carrying her granddaughter on her hip as she tearfully described her beloved former neighbors. Their stories have become ours as we retell them, honoring their strength and courage.
“My favorite part about Voices of Youth is the community that the program creates,” said Virginia Greer, a four-year veteran of the choir. “A group of youth who have mostly never met each other beforehand learns to function as a family unit for the better part of a month. No one is entirely inside their comfort zone, and we are exposed to people with very different backgrounds from our own. The simplest understanding of the result of all this is that Voices forms a network of United Methodists around the state and whomever we meet at the mission site. This is the biggest impact Voices of Youth makes.“
I give thanks for the Virginia Conference, which nurtures its young people into strong leaders with a passion for missions. I give thanks for those we met at Rebuilding Joplin, the work sites, Ozark Christian College and local establishments. I give thanks for the Virginia churches that hosted and/or supported us. I give thanks for those who allowed us to be in ministry with theme. And, of course, I give thanks for the students and staff who attended Voices of Youth: Winds of Change 2012.
- DeLyn Celec is Worship Arts Coordinator at Shenandoah University