OUR EXTRAVAGANT WELCOME….
A Report From 2011 Youth Mission Trip to Venezuela *
by Harper Lubich
In July of 2011 the Global Partnership of the Rocky Mountain Conference-UCC and the Central Rocky Mountain Region Disciples of Christ sponsored a youth mission trip to Venezuela. I was fortunate to be one of the 11 youth and five sponsors from First Plymouth Church in Englewood and First Congregational in Boulder who attended the National Youth Camp of the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela (UEPV) near Ospino, Portugesa in Venezuela.
Many members of our team were nervous about what to expect in Venezuela. While some of our youth spoke Spanish others did not. We wondered. Would we be able to communicate? Would we have things in common? Could we be friends? Our worries were wasted time. Communication came through music, smiles, and a bit of understanding of each other’s language, and the “Extravagant Welcome” given us by the Venezuelan youth. Friendships formed quickly.
The theme of their National Youth Gathering which we were attending was “Heritage”. They talked about their history as a denomination and the challenges their church has to help those in their communities who are in need. They said they are committed to continuing the political struggle to help their country emerge from past oppression and into a new era of human rights and political freedom. They not only wanted to change/help themselves and their church but they were trying to change their country They also said they want to strengthen the relationship the Global Partnership has built between the 3 denominations over the past 15 years through more contact between the youth of our two countries. As the week progressed exciting ideas developed as to how we might aid in carrying on the partnership into our own generation.
Both US and VZ youth teams selected a few of their leaders to meet together to and think of ways we could continue our relationship and support each other. Our suggested goals included:
-trying to find ways to continue this bond after this trip was over
-exchange weekly newsletters of on going events in our churches and lives
-try to work toward hosting a team of UEPV youth at LaForet for a special
DOC-UCC youth event in 2012 or 2013
Before going to Venezuela the youth from the Rocky Mountain Area were asked to plan to give a short presentation on a person who has made a large difference in their churches and lives. Because so many of us have been so strongly influenced by being at La Foret, we selected Alice Bemis Taylor, the woman who donated the land and buildings for La Foret, near Colorado Springs, Co. Our youth spoke about how they felt welcomed and inspired there and how they could see the similarities between the two camps. At one of the gatherings the youth from each country shared the stories of their founders and expressed appreciation for their heritage as a denomination.
Before our arrival they asked us to plan to lead a worship service for all attending the gathering. At that service
we shared our stories and faith, expressed our gratitude to them for welcoming us with open arms, Emily Haskins delivered a sermon she had written, and we taught them some of our camp songs including “We Are A Rainbow Made of Children”.
Before we left Venezuela, many on our team exchanged bracelets with our new Venezuelan friends. The inscription read, “Imagine What’s Possible”. Now that we are home, we are doing just that….Imagining What Is Possible to keep our Global Partnership going into the next generation. Perhaps sometime soon with a lot of hard work and dedication we can bring some Venezuelan Youth to this area and share our wonderful Camp La Foret with them. We hope to work toward that end and anticipate another “Extravagant Welcome” only this time it will be here in the United States instead of in Venezuela. Like good neighbors, it is our turn to host them.
*A special thank you to First Plymouth UCC of Englewood who organized and sponsored the trip. Youth participants from that church were: Isacc Yun, Mike Serio, Anna Serio, Miles Wilson, Austin Boyd, Maddy Felton, Danielle Worthman, Emily Haskins, and Anne Lindsey. Adult leaders: Barb Hosanna and Ken Ingram.
Three team members were from First Congregational UCC in Boulder. Adult leader and translator: Lesli Bangert. Youth: Riley and Harper Lubich. Two Iliff seminary students went as translators: Alejandro Santiz and Maria VanDerMarten.