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Letters to God Excerpts from DYA 2003 'Dear God,when I get home, please . . . . . . use me to accomplish your goal and your teachings of unity. How can we be one body in Christ when each limb tries to be independent of the others? Give me the strength to unify my community.. . . help me accomplish reconciliation between both young people and the 'not-so' young people of my church. May we become one in the body of Christ-young and old, mature and immature, wise and foolish, experienced and inexperienced. . . . use me to accomplish a simpler way of life. Help me to look away from the temptations of the secular world and embrace the love of Your holy name. . . . help me teach what I was taught here to my friends and family.'

Sunday, July 20

One of the greatest things about becoming an RA after being a student here is that I can easily see those who are left out, and I can make an attempt to include them—especially at a meal and at free times. The other RAs are conscious about including people as well. Definite groups have evolved, but the great thing is that most aren’t hierarchically ranked as similar cliques in any given high school.

DYA provides a space in which differences are encouraged and explored, but are not labeled as better or worse. Superficially, there’s a group of kids who spend their free time making or listening to music, a group that prefers physical activity, and another that prefers to sit and think, journal or talk. On a deeper level, all denominational, religious differences—in music, Eucharistic practices, beliefs and worship style—are fully discussed. In this environment, where differences are appreciated and judgments are discouraged, DYA creates a safe space that lends itself to more honest conversations and discussions—a true gift.

Wednesday, July 23

One thing that remains constant, from my year as a student to my experience as staff, is God’s incredible ability to work in and through a diverse group of believers. Although hard to comprehend, who comes to DYA is irrelevant. God works through any and all, especially the unlikely candidates, to create an extraordinary Christian community. This points to the fact that our importance in this world is not as individuals, as our consumer culture claims: our importance lies in the fact that we, as a Christian community, are followers of, believers in, and pointers toward Jesus Christ.


In just three years, the Duke Youth Academy has changed the lives of Christian youth from across the country. A formal survey of DYA alumni is planned this winter, but Fred Edie Director says the informal feedback indicates profound changes for some students.

“One student chose to delay college for a year in order to join the Mennonite Service Corps,” said Edie, who is also assistant professor of the practice of Christian education at Duke. “Others have said that that their choice of college was directly influenced by the Youth Academy.”

DYA alumni are preaching in their home churches, several are writing devotionals for online Devozine, and many continue to be in contact with their adult mentors from the academy, said Edie.

Thanks to the generosity of Lilly Endowment Inc., each DYA participant receives a full tuition scholarship valued at $1,200. Room and board for the 2-week program is $650. Need-based financial aid is available for qualified applicants.

To learn more or to request the DYA video, call (919) 660-3542, e-mail DuYouth@div.duke.edu, or visit the Web site at www.DuYouth.Duke.edu The deadline for applications to the July 11-24, 2004 DYA is Feb. 20, 2004.


Friday, July 25

Two weeks have come to an end and these kids are changed, excited and scared out of their wits. Even if they won’t admit it, I know they are; I certainly was.

They’re scared because the 2003 DYA community will only exist as conversations in cyberspace, letters or over phone lines. Most won’t ever again share bathrooms, common rooms, meals or Eucharist together. They’re leaving the intellectual safe zone and going back to an existing Christian community where they’ll find love, but not necessarily the understanding that their peers and mentors offered over the past two weeks.

Hopefully they’re better equipped with tools—Christian friendships, practices, books, prayers—to deal with the frustrations. They will learn patience as they realize they can’t immediately change everything that they want about their church, family and selves. However, they will know that whenever they struggle they have a network of friends, mentors and divinity school faculty that they can fall back on, for we are brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

Anna K. MacDonald is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill where she is studying photojournalism and English. A native of Durham, she is a member of Mt. Sylvan United Methodist Church.

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DIVINITY Online Edition :: Winter 2004 Volume 3 Number 2 Duke Divinity School