Eighteen youth and young adults from France, along with three pastors, are planning to join their U.S. counterparts for the National Youth Event, July 10-14 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
"We are partnering with Faith UCC [Frederick, Md.] and Glade [Walkersville, Md.] in welcoming the group with a jam-packed schedule that begins very soon after their arrival in Maryland with a trip to the National Youth Event," said Daniel, pastor of Evangelical Reformed UCC in Frederick.
The American-French connection began to solidify, said Daniel, in late 2010 after retired French professor and college dean Clifford Barr, a member of Daniel's church, received an e-mail from Global Ministries, a joint ministry of the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). A youth group in southern France wanted to visit the United States in the summer of 2012, the e-mail explained, then reciprocate by hosting the following summer.
"Since January of 2011, we have been in regular contact with Jean-Luc Cremer [the contact in France], working on the schedule for their visit, sharing stories, sending photos of our church and community," said Daniel.
Barr –– who served at universities and colleges in Ohio and Pennsylvania before retiring –– is pleased with his role in the matchmaking effort.
"There is nothing that promotes intercultural understanding better than these type of exchanges," said Barr. "Each group will experience how their counterparts live, and the service component will add another dimension. These experiences are truly life-changing."
From highlighting youth and Global Ministries to putting an exclamation point on the collaboration of Global Ministries and a major UCC event, Daniel agreed that opportunity abounds. "It also highlights local-church involvement with Global Ministries and youth," she said.
Daniel pointed to the French folks' full schedule of activities as proof positive that the UCC is committed to mission and service, "both in the community and beyond."
After NYE, the French group will join UCC youth at a five-day work camp in West Virginia. Also on the agenda: visits to New York City, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. –– and a rafting trip to Harper's Ferry.
"This exchange will hold tremendous significance as we really aim to promote a message of oneness," said Waltrina Middleton, co-convener of NYE 2012 along with W. Mark Clark, the UCC's associate general minister. "When we say ‘one church,' we want our youth to look beyond their local setting, beyond their Conferences and even beyond the UCC."
The UCC's regional Catoctin Association, as well as Global Ministries, are helping to fund NYE registrations, said Daniel. The Association also is underwriting a large portion of transportation costs, and a grant of $6,000 from Global Ministries will go toward NYE and the work camp in West Virginia.
For more information or to register for National Youth Event, visit www.ucc.org/nye. Twitter with us at #NYE2012.