Peace is foundational to Jesus' teachings. That's why peace is the cornerstone of the Anabaptist faith, as Anabaptists choose to live the way Christ did and teach what he taught.
The cornerstone is the first thing that is laid when constructing a building. If we want to construct a future Anabaptist church that is a leader in peacebuilding, the church must emphasize the peace education of its youngest members.
In September 2019, Mennonite Mission Network's Peace and Justice Support Network (PJSN) partnered with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Camp Friedenswald to create a "mentorship peace camp." At the camp, mentor-mentee pairs from surrounding churches came to learn more about peacebuilding.
The camp idea was first launched when Kevin and Naomi Leary, the program coordinator and program director at Camp Friedenswald, reached out to Jes Stoltzfus Buller, the peace education coordinator at MCC, to help plan the camp. Their inspiration came from a video call with youth pastors and leaders in Central District Conference.
"We are trying to find ways to serve the church," Naomi Leary said. "The church is asking for us to serve mentor-mentee pairs. We want to do that in a way that promotes Anabaptist values such as peace education."
Stoltzfus Buller said, "Many churches have mentor pairs and they can be extremely formative relationships, but it's not always natural or easy for young kids to spend time with older adults."
"In the end, peace is about relationships," Stoltzfus Buller said. She and the Learys contacted Jason Boone, minister of peace and justice at Mennonite Mission Network and PJSN coordinator. The three of them organized a space where mentors and mentees could further develop their relationship.
"We love working with partners in the [Mennonite] world and love opportunities to talk about peace with young people," Boone said of PJSN.
Participants came from Sunnyside Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana, First Mennonite Church in Bluffton, Ohio, East Goshen Mennonite Church and Faith Mennonite Church, both in Goshen, Indiana. While there, the mentor-mentee pairs engaged with each other by playing games, deepening relationships, and of course, learning about peacebuilding.
Stoltzfus Buller taught a lesson on nonviolent communication and how to speak in love and empathy. Boone taught one on practical bystander intervention practices and applications. The two of them collaborated in teaching the theological and biblical lessons on peace.
According to Stoltzfus Buller, it's an invaluable opportunity for young members of the church to be educated about peace. The method of education also played a vital role. "Doing this education in mentor pairs strengthens the church," she said. "It connects older generations to our youth, who are the future of the church. And it provides education for youth in a conversational context in which they continue learning through conversation and inquiry with their mentors when they return home."
"It was the ideal group," Boone said. "They were engaged in all the activities [and] were eager to try new things and ask questions."
In addition to the peacebuilding education, the several mentees mentioned that they enjoyed the outdoor activities, such as dodgeball, kayaking, frisbee golf, and spending time with their mentors.
The mentorship peace camp isn't a one-time thing. The next is planned for Nov. 6–8. Contact JessicaBuller@MCC.org for more information, or visit the Camp Friedenswald website to sign up!
There are other opportunities for peacebuilding education with Mission Network and MCC. Check out the Youth Venture experience in Colombia this summer.