07/15/2013 01:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Building Bridges With Middle East Friends

Yesterday was the first day at our summer camp that includes American and Middle Eastern teenagers. We have 120 students at KIVU right now, and they are learning how to share culture, reason, and background with each other in a peaceful environment.

I took them to the challenge course yesterday, and they were excited to work on some of our low elements events. They were learning trust, teamwork, and overcoming fear. When I took them to the Trust Fall, they all went through the event, and then challenged me to fall into their arms. I was a bit fearful, because I'm a big guy, but I thought, "If we're going to learn to trust, there's no better time than the present." So I climbed up on the platform and I did the trust fall, AND THEY CAUGHT ME.


We spent the next hour talking about the necessary steps of building relationships between the West and the Middle East. "Any relationship requires someone willing to take a risk, and then it requires the others to notice the risk and catch them. The consequences of missing the signal will result in someone getting hurt, and nobody wants to see anyone fall and get hurt, "right?" I asked. The group kept thinking about how they could be agents of change through the process, and we talked for much of the rest of the day about how to develop understanding friendships across complicated worldview lines.

One of the Middle East Ambassadors and I spent the afternoon talking about possibilities. What would it look like if we could exchange American students to the Middle East?

The biggest criticism of exchange programs are the inevitable 'mountain top high' that you can create in a controlled environment. Then when the participants return to their own REAL world, the feelings of togetherness seem to fade away. We spent an incredible time discussion 'Is it possible to avoid the aftermath of the camp experience?'

We talked a lot about the "what now's." If we set up this incredible experience, how can we help to maintain these relationships throughout the year? We are working diligently to answer these questions to raise up Ambassadors on both sides of the West and Middle East.

Overall, it was an AWESOME first day, and we're excited to hear them share about their history, background, faith, and have a REAL discussions free of the pressures of conflict. I'm hopeful we may be on the cusp of helping develop a generation of business leaders, professionals, politicians, and religious people who are willing to challenge some of the status quo.

This could be some of the most important work I've been involved with, EVER!