CHILDREN BUILD BRIDGES OF PEACE AT BLUFFTON CONFERENCE
Children in grades 3-7 spent 24 hours at Bluffton University Oct. 21 and 22 learning how to build bridges of friendship with each other and with their neighbors, both across the street and around the world.
Those bridges, constructed through many activities, were central to "Celebration of Peace: A Bridge Between Us," a conference hosted by Bluffton’s Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center in celebration of its 25th year on campus.
Among other things, "the children learned about others with disabilities through activities led by Bluffton students majoring in education, participated in team-building exercises with students in a recreation class and learned new games and songs from other cultures with Bluffton’s international students," said Louise Matthews, director of the Lion and Lamb.
Bryan Moyer Suderman, guest musician at the conference, led the more than 25 children in songs about God’s love, building friendships and living in peace.
"We focused on team building and how to build bridges with ‘enemies’ or those who are different than us who we wouldn’t normally talk to," he said. Suderman, who traveled to the conference from Canada, added that he had a "wonderful time learning and growing with the children."
During the closing program Oct. 22, the children—who stayed with host families or family members in the area—presented school kits they had made during the conference. The kits contained school supplies that will be sent to Mennonite Central Committee, "and then to those in need," said Joyce Schumacher, conference co-coordinator.
The program also featured local ventriloquist Deborah Nisly’s performance of a puppet skit, tied to the same bridge-building theme. "God doesn’t want us to limit our friends to be just like us," she told her puppet, who was worried about losing her friend because she was moving. "Jesus told his disciples to go to the ends of the Earth."
Matthews said she was pleased with the conference, which was also facilitated by a number of adult and Bluffton student volunteers. "It was a great weekend," she said. "They were a wonderful crowd of volunteers and children to work with. It has been a great celebration."
The Lion and the Lamb is a resource for students, teachers, parents and the campus and community. The center includes a large selection of children’s literature, curriculum guides and teacher resources, and art work focused on broad themes of peace and cultural understanding. More information is available online at www.bluffton.edu/lionlamb/.
Ariel Shuey, Bluffton public relations, 10/24/11