This summer Student.Go personnel have served in 19 locations around the world. Samford University student, Taylor Bell, lived and worked with the The Stewart Center serving the Reynoldstown and Pittsburgh communities of Atlanta, GA.
I spent this past summer serving as a camp counselor at the Stewart Center in Atlanta, Georgia. My day to day experience was filled with building relationships with children and youth with whom I honestly have very little in common . Yet, for me, what was most amazing was to watch how, despite these differences, relationships were formed. And not just between kids and counselors, but between counselors and families. I think that this is, first, a testament to what it means to invest in where you are serving, as four of us counselors had served the previous summer at the Stewart Center. Since we had served there last summer, too, it allowed for a greater level of trust to be established. Yet I also think this is what naturally occurs when we serve through love – people who are divided by society’s boundaries are drawn together. I have come to believe that this is the natural tendency of God’s love, to draw us closer to humanity. In this coming nearer, I witnessed arms join across racial and class lines and relationships begin to develop which otherwise never would have. Perhaps this is what happens: when we seek to love God, we learn to love our neighbor. And in this we actually become neighbors, creating the foundation for the beloved community that Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned.
This summer I believe God showed me a glimpse of the beloved community as children, counselors, and parents began to develop meaningful relationships with one another, all due simply to the shared experience of summer camp on the east side of Atlanta. It is amazing that something so simple has drawn so many different people together. This gives me hope. I have witnessed and experienced beloved community, even if it was only just a split second. I only wish that more people could have witnessed it. Perhaps, if more people had seen it, more people would have hope in a world that is so broken. Perhaps by seeing the beauty that I see within a neighborhood in Atlanta and within the fading blue walls of The Stewart Center, people would begin to realize that our world can be saved. Call me a young, inexperienced, idealist who has yet to experience the real world, that’s fine, I’ll own it. But as I look out at the world today and see so much hurt caused by violence in the name of justice and freedom, as well as the creation of more reciprocal violence, I no longer can place my faith in the tools of humanity to bring about a just and loving world. I have come to seek elsewhere. I simply thank God for allowing me to experience, even though for a brief moment, the beloved community of the kingdom of God – on earth as it is in heaven. For it is here that I place my hope and faith.