Written by Mentor Sarah Runck
Making new connections and building on those relationships can be really exciting but also really scary. I got the opportunity to make new connections with high school youth at the 2023 Augsburg Youth Theology Institute: The Confluence! This program was filled with connections between our story, God’s story and The World’s story. We learned about our own spiritual gifts, practiced vocational discernment and heard stories from the neighbors in our community. Many memories, laughs, smiles, and even cries were shared. All of these things influenced why I chose to be a mentor this year. Having these connections with people who come from all over is a really important part of who we are. We get to hear each other’s stories, learn from them and grow because of them.
This weeklong program had a lot to offer to young people. However, as this week progressed there were some challenges that arose for us mentors. “Having the energy, the patience, and the positive attitude around the participants was the most challenging part” (A 2023 Mentor). But not only were there challenges, there were exciting moments. A fellow mentor said, “It was exciting to see the participants interact with guest pastors, speakers and teachers. Their curiosity was so inspiring and fun to watch.” As mentors, we realized that it was truly amazing to get to know each other and all the participants. We were able to create a relationship with everyone at this program. By having our own small groups, we got to know and understand participants at a deeper level spiritually and we were able to help each other grow in our faith”.
This week has helped all of us mentors in different ways. For some, it gave them a purpose and education that made them feel like they can make a difference in the community. For others, it helped gain a sense of their vocation and how that might impact what they pursue in the future. In our own ways, we were able to gain more experiences that contributed to a sense of our vocations. Being a mentor made a lot of us step out of our comfort zone and into a leadership role. Many of us realized how important being a leader can change a person in the community.
All of these participants had something in common. They all wanted to be the readers and listeners in our neighborhood to hear the stories our communities had to offer. We all have a different story, but it’s up to us if we want to tell it or not. Each of us can be the author, but not everyone wants to be the reader. It takes curiosity, motivation, and even experiences to bring us to our communities in our neighborhoods.
I am so glad I got to be a part of this amazing program and walk alongside these young people as we all discover our vocation and dive deeper into our own faith. As mentors, we will take this experience with us wherever we go and continue to make connections with those around us. We will grow not only individually, but as community members in our neighborhood.