NYC – Ft. Collins, CO
This past Monday, Ted spoke on the theme of “Struggle” for the Church of the Brethren’s NYC (that’s National Youth Conference…not New York City… the more you know.) In a beautiful twist of fate, he was joined on stage by long-time friend Ken Medema and summer intern, yours truly (Jen). Leading up to NYC, a few eerie things happened…
1. The text given to Ted was Jacob wrestling with the Angel, the theme – “Struggle.”
2. Ted realized 12 years ago – he, Lee, and Ken performed a version of “Jacob’s Ladder” (a show about the humorous and heartfelt story of Jacob and Esau) at NYC.
3. Ken was going to be at NYC, too.
Then it clicked – Ted had to perform portions of that show, taking on the role of Jacob and Ken had to reprise his role as the Angel. Beautifully, Ken was happy to oblige. I was lucky enough to take on the part of the servant, Abigail, a character more than a few of the students described as “adorable and clueless….like Dory from Finding Nemo!”
The story we told in worship that Monday morning was well received and continued to be referenced for the remainder of NYC. Being Brethren myself, I stayed for the whole conference and had the opportunity to speak with a few students after Ted flew off to his next adventure. While the students I spoke to appreciated the humor and quoted their favorite lines, they were also impacted by Ted’s words –
“You don’t grow or change without conflict. Wrestling with God sounds good, but it hurts. And God is not afraid of our pain, our grief, our anger. He wants our wrestling. When you wrestle with God you are touching something holy. You may come out of it with a limp. You may come out of it with a new name. So keep wrestling. Keep wrestling.”
In addition to performing, being Ted’s intern afforded me the pleasure of hanging out with him, Ken, and Ken’s agent Bev for most of Monday. It was so much fun to listen to Ken and Ted reminisce about their favorite lines from “Jacob’s Ladder” –
Ted: “I’ve brought your food Papa.”
Ken: (with German accent) “Who are you?”
Ted: “I’m Esau.”
Ken: “Esau? Esau was already here, Esau.”
Sometime after lunch when Bev took a moment to travel to the restroom, Ken put his hand on her purse and said, “Let’s grab the purse and run.” We laughed and I said to Ken, “You’re kind of a mischievous person aren’t you?” He replied, “Oh you betcha.” And then he grinned. Unfortunately, Bev returned before we could make our get away. She was not at all surprised by Ken’s playful plan and even added her own warm laugh to ours.
I reflected with Ted later on that I had been blessed all summer to learn that people I’ve looked up to since I was a teenager are genuinely delightful people to be around.
The four of us spent a great deal of time laughing that day, enjoying each other’s company, stepping on holy ground at every turn.
I was blessed to be one of the adults at NYC. Thank you for the powerful and straight forward message. The youth I was with also greatly enjoyed the story and humour of the truth in the holy word presented to us. Thank you and blessings!