Last week, ten excited youth and three brave adults packed up and drove to the University of Tennessee, where they participated in a week of youth camp called UniDiversity. This year, twenty-four churches and 462 participants gathered together to focus on the theme “It’s Complicated.” This theme was all about relationships, and we focused on the relationship between Peter and Jesus as we talked about trust, influence, pain, and purpose. Youth and adults alike wrestled with being vulnerable and accepting of others; they began to unpack how we are always in relationship with other people, and how we as Christians should treat others and be treated in those relationships; we talked about how we are influenced by those around us, and how we can work to be positive influences in the world; and we found ways to think about how we have been hurt in relationships, and hurt others, and how we can pick ourselves up with God’s help. It was a transformative and challenging week for everyone.
The title of this article speaks to the larger picture of UniDiversity. During the day, youth are mixed together into different groups. Often during the day, you would hear chaperones asking one another “Have you seen…?” Because for most of the day, youth were all over the place, building relationships with others; forming community. And we didn’t see each other a whole lot. But that was because youth were putting into action what we were focusing on this week- they were building relationships with one another. Between bible study, seminars, and electives, our youth were out meeting new folks and reconnecting with friends made last year. That’s a benefit of UniDiversity- since it only happens for one week in the summer, and many of the same churches return year after year, we are able to reunite with friends they haven’t seen since last year. The UniDiversity family is one of the strongest and most genuine I have ever encountered. And for that I am grateful.
As we return home, we return as a group who has been challenged to look at relationships differently. We are finding ways to be the presence of Christ in the world to all we cross paths with. On our last night at camp, we each offered a sentence prayer with the prompt “God, as I return home, help me to…” Each youth and adult based their prayer off something that touched them this past week. While all the prayers were meaningful and important, one prayer summed up the week: “God, as I return home, help me to love others, even when I don’t feel like loving them.” That’s the Gospel, friends. That’s what we are called to do in this world filled with meaningful, challenging, complicated relationships. So go- serving the complicated and mysterious God, and knowing that you have been equipped with the tools to navigate the world.
Rev. Kristen Koger