The following article appeared in the E-Chronicle August 2014 issue:
EYE'14: Marked for Mission
By Sybil Nishioka, Family Ministries, All Saints', Kapa'a
The Episcopal Church's largest event for high school youth is a triennial gathering called EYE (Episcopal Youth Event). On July 8, 2014, the Diocese of Hawai'i's delegation of twenty-four youth and five chaperones departed for Philadelphia, PA, where they spent the next few days together with over 1,100 fellow Episcopalians at Villanova University for EYE'14. Their days were filled with praise and worship, incredible speakers, workshops, and opportunities for fellowship with elaborately staged activities. Following EYE'14, the delegation continued on to the Episcopal Mission Center where they served the community in three days of urban mission.
However, the journey to EYE'14 really began many months ago. Last November, the announcement went out and youth were encouraged to apply to be a part of the Hawai'i delegation that was limited to 24 youth. The final selection was announced in January, and included a well-rounded representation of youth from The Big Island (1), Kaua'i (6), Maui (6) and O'ahu (11). Although the Diocese contributed a portion of the cost for the trip, participants began fundraising in earnest to raise the $1,500 required from each person. The group from St. Elizabeth's in Honolulu held weekly fundraisers every Saturday for months, washing cars, recycling, and holding garage sales. On Maui, the two representatives from St. John's put on a special dinner concert, sharing their musical talents. The All Saints' group on Kaua'i hosted craft fairs, silent auctions, and ran various concessions.
The day before the group departed, most of the delegation had a chance to meet up in Honolulu, where members of Epiphany hosted a farewell dinner and showered the youth with special handmade luggage tags, goody bags, and lots of love! Bishop Bob and wife Bea were on hand to meet with the group and impart well-wishes. Diocesan Youth Director and leader of the group, Sarah Kliztke, secured dozens of free Aloha shirts along with shell leis that the youth could wear and trade with others at the conference. As expected, it was a huge hit!
At the first morning worship service with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Hawai'i delegation got front row seats arranged by All Saints' youth member, Casey Nakamura, who was on the EYE'14 Design (Planning) Team. The Presiding Bishop's sermon addressed celebrating diversity and the call for equality, and Bronwyn Clark Skov, the Episcopal Church Youth Ministries Officer, talked about the Five Marks of Mission, tying in the theme for this year's event, Marked for Mission. The Hawai'i delegation sang the Doxology in Hawaiian as part of this first service---what an honor and what an experience!
The rest of the EYE experience did not disappoint. The theme for this year's event was "Marked for Mission" with speakers inspiring their young audience through life experience, purpose and passion. Keynote speakers included The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers in the Opening Eucharist Sermon; Mike Angell, Episcopal Church Missioner for Young Adults and Campus Ministry; The Rev. Randy Callender with that just "GO!" attitude; Becca Stevens, founder of Thistle Farms with a moving and powerful presentation; and Bishop Michael Curry who brought the crowd to its feet with his energy and charisma during his sermon in the Closing Eucharist.
Music was an important aspect of this event, and the group Live Hymnal from Florida provided a nice variety of traditional and contemporary songs throughout the event. The powerful and compelling St. Thomas Gospel Choir was a feature group along with the duo, Lost and Found, who brought humor and laughter to their music.
There was a diverse mix of workshops that included faith formation, mission work, and thought provoking sessions dealing with forgiveness and stereotyping; contemporary issues such as LGBTQ Youth and slavery; fun topics with Lego building and Lent Madness; and even one called "Grill the PB", where folks got to ask the Presiding Bishop any question. Numerous activities were going on at any given time that included an open mic session where our own Chase Harrisson, Christy Fell, Mason Tabura and Viliamo Lino shared their musical skills. There were conga lines and games with giant inflatables, glow sticks and yummy late night snacks. But the more impressive activities included the bussing of over 1,000 people to different churches and historical sites around the city in a carefully choreographed timeline, and a rousing over-the-top event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that would rival any celebrity bash. Atop the famous "Rocky steps" and fronting the museum entrance was a giant tent lined with food stations that offered up delicious local fare (including Philly Cheesesteaks of course), a DJ playing the latest sounds, and tours into the museum itself.
After the excitement and energy of EYE'14, the focus turned to mission. The Hawai'i delegation was grouped with the Dioceses of Delaware, Fond du Lac, and Alaska (whom we adopted from the start), and was stationed at the Episcopal Mission Center/St Luke's in Germantown. We were graciously greeted and hosted by the center's young adults led by John Owens. Smaller groups were formed to serve at a soup kitchen, elderly center, farm, arboretum, food bank, and at the mission center itself, scraping, cleaning, painting, moving, lifting, weeding, chopping, planting, sorting and working with children. It was hard but rewarding work, and for some, was the most memorable part of the trip. The days began and ended with prayer in the beautiful St. Luke's Church. Between the four dioceses, there were three clergy in our midst that enabled us to hold Holy Eucharist on the final night of mission.
I was very excited when Sarah asked me to help organize the trip and to be a chaperone. My experience at the previous EYE was such a positive one, that I looked forward to a similar experience and to witness our youth being transformed again. First-timers were again awed and no doubt deeply affected by what they experienced. Returnees, now three years older, brought a level of maturity to the group, and were more selective in their workshop selections. Villanova University was a large venue that presented some logistical challenges to the design team, but the overall result was nothing short of fabulous! The city of Philadelphia itself contains so much history, that planning the post portion was a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn a great deal. Not only were they able to see the historical sights and sounds of Philadelphia, they got to visit museums, stroll the streets for a spooky "ghost" tour (that included the first Episcopal Bishop's haunted house), and even venture out to Lancaster to learn about the Amish and feast on Dutch cooking.
Many thanks to Sarah and my fellow chaperones: Shana Ikeda, Viliami Lino, Rev. Ryan Newman, and to all the churches and their members for their support of our youth. We are especially grateful to Bishop Bob who has been unwavering in his support for our youth in the Diocese. Here's to EYE'17!!!
From EYE'14 Design Team MEMBER:
Jessica Kawehi Perry-Ah Hoy
Deylen (Koa) Sueoka
St. Elizabeth's, Honolulu:
Viliami Lino (Chaperone)
St. Nicholas, Kapolei/Aiea:
Curtis (Trey) Bruce
Tullie St. John
Sarah Klitzke (Chaperone)
Shana Ikeda (Chaperone)
St. Peter's, Honolulu
Good Shepherd, Wailuku, Maui:
Zyra Dela Cruz
St. John's, Kula, Maui:
Duncan (Chase) Harrisson
St. Augustine's, Kapa'au, Big Island:
All Saints', Kapa'a, Kaua'i *
Fr. Ryan Newman (Chaperone)
Sybil Nishioka (Chaperone)