For a group of 17 junior high-age students, 70-plus years in the future seems pretty far away.
But the question was posed to them by the Rev. Wendy Mohler-Seib: If you die at 85 years old, how would you want people to remember you?
“As a good person,” one student said. “Caring,” another added. “Generous,” another chimed in.
But, Mohler-Seib asked them: Why couldn’t they start having those qualities now?
That was one of the discussions at the first Wichita Districts Confirmation Camp, May 29 to June 2 at Southwestern College in Winfield.
Confirmation camp is a longstanding tradition in the Great Plains Conference – the Rev. Bill Ritter, Blue River District superintendent, began it as an alternative to school-year classes more than 25 years ago, which continues at Camp Fontanelle.
The Rev. Mitch Reece, Wichita East and West district superintendent, has been in discussion with Ritter for quite some time about branching out the camps, Mohler-Seib said.
“It fit in with the goals the district has for increasing new Christians in our district,” said Mohler-Seib, director of faith formation for youth and young adults at the Southwestern College-based Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship.
The 17 campers at the five-day retreat represented nine different churches in south-central Kansas, some of which would not have been able to teach confirmation for one or two students.
“If we would not have offered this week-long intensive, they would not have had confirmation,” Mohler-Seib said.
Twelve of the 15 lessons in the confirmation materials were discussed in the camp. The remaining three – baptism, confirmation and membership vows – will be covered by the youth with their pastors.
“We felt like those three were the appropriate things for the local pastors to have a conversation with their youth about,” Mohler-Seib said.
The five days on the Southwestern campus weren’t just spent in studying. Campers enjoyed swimming, worship with the Amp It Up! praise band camp that also was in session at Southwestern College, a crafts session of painting glass dessert dishes and a trip to nearby Camp Horizon.
Mohler-Seib said she saw the youth grow outside of their comfort zones to talk openly about their faith and get to know each other.
“When they first arrived, some of them didn’t speak at all,” she said on the penultimate day of the camp. “By the time evening prayer rolled around on Wednesday, they were talking to one another and sharing with one another and asking questions about things they were learning.
“I think we can measure that as a success,” she added.
The youth at the confirmation camp said they enjoyed the experience.
“There’s been a lot of togetherness,” said Kenneth Willard of Caldwell United Methodist Church.
Cloie Cuington of Winfield Grace UMC, said she enjoyed making new friends.
“I liked connection with God,” she said. “We were opening up to other people, being open to the word of God and learning how the Methodist church came to be and the different views of it and rules.”
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