Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” (Matt. 5:9), yet Christians struggle like everyone else to make peace in a world full of conflict. The challenge can be especially acute for youth, who are just learning how to be disciples.
The Camps and Retreats Ministry of the Florida United Methodist Conference wants to help youth fulfill their calling to be peacemakers and is offering a new one-week camp this summer for that purpose.
CIRCLES OF PEACE CAMP FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL YOUTH
Date: June 19-24
Place: Riverside Retreat, La Belle
Cost: $300 per camper
The camp will be held June 19-24 at Riverside Retreat in LaBelle. Dubbed “Circles of Peace,” it is aimed at middle school youth (kids who have completed 5th, 6th or 7th grade) and is intended to give them skills to seek peace in the midst of conflict, said the Rev. David Berkey, director of Camps and Retreats for the Conference.
“We feel young people today operate a lot on fear and need skills to interact with others, in conflict resolution, in family disputes and in what’s going on in the world that makes people afraid of the future. As Christians, we’re called to be peacemakers. This (camp) will help them discover their vocation to be peacemakers in their families and their schools,” he said.
Berkey said he is hoping to have at least 30 campers, although there is capacity for 50.
The camp will explore five themes during the week: Finding and Knowing Inner Peace; Diversity is Good; Healthy Constructive Conflict Resolution; Finding Forgiveness in Families; and Peace IS Justice.
Campers will participate in activities designed to reinforce those themes, such as small group discussion, worship and Bible study, along with traditional camp activities – swimming, boating arts and crafts and music.
Even the games will reinforce the theme of peace. Counselors will lead the campers in cooperative or noncompetitive games in which everyone feels a sense of accomplishment.
The curriculum for the camp was designed by Berkey and the committee that organized the camp, borrowing ideas from peace camps around the country.
“It’s an opportunity for affirmation of the participants, to recognize the differences and the gifts in everyone,” Berkey said.
The camp itself was proposed by several members of the Conference who attended the Peace Conference at Lake Junaluska in September, the theme of which was children and peace. After returning, they suggested creating a peace camp for children.
Alma Manney, the Conference’s Peace with Justice coordinator and one of those who suggested the camp, said it is something she has wanted to do for a long time.
“I think our children are so bombarded by so many things. … They need a safe place where kids can be kids,” she said. “I’m hoping they’ll get a sense they’re not by themselves. There is somebody out there who feels the way they do.
Manney said the camp will teach practical skills for resolving conflicts in a peaceful way.
“They need tools which they can use in day-to-day life, whether it’s dealing with bullies or media violence or whatever it might be,” she said. “I hope they realize, ‘I can make a difference.’”
A weekend retreat that will be a shortened version of the weeklong camp is planned for September at the Centenary Camp in the Panhandle.
For more information or to register for the Peace Camp, call Berkey at 866-UMCAMPS, ext. 1, or visit www.flumcamps.org.