The following is Diana’s own account of her work this spring at conferences where she led the teen programs in Hungary and Greece for SHARE, the ministry she is seconded to from Novo.
The Pirate Code. As Captain Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean move franchise says, “The code is more what you’d call guidelines’ than actual rules.” When planning for a SHARE teen program at one of our conferences, I take a page from the pirate code: keep our expected traditions, our “rules,” but bring new themes and meaningful activities, the “guidelines.”
This year in the Hungary and Greece annual SHARE conferences, we explored the theme of stories. As a literature teacher with deep interest in spiritual direction, stories seemed tailor made to provide some interesting teaching with a heaping dose of spiritual growth. Here are several of the sessions the teens experienced this past February and April.
Why Stories? Our first session examined what happens to our brains when we listen to stories, why we are hardwired to learn better when we hear information in a story. Jesus knew that, which is why he often used parables and metaphor. We delved into the magnificent world of J.R.R. Tolkien and why he believed that fantasy stories in particular have a purpose to demonstrate the eucatastrophe. This term he created to describe that moment when sorrow turns to joy, when disaster is imminent – the
“miraculous grace never to be counted on again.” In his Lord of the Rings trilogy, the miraculous grace often comes in the form of eagles to save a sacrificial hobbit or stranded wizard. But Tolkien knew that the reason we get those goosebumps and want to cheer
when our heroes are saved from certain death is because Jesus is the ultimate eucatastrophe. He is the that miraculous grace.
A Hero’s Journey. We can’t talk about heroes and their quests without talking about Star Wars, Harry Potter, and just about every Marvel movie released in the past decade. Why? Because they all follow a specific recipe called the monomyth. C.S. Lewis described why these quest stories are so important for Christians to understand. “Since humans are made in the image of God, whatever humans create (like stories) not only shows something about themselves, but something about God. God planted a seed of his story of redemption inside each human, so that they would be prepared for belief when the real thing took place” (Jesus.)
Radio Shows. Yes, we had teaching moments about stories, but what better way to entertain ourselves with the natural humor and talents of my dear TCKs (Third Culture Kids) than to have them write and perform their own stories in the form of a radio show.
Honestly, the creativity and unabashed goofiness is a highlight of any SHARE teen program. Our staff joined in by performing some skits from the long-running radio hour The Prairie Home Companion.
The Potter in Our Stories. I loved teaching this next session. Pottery and learning how to throw pots on a wheel has been a big part of my healing process since evacuating Russia. Some of my SHARE teens have experienced similar traumas, and this session was powerful
for us all. The stages of creating a pot from wedging to centering to building to drying to trimming/burnishing to bisque firing to glazing can all relate to different stages of our spiritual journeys.
Kintsugi. Hauling terra pots, epoxy resin, gold mica powder, gloves, and various tools to both Hungary and Greece was well worth the effort. Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold. The metaphor for God who repairs us with gold to make us more beautiful and stronger is not hard to grasp. SHARE teens broke pots and remade them with gold as part of actively making a story of their pot.
Stillness in Our Stories. SHARE teens know that Mrs. T (that’s me) is always going to bring something to do with silence and listening to God. The kids minister to me watching them engage as a deep level with God and lay out their hearts to him. This year I wrote and adapted six spiritual direction interactive prayer stations that the teens could chose to complete. Some moved through several; some stayed with just one.
Of course, a SHARE teen program wouldn’t be complete without teen-led worship, Glow-stick game night, literary costume party and contest night, late-night talks, and many rounds of Pictionary Telephone.