Finding Friendships, Strengthening Faith

Jonah Vanke writes about finding inspiration and welcome at Kanuga’s youth events.

This past year at Kanuga, one experience that stands out the most to me has been my decision, motivated by a strong reluctance to leave, to wake up at 5:30 on the last morning to spend as much conscious time at Kanuga as possible. I walked to the edge of the lake (conveniently very close to my cabin) and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, and was surprised to meet a few other friends I’d made during the week with the same idea. Our conversations in the early morning quiet helped strengthen our quickly formed friendships to the point that I now have plans to meet some of them in the next few months independently.

The experiences I’ve had in the past three years at Kanuga have been unforgettable. Winterlight and SYP make perfect use of their beautiful location to create a sense of separation from the world that contributes to the powerful feeling of community present here. Above all else, a strong focus on community and new connections make Kanuga events stand out from the youth events I’ve been a part of.

The staff works hard to make these events as close to perfect as possible, from a detailed schedule filled with group activities and relevant small group discussions to a nightly “cabin closure” conversation that often helps us get to know our cabin mates in what could otherwise be an impersonal setting. My cabin staff are always genuinely interested to hear our impressions of the event; even when the event has been structured at times down to five-minute increments. Even the members of the band, Live Hymnal, who perform and work at a level where it would be understandable and even expected for them to isolate themselves from participants and staff when not performing, get to know me and many others by name and spend time with us whenever it seems they can. I’m always in awe at the effort put into creating a sense of welcome and inclusion at these events.

Through games, group activities, hikes, fishing, swimming, kayaking and every other activity one could expect at camp, these two weeks of the year are transformed into faith-strengthening and friendship-forming moments that leave us all with a strong sense that we are belong here. The Kanuga conferences DIOSWVA has participated in have left a lasting impression with me and with many.

Live Hymnal, from their YouTube channel:


Published in the July 2019 issue of The Record.

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