Christian Citizenship Seminar

By Jenna Walmer

On April 18th, Brethren Youth from around the United States gathered in New York City. That Saturday was the start to Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS), a conference that allows Brethren youth to explore the connections between a specific topic (this year was immigration) and our faith and culminates with congressional visits in Washington D.C.  Throughout the seminar, we discussed the importance of our faith’s connection with citizenship and how immigration impacts our lives. It is a busy week filled with learning, fun, and spiritual growth. Following is an abridged version of what goes down at CCS.

Walking through Time Square with luggage in tow is definitely an adventure in itself.  We admire the sites of the city, but we walked many blocks to find our hotel and collapse in the lobby. After we have recuperated from the long walk and everyone has arrived, we go to dinner the same place as last time, eat some delicious food, and reconnect with old friends.  Later that night, we had our first session led by Nate Hosler and Bryan Hanger. Nate discussed the connections of immigration to the Bible. Then, Bryan introduced our talking points for our congressional visits.

The next day, we split up and went to new churches around the city.  I went to Judson Memorial, a church that is affiliated with the Baptist and United Church of Christ denominations. This church was very different and not what I expected, but I could definitely see myself attending that church if I ever end up in New York. The preacher was pretty socialist, and the whole congregation was accepting of everyone: people with AIDS, homosexuals, immigrants. They also promoted being politically and socially active.  What interested me was that the preacher was arrested with Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez.  Later in the evening, we had our next session. The speaker was actually the preacher we listened to that morning at Judson! She told story after story about immigrants that she has helped. This developed an emotional connection to the facts we already started to learn. Putting a story to the facts is important to connect with congressional visits.

On Monday, it rained and rained, and we walked through that rain! We started off the day with the pastor from Riverside Church who discussed the systematic problems of Immigration and the general process.  After this session, many headed to the United Nations for a tour and another educational experience.  At the UN, the groups learned about human rights. I would recommend that everyone visits the United Nations at least once because it opens your eyes to what the world as a whole is working towards.  Instead of going to the United Nations (since I was through that tour multiple times), we were free to explore the city!  We decided to check out Hot Breads, a bakery that was recommended from the coordinators of the trip. The Hot Bread bakery makes homemade bread according to traditional recipes from immigrants. The bread was really good! Later that evening,  my group  decided to venture out and just walk until we found something to eat. We walked 15 blocks until we decided to go to our fourth diner for the trip, and it was only day three!

Finally, the day of travel! This day was probably most exciting of all… after the buses arrived. We waited… and waited… and waited. The buses got stuck in New York City traffic, and we stood outside, all 80 plus of us, waiting for the bus. The bus is always the best because it is one of the first times you get to interact with a larger group of people. Then, we arrived in Washington D.C.! We had a meeting with Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the Deputy Director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement.  Therefore, we had the opportunity to be ON THE WHITE HOUSE CAMPUS! So, you know those black fences that are around the White House? We were INSIDE of those! We were sniffed by a drug dog! I even saw the fountain that you always see on T.V., and I have pictures of the outside of the West Wing and all the Secret Service Cars! Julie Chavez Rodriguez gave us insight on President Obama’s agenda on immigration. She also told us about the internship program at the White House! After that, we split up for dinner throughout the city.  I went to Chicks’, which was really delicious and super environmentally friendly! After dinner, we had our second session for the day. Jerry O’Donnell gave us our first full lesson on how to talk to our representatives.  He told us to use personal experiences, and acknowledge the conditions of the government currently.  Also, he reminded us that we are speaking for those who do not have a voice, the immigrants.  He also told us DO NOT read of your advocacy ask sheet verbatim.  It was a helpful reminder for Do’s and Don’ts from last year’s training.   After this, we headed out to find an ice cream shop!  Today, the group learned that D.C. IS a city that sleeps and stores actually close before ten! Who would have known?  Coming from New York and stores being open all the time, it was a change to adjust too!

Wednesday was the day.  We had another legislative training session in the morning.  This session gave us examples in form of a pretend meeting of what to do and what not to do while in the office.  We also discussed our main points once again, so they were fresh in our memory. The speaker told us to lead with a story of how immigration has impacted our life. She also told us that congressmen act out of fear. They don’t demilitarize the border because they are afraid. They don’t act on Immigration Reform and give them rights because they are afraid. These points stuck with me as we moved toward our own groups and preparation for our Hill visits.

After this, we broke up into our groups and discussed who was going to talk about what in the meeting. Now, we were off to the Hill.  We went to Senator Bob Casey’s office.  He is our easy visit because they always agree with what we are saying.  Our aide agreed with a lot that we said, but he was very eager to get out of the meeting. However, we kept plugging away at our information and asked him about a point that Casey and the Church of the Brethren do not agree, which is the demilitarization of the border. Even though Casey is a Democrat, he votes to keep military at the border because it is one thing that the Republicans want to keep in the Immigration Reform. The aide explained that with this it is “give and take” and that is what Casey “gives” to the Republicans, so he can receive something else in return.   In the evening, we reflected with the larger group on our visits.  After that, we had another ice cream trip!  The next day would be our last and we would have to say our goodbyes.

Our final session is always the best because we discuss the whole trip.  We reflected on the week, and how we’ve grown mentally and spiritually.  We were ready to take back the information of immigration to our home towns and now we were going to spread the word about immigration.  After the session, we took many pictures, exchanged hugs, and said our goodbyes. Our pastor arrived with our van and we were off, ready to be disciples of Christ, now able to spread the word of immigration to our communities to make a difference in the world.

As we become active in politics and discern what issues are near and dear to our hears, remember to keep our connection to faith in mind. Remember to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Finally, remember to act without fear.

Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast DistrictJenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter:@jaymarie2100


Living Intentionally: Loving Everyone

By Jenna Walmer

Living Intentionally Focus Scriptures:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10: 39

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” – Mark  8:36-37

I hope the lessons in the Sermon on the Mount started to sink in through this break from study, and I hope you have started to apply them to your everyday life!  Throughout our study of the Sermon on the Mount, one lesson stuck out to me that was repeated in many of the different sections or was hidden in each of the messages; do not build your treasures on earth, store up your treasures in heaven. This message is reiterated in more of Jesus’ teachings and even in the Old Testament. Wherever the passage is found, the orator or writer wants to remind us that our earthly days are numbered, so we should live them wisely. We should NOT cling to the rewards we are given on Earth, because they are only temporary. Instead, we should loosen this grasp to follow Jesus more fully. We will make strides to fulfilling God’s purpose, we will inherit eternal life. When you follow Jesus, you will know what it means to live abundantly, without all the extras.

This next series of posts will be centered on living intentionally, following Jesus’ teachings, and its connection to being a Dunker Punk.

Loving Everyone Focus Scripture:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. … If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?” – Matthew 5: 43-45, 47

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” -Matthew 7:12

Goal Number 1: Intentionally love everyone

Goal Number 2: Consciously think about how you are treating others and reflect on if this is how you want to be treated

Goal Number 3: Once you can accept and change yourself, help others love everyone as well

Jarrod McKenna defined dunkerpunk as “a young person who is a member of a rebellious countercultural tradition that radically commits their life to living God’s Calvary-shaped love in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the Father.” He suggested that we are to commit our life to radical love. So,what is radical love?

It’s going against the grain in our everyday lives. It’s pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. It’s realizing that we have not loved fully in the past, and we must change our habits to love fully now. It’s loving everyone, no matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or any other types of identifiers. Because, love does not judge. If God is love and God does not judge, and we want to live our lives like God’s son, then we shall love without judging.

That’s what radical loving is. Loving fully, loving without judgement, and loving everyone.

We must first start to change our hearts. Realize that we should love everyone, instead of judging others on certain characteristics. The first step should always be to change ourselves, instead of to change others.

Second, we need to notice when we are disregarding someone because of a certain aspect of their life. Instead, bring in and invite the outcasts, instead of gossiping about or disregarding them. Also, decide how you would want to be treated and have that reflect in your everyday life.

Finally, once you have changed your heart fully and intentionally love everyone, start help others noticing how to be kind to the outcasts and invite them to love everyone as well.

We are called to love boldly: To step out in faith and show those who don’t believe, believe in and hope for peace and unconditional love. Start a revolution in your area of intentionally loving everyone and treating others the way you would like to be treated.

 Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast DistrictJenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter: @jaymarie2100

Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Week 15

 By Jenna Walmer

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,  because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7: 24-29

We have finished the Sermon on the Mount! Through this long process, we have learned about many topics. In his final section, Jesus suggests that his disciples should build “on the rock” by being hearing and responding disciple, not a fake one. He asks for their obedience, which provides a solid foundation for the disciples.

At the end of the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus compares the lives of these two men. First off, they have several points in common. They both are building houses, they both are listening to Jesus’ teachings, and they both are living under the same set of circumstances, the rain and the wind. However, the difference is the wise man listened to Jesus’ teaching and the foolish man did not. Circumstantially, their lives look similar; but, the structural and eternal differences are revealed through the storm.

Like a tower that is built out of cards, the fool’s life crumbles. Fools don’t realize they are headed for destruction. They just don’t think about life’s purpose. As believers, we are called to help the “fools” think about where they are headed with their life in correspondence with God’s call for them.

When you follow Jesus, you may not recognize the immediate differences, but they will affect your destiny.


How does your life reflect Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount?

Over the past six months, we have studied the entire Sermon on the Mount. We have learned Jesus’ thoughts about anger, lust, revenge, divorce, prayer, fasting, money, worry, and judgement. Jesus gave us insight on the way to heaven and how to be disciples of Jesus. He provided advice on how to love our enemies. He also teaches us how to be salt and the light. As we take Jesus’ teachings and continue to apply theme to our lives, let us be bold, step OUT of the crowd, show and share the light of Christ, explain our beliefs to others, embrace the needs of our brothers and sisters and build relationships with them, be a blessing of compassion to all of humanity, love radically, pray sincerely, live simply, and trust in the Lord. 

Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast DistrictJenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter: @jaymarie2100