Lessons from the Mountaintop

Lessons from the Mountaintop

Photo by Takae Goto

Family Peace Association youth leadership programs usually include a segment held in the great outdoors, an adventure hike or the like. This year was no exception and the hikers were given a chance to climb out to what was ominously dubbed “Blood Mountain.” Yet, the experienced hikers of the group came to see this as a misnomer, like calling a mountain of a man “Tiny.”

It wasn’t a hard hike but for the novices of the group, it was like death. Breathing and putting one foot in front of the other became unimaginable. Why would anyone do this? And for fun?

But another participant found himself connecting the lessons of the hike to the abstract lessons they were learning in the other segments of the leadership program. Clearly, the hike was one moment in time but he and all those around him struggling to take another step could see that it was everything that came before that hike that determined how the hike itself would play out. It was the choices in our every day, the choice to walk instead of ride a car, the choice to eat a little better, the choice to occasionally take a run that played out at that moment on the edge of a steep cliff.

Later, he reflected on how clearly that hike was such an amazing metaphor for life. Those who were prepared – not just physically but also mentally – got through the challenge and were better for it. They even seemed to relish the challenges and, amazingly, were helping others around them along the way. Those who had simply jumped in, unprepared but also alarmingly confident got the worst of it: their spirits and bodies were crushed by the overwhelming reality of their current state. They weren’t ready in mind or body.

And so, he vowed to be ready the next time. Not just for the next climb but for the next challenge that life might throw his way. He would be ready to look at it as his lucky day, his time to test his mettle. His time to grow.

In the next year, he started to plan his days and weeks out a little differently. He made small changes and goals to start. First, he simply challenged himself to stop riding his car to school; he could walk when the weather was fine. Then, he started to jog. And jogging became running, not only when he had to get somewhere but because running became something he liked to do.

Soon he began to feel that this wasn’t enough and so he started to research what he should be eating. What he might do to improve his sleep, his run time, his breathing. He started to check his pulse and well as his habit of grabbing buttered popcorn as he headed for the couch at the end of a stressful day.

Gradually, with his mind always on the adventure hike, he started to seek out harder physical challenges. Was there a mountain nearby where he might test himself? Would going with a buddy help him to focus on helping others rather than his own discomfort?

His friends and family were amazed at his transformation, even while it literally happened before their eyes. His sleep improved, his grades went from a smattering of Cs and some “half-moons” to the top of his class. He started to get involved in extracurricular activities that he had never professed to have any interest in.

It all started in the startlingly realization on his first adventure hike. He saw himself and saw that he had something he wanted to achieve. And he saw that it would be achieved not in that moment but in the process or quest to achieve that one, big audacious goal. In fact, it was that the victory was in the transformation of his life that all started from one choice at a time.

Have you ever had such an experience?

Junior Leadership Task Force Workshop 2018

Junior Leadership Task Force Workshop 2018

High School students from across the United States traveled to the wilderness of Montana to participate in Family Peace Association’s annual leadership training program, Jr. Leadership Task Force, through July and August.

Out here surrounded by mountains, trees, and the clear sky above, there are nearly no human traces. There are not the distractions of our everyday lives back in our homes— TV, music, our phones, computers, or whatever causes us to forget about time, and indulge ourselves in something where we forget about the concept of time. But time is very important, because unlike other materialistic, physical entities, time cannot be replaced. So taking this time from our busy schedules gives us time to clear our body and mind. With no electricity, you wake with the sun and sleep with the moon, like our ancestors did. And at night, up on the mountains, hundreds of stars light up the sky, a sight rare to see back home. You become connected with our original selves, and you come to wonder how we ever forgot about the beauty around ourselves in the world. Kent (16) from Seattle

Preconceptions lead to a mind full of doubt, hopelessness and fear. Nobody knows when the sun will shine, or if it will rain. However, the presence of Shimjung (a Korean word for an impulse to unconditionally give love) has the power to become that one striking beam of light to bring hope, motivation, and success. My friend and I went from door to door in an unfamiliar town of Montana to see if anybody would like to join us in a service project in their community. My mind was mixed with determination and doubt, especially at a place that I have never been to. However, my challenges were meant to be overcome because I wanted to give my sincerity for others to experience the opportunity of selfless service. I saw faces of smiles, expressions and thoughts of consideration, gratitude towards our heart, and the desire to also give back. That Shimjung I saw in people gave me hope and became my light within the darkness. Joo (17) from California

Founding Value of Service in America Inspires Global Citizenship

Founding Value of Service in America Inspires Global Citizenship

Sometimes called the melting pot of all nations, America’s founding principles and shared values have enabled it to embrace diverse cultures and religions while maintaining some social cohesion. Its Declaration of Independence states that God the Creator grants all people inalienable rights. At the same time, it calls for each person to live their lives for a greater purpose because every person’s value and equal rights are given to us from a source greater than ourselves.

These founding values have formed the spirit of service based on human rights and the opportunity to build a culture and a society that transcends the  barriers of race, religion, and other divisions to find common ground in fundamental rights, the ideal of freedom, and to serve those who could not protect those freedoms for themselves.

The founding fathers of America recognized just how important these fundamental freedoms were. They willingly put their very lives on the line to protect the values that would be later articulated as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The original phrase was “life, liberty, and property.” However, it was rewritten to the more appropriate “pursuit of happiness,” which conveys the spiritual pursuit of all humanity.

The pursuit of happiness rests not on the aspiration of one individual but depends on relationships founded on virtues. Happiness cannot be achieved alone; it is found only in dynamic relationships. It is a collective effort between people and within the family. Some of the most charitable efforts, from alleviating poverty to responding to natural disasters, are motivated by this spiritual pursuit of happiness.

It is this same spirit of service that motivates many military personals in the United States to champion human rights for all people, not just their own nation. This spirit of selfless service is what inspires service women and men to get up every day, train, and work hard to not only protect the fundamental freedom of all people but to protect the ability to create a culture of values, raising healthy families with the potential to pursue happiness. In many ways, it is the legacy of the American story – “the pursuit of happiness” for all people.

Jeremy Graham sharing his insights on service based on America’s Declaration of Independence.

Jeremy is a serviceman who shared his testimony at a recent Family Peace Association family workshop. As a husband, father, graduate student, and Captain in the United States Army, the values he strives to build up in his own family are the same values that gives him the motivation and passion to serve his country, willing to even lay down his life to protect fundamental human rights and the founding ideals that made America a melting pot of people and cultures from every other nation around the world.

“I absolutely love the United States of America. I love the concept our founders had of establishing a government built on values and I am humbled and hopeful in our responsibility to make our founders’ vision work.”

Jeremy emphasized the importance of values in creating a culture when he reflected on his time as a cadet where “duty, honor, country” were the guiding values and the direction to cadets was to “not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” These values created a culture where people aspired to live up to higher ideals. With the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the founders outlined fundamental principles and values to inspire a standard of individual and collective responsibility that is essential to our success as a nation. A values-based culture creates the capacity in people to make higher ideals a reality in everyday life.

There are ideals and values, like the sense of service to humanity, that is bigger than any one nation or organization. They are universal. Global citizenship is something all of us can practice with every generation as we continue the legacy of service through our families and communities around the world.

Jeremy spoke at a recent workshop hosted by Family Peace Association USA, organized by a high school student for his Boy Scout Eagle Project. The workshop explored universal principles of the American founding and how they might apply to global citizenship.

Strengthening Bonds of Understanding: A Family Workshop Experience

Strengthening Bonds of Understanding: A Family Workshop Experience

Family Peace Association encourages families to explore and affirm their core values together as they grow to become God-centered families. Family workshops are becoming a successful model to facilitate exchange between parents and children on important subjects such as values and traditions. Here is a story from a family who attended a recent family workshop hosted by the Family Peace Association in the United States.

Dad was usually reserved at home. He said little, smiled little. But today, he joined his son and daughters in a play as part of a three-day family workshop that explored the universal principles and values of their heritage and how it informs how their family should live as global citizens. He and his son exchanged lines that made the audience laugh. He tried to suppress his own smiles as his daughter joined in with their own punch lines.

Competing in a game of soccer with the whole family.

The family had decided to attend the unique summer workshop together. The workshop was hosted by Family Peace Association USA, organized by a high school student for his Boy Scout Eagle Project. The workshop explored America’s founding principles and how they might be applied more broadly to global citizenship.

Dad initially came to make sure his eldest daughter was cared for; she was recovering from surgery on her foot, which made walking and sitting difficult. He wants to make sure she could get up the stairs, got food and water, and to help ease her pain however he could.

As the days progressed, a deeper purpose emerged as father, daughters, and son explored principles and values together. They began to engage in conversations that are difficult to broach on an everyday basis. They began to share about the values that they aspired to embody as a family.

Sometimes they sat together, parents and children in the same group, sharing and listening to each other. Other times, they sat in separate peer groups, dad with other parents, the children with other young adults. With peers and with one another, they talked about God and His presence in their lives and the world and topics ranging from love to service and goodness.

In self-study sessions, father, son, and daughter had time to delve into research of topics like men and women and ideas that were inspired by God to take risks and strive to make a better world. The workshop provided a shared experience for the family to explore their family’s values together.

Sharing his reflection of the family workshop.

“As an immigrant, I was so inspired to come here with my children to learn how God was involved in the founding of this nation,” reflected dad, who is originally from Japan.

As they studied together, they discovered new things about each other and shared on perhaps the most important things, in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to do in the milieu of every day.

Mom came on the third day to help cook lunch. At the closing they stood together as a family in the closing photo, a memento of the three days that they took to explore and outline the principles and values that they as a family honored, and how they wanted to manifest in in their daily relationships and lives.

No doubt, it would be the first of many they would attend together as a family.

Experiencing God through Mentoring

Experiencing God through Mentoring

CVA Principal Maruko Breland thanks volunteers for service to CVA students

The Core Values Academy is a weekly program that provides children age 4-16 a place to reinforce and develop values that they are cultivating in the family.

In ways, Core Values Academy resembles a family – mentors are like elder brothers and sister, and many teachers are parents of students. Every week mentors and teachers are taught valuable lessons on how to put values like “living for the sake of others into practice.”

“Being an older brother or sister is one of the greatest ways to come to understand and resemble God’s Heart,” CVA Principal Maruko Breland said at the opening of a teacher and mentor training program in Seattle, Washington. “God doesn’t just see a person where they’re at now. He’s sees where they came from and where they will get to.”

Teachers and mentors discussed their insights and experience, as volunteer teachers, developed their capacity through presentations on classroom management and professionalism, and wrote out class expectations.

Some mentors reflected on the challenges in the classroom. One mentor said he has learned the importance of embodying the values that they are teaching. Another jokingly said his patience has been stretched to a new capacity.

What lessons have you learned in your family relationships about God?