This summer has been different from others in the past. It has a distinctive vibe to it in so many
ways. Have you noticed it? For some, this is the first time taking a road trip as friends or family
visit with their loved ones since the beginning of the pandemic. For others, this is the first time
stepping into the sanctuary again and holding a bulletin and a Bible in their hands. But, above all,
it feels good to connect again, face to face, with a handshake, a hug, and a smile.
Here at Shalom International Ministry, our youth and children have been experiencing the same
joy of getting together in person after a year and five months of social distancing.
At around noon on June 06, 2021, twelve youth, six children, and two adults embarked on a four-
hour journey to Montreat, North Carolina, for the Summer Youth Conference. For the past five
years, we have been taking our Shalom Youth and Young Adults to Montreat every summer, but
this year felt extra special. You may wonder why! Since the beginning of the pandemic, this was
the first time our youth had been together in person… never mind riding on the same bus!
As we were all busy loading the van with suitcases, food, and drinks, one of the youth said to me
with a great sense of relief, “I am so excited to go to Montreat this year”. Then she
continued, “This is my first time leaving our house and being away for six days since the
beginning of the pandemic. I can finally be with my friends again”. These words give us a
glimpse of how much we have been missing one another and how much we long for one another.
Being together in Montreat felt like a family reunion! It was a great experience to connect again
with old and new friends and with God in such a unique and peaceful environment. The youth
enjoyed the keynotes, small groups, laughter, taking turns cooking, group discussions, and
outdoor activities. After we came back, another youth said to me, “Thank you for helping us go
to Montreat. It was such a great experience. This is something I needed; to be around other
youth, have fun and share the word of God in an authentic way”.
One of the things I have learned during this pandemic is not to take our human and divine
connection for granted. As we slowly get back to our “normal” life, we are called to deepen our
relationship with God and our neighbors.
Your support for Shalom and our youth ministry is greatly appreciated. Thank you for making a
difference in the lives of our youth, children, and young adults.
Rev. Gad Mpoyo of Shalom International Ministry