“I loved my time at Exploring Your Call and speak of it constantly. If it were possible for me to go again, I would—in a heartbeat,” says Laura Brown, a 2012 participant in this annual discernment event held by Bethany Theological Seminary.
Brown, from the Happy Corner Church of the Brethren in Clayton, Ohio, was joined by Issac Brunk and Autumn Ehrig from Ivester Church of the Brethren, Grundy Center, Iowa; Michael Himlie, Root River Church of the Brethren, Preston, Minnesota; and Sarandon Smith from Palmyra Church of the Brethren, Palmyra, Pennsylvania. From June 14-24, these high school students gathered to consider what God’s call might mean in their own lives and faith journeys.
The Bethany campus served as the central space for learning sessions, group discussion and reflection, and worship. The group also had some hands-on experience in assisting with Vacation Bible School at the local First Christian Church in Richmond. Russell Haitch, director of the program, was joined by current faculty and students in leading the group sessions. Haitch is associate professor of Christian education and the director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults at Bethany. Marla Abe, a 2008 Bethany graduate and copastor of Carlisle (Pennsylvania) Church of the Brethren, assisted in directing the week’s activities.
Beyond Richmond, the group was introduced to ministry at the Brethren Retirement Community in Greenville, Ohio. They also traveled to Reba Place, an intentional Christian community in Chicago, Illinois, and visited the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Illinois.
Each participant also spent time shadowing regional Church of the Brethren pastors and being hosted by their congregations. Brown highlights her connection with copastors Charles Bell and Mike Cassidy at Buck Creek Church of the Brethren in Mooreland, Indiana. “The experience I had with them—including talking with and being hosted by church members, Sunday school, etc.—made the most impact on me.”
Michael Himlie says that EYC gave him additional insight into what he feels led to do in his faith journey. “My favorite part of EYC was the opportunity to experience all types of ministry. Some may not have fit with our interests, but we all took a lot away from each and every setting.”
The EYC program was reinstated in 2011 after a hiatus of several years. "With smaller groups these past two years, we've been able to travel more, and it has meant that wonderful family-like friendships could develop,” says Haitch. “Our goal is to expand enrollment while keeping the quality of the program and closeness of relationships."
Registration for EYC 2013 opens September 1 for rising high school juniors and seniors. Through a generous grant from Barnabas, Ltd. in New South Wales, Australia, all expenses for participants are covered except for transportation to and from the event. Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany and former EYC participant, is organizing EYC 2013. “It is my hope that next year’s EYC will be an eye-opening experience as young people discern God's call in their lives while exploring different kinds of ministry." Information is available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org  or on the Bethany website at www.bethanyseminary.edu/eyc .