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Shalom moments (1)

October 6, 2005

“I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.” John 14:27

In a clearing in the forests of the Andes Mountains, quiet but for the occasional yap of a fox, the buzzing of tábanos (big pesky horseflies), and the tapping of woodpeckers, we set up camp. There were nine tents, two outhouses, four showers made out of tarps, more than a dozen simple water heaters crafted from bottles painted black, and a kitchen with two makeshift tables. In the moment before the teenage participants arrive, the silence is alive with expectation. I look around at the staff finishing up the final details for summer camp. We are a diverse group representing four countries, three languages, all shades of skin, two denominations, south and north economies, and yet here we are working together with God to create an experience that will transform us all. In the pause before the onrush of activities, I catch a glimpse of God’s dream for our planet and recognize a Shalom Moment.

The theme was “pathways” and the challenge was for each participant in the camp to design a roadmap for someone else to help guide that person’s walk through life. The young adolescents spent an hour and a half concentrating on the task. Later, during the evening worship, they presented the maps to each other with Bible verses and words of advice, warning, or encouragement. As they came forward to give or to receive a map, I watched their facial expressions. On each one, the Spirit of God shown as brightly as the oil lamps holding the dark moonless night at bay. Another Shalom Moment glowed softly around me.

The circle of rough-hewn logs is our gathering place. Since we don’t have any buildings yet, we come together under the trees to sing, pray, worship, present skits, explain games, eat meals, make crafts, and join hands in the closing circle at the end of the day. Here in the gathering circle during the final worship service of the three-day camp with teens, we gather again: housewives, pastors, lay leaders, missionaries, and teenagers. Our American guests kneel in the dirt, tenderly washing and drying the hands of their Chilean hosts in a sign of humility, service, and blessing. I wish this image, imprinted in my mind, could be transmitted around the world as a different example of American international relations. I treasure the snapshot of this Shalom Moment.

The children have left camp. The international work team has finished packing all the equipment and cleaning up the camp area in preparation for the new group which will come next week. At dusk, we hike to the look out at the edge of a drop off about 100 yards deep. Under the watchful eye of the Sentinel Mountain and with hundreds of watery notes from the water fall and the Lircay River singing praises in the background, we gather around the stone chalice and plate holding the elements for a communion feast. The Lord of Creation invites us to the table, and there, as the stars of Orion flicker above us, we recommit our lives to being the salt and light of the world. It is a Shalom Moment.

I am ceaselessly on the lookout, asking God to place on my eyes and heart the lenses of sensitivity and faith, for the evidence that the Lord is at work building the Kingdom of Shalom. I call that instant, where community, peace, harmony, justice, well being, mercy, and love come into crystal clear focus, a Shalom Moment. A Shalom Moment marks a holy space where we experience the healing of our relationships with God, ourselves, others, and creation, and hence we are transformed. In the midst of these dark, fearful, and chaotic times, I invite you to join me in this faith adventure, searching together for the clues that God is in the process of creating the masterpiece of Shalom.

The participants in the “Pathways Camp” at the Shalom Center of the Pentecostal Church of Chile. Participants include teens and adults from four congregations in Chile, a teacher from the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Paraguay, college students and pastors from the Ohio Region of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and a Global Missions Intern and a Missionary from Global Ministries.

Shalom,

Elena Huegel

Elena Huegel is a missionary with the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). She serves as an environmental and Christian education specialist.


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