Veritas: more than summer camp

Thursday, July 13, 2006


On this uncharacteristically drizzly July morning, 12 high school students are listening to a lecture on campus. It’s cool outside, but the discussion inside the classroom is so complex that you’d expect to hear students complaining about their brain cells overheating.

Not these students, though. They’re following the logical thread with campus pastor Kent Kersey as he explores the seemingly contradictory nature of Jesus Christ, that he was both man and God. At the end of the class period, Kersey proposes that people have difficulty understanding Jesus because we compare him to ourselves.

“It’s not, ‘Here’s our idea of humanity. Does Jesus measure up?’ but ‘He is the definition of human, and how do we become more like him?’” Kersey says.

“Oh,” “Huh,” and “Wow,” are the responses students give while mentally digesting the thought, and they scribble a last few notes before going to their next class.

“These are all leaders in their youth groups. They are sharp kids. I’ve been really impressed,” Kersey says after they leave.

This isn’t summer camp; this is Veritas, nine days of intense training for high school students interested in ministry. Run by Western Seminary and named after the Greek word for “truth,” Veritas uses at least one Corban professor and the school’s facilities every year to train and challenge Christian teens.

“We recognized that there were high school students who would benefit from more than a summer camp that stresses giving your life to Jesus. They’re ready to go deeper,” says Jennifer Ellison, the program’s assistant director.

This year, 37 students from Oregon, Washington, California and Kentucky enrolled in Veritas. Their nine-day adventure started with ropes courses and a rafting trip in central Oregon and then moved to Corban. Before arriving, each student chose a ministry track – worship, Bible study, missions, leadership or video communication.

Most already have experience in their areas of interest. Sara Hansen of Shelton, Wash., and Moses Gutierrez of McMinnville, Ore., are two such teens. Hansen sings with her youth group worship band, and Gutierrez plays bass. At Veritas, they take theology classes in the morning and work on worship in the afternoons with their track leader.

“The best time I’ve had is the time we spent with our track leader,” Gutierrez says.

“It’s so different from anything I’ve ever done,” Hansen adds. “You’re so much more independent. You’re expected to lead.”

Today, while worship leaders are preparing an evening session for their peers, missions-track students are visiting a nearby mosque to learn about Muslims, and video-track students are getting ready to make their third short movie.

“Film is a powerful way to communicate because it touches audiences on so many different levels,” says Zach Persson, of La Center, Wash.

Kevin Brown, of West Linn, Ore., looks up to filmmakers such as Mel Gibson, who directed “The Passion of the Christ.” While he doesn’t expect filmmaking to make him rich or famous, he just wants to use this modern medium to nudge audience toward God.

“I just want to make something that impacts someone in a spiritual or emotional way,” he explains.

Veritas leaders fully expect to return to campus next year, again utilizing Corban professors and facilities to help high schoolers explore ministry. The endeavor is supported by two complementary grants from Lilly Endowment, Inc. and M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

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