Special Edition - DRUMMING CAMP!

Drumming Camp 2019, our 7th annual, was a great success! The 18 campers - the largest group to date - were a delight.  Nine of them were "veterans," though, to be honest, by the time Friday's performance rolled around, you couldn't tell who had prior experience and who sat behind a drum for the first time on Monday afternoon.  The audience was treated to a spectacular show: a drum machine procession, a story, dancing, and, of course, drumming.  All of this and great weather, followed by a wonderful meal.  A perfect end to a magical, terrific, wonderful, and fabulous week.  So much to be thankful for...

Early in the week we read God's Dream  by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which framed the theme of welcoming the immigrant in knowing that all people are loved by God, whose deep desire is that we love and care for one another, regardless of how we might perceive difference between us. The story the children told was Yah'Ya's story of migrating to the USA.  They took turns speaking a line or two, a powerful way to remind us that we all come to this place with different experiences and history and,  yet, all of us are God's beloved children.  (The story is included at the end of this newsletter.)

The campers were a delight and the staff, whether adult leader, youth counselor/counselor-in-training, or volunteer, was amazing.  Clearly Drumming Camp is a labor of love, so loved that all the work that went into making it such a fulfilling week hardly seemed like work at all.  The staff enjoyed the week at least as much as the campers did!  There is nothing quite like hearing campers' highlights of the week and what they would tell friends who asked "Why Drumming Camp?" to know that the work you are doing is truly holy and life-changing. I could go on forever but then we'll never get to the huge number of shout-outs for all the people who helped to make the week possible.

Thanks to Kim Williams for her inspiration (It was Kim's idea to have a drumming camp) those seven years ago, and to Kim and Fran Taber for taking the lead as co-coordinators.  The amount of behind the scenes work they put into this one week is inspiring and, frankly, a bit daunting.  And then they were here and fully engaged each and every day. 

As faithful as Kim and Fran are, Drumming Camp would not be possible without lots of other folks, from both within and outside the parish:

Yah'Ya Kamate, the incredibly talented musician and teacher who truly seems to work magic with the drumming and the dancing, and who allowed us to share his story this year.
Delouise Monroe, who builds relationships with the families, does all the legwork of recruiting campers and getting the paperwork done, and then joins us as a calming and steady presence all week.
Carl Clemons, who safely transports the children back and forth from their homes each day.  This year he shared both his daughter, who was a camper, and his son, who was a counselor-in-training.
Sara Ruth Dorn, who organized the dinners and snacks, including the Friday cookout, and managed a large team of volunteers to see that meals and snacks ran like clock work, all in her quintessentially gracious way.
Gesine Ehlers,who lovingly coordinated arts & crafts, planning the basic design of the "welcome" t-shirts the children made and wore on Friday, and finding the time so the campers could make a contribution to the "Millwheels Rolling into Millburn" project.
Gary Jones, who brought a wonderful sense of humor and enthusiasm to a job  that included motivating the counselors and counselors-in-training and just about everything else you can imagine, from setting up tents to emptying trash.  Gary also encouraged his adult daughter, Majiera, to volunteer with us this week.
Barbara Riedel, who worked with Gesine in the art room, offering a supportive, encouraging presence to the campers.
Theresa Scharff , who conceived and then helped the campers complete a painted brick border for the children's garden near the door to the parish offices, continuing the tradition of offering a lasting reminder of one wonderful week.
Phoebe Holt-Reiss, Drew Newman, Jataria Monroe, and Rammie Rugbeer , returning counselors, who worked like a dream team.
Jeremiah Clemons and Rebecca Mercedat (a parishioner at Christ Church, Short Hills), counselors-in-training, who jumped right in and worked alongside Phoebe, Drew, Jataria, and Rammie.
Doreen Schindler, Parish Administrator, who worked her usual magic on photo collages for Friday, and continues to work on getting the word out about the week.
Marianne Bredlau, who coordinated the outreach project at Wyoming Presbyterian Church, so that all of the campers received a backpack with school supplies.

And then there were the volunteers, some of whom came once, some of whom were here more often: Judy Spresset, Nancy Sieffert, Felder Dorn, Julia Dorn, Barry Taber, Suzanne Holt, Steve Moran, Harriet Jernquist, Sue MacBeth, Heloisa Rooney, Jean James, Alex Cole, Majiera Jones.  Kira Hanson baked delicious brownies. Katie and Ronnie Toland ran an errand or two.

These local businesses made contributions of either discounted or free food: Peter's, Oscar's Deli, Millburn Diner, and Pizzetta.  

None of this would be possible without the generosity of a former parishioner, now deceased, who, though he wished to remain anonymous, made provisions or his charitable trust to fund the Drumming Camp.

Last July, when we were in early conversation about a potential call, the Search Committee and Vestry talked about the Drumming Camp.  I was excited to learn more and have been looking forward to experiencing it for myself. Suffice it to say that it exceed my wildest expectations.  Without a doubt this is a ministry of love and abiding faithfulness in which God's Holy Spirit is joyfully working in and through us.

Peace and Blessings,
Paula +

P.S. There are so many fabulous photos of the week, some of which are displayed in the parish hall, where they will remain for a few weeks, before Doreen updates the Drumming Camp bulletin board in the narthex.  Come and check them out!
Yah'Ya's Story
I grew up in the Ivory Coast in a family of 35 brothers and sisters.  When I was a little boy, the storyteller would tell us bedtime stories while playing a musical instrument like the n'goni or the flute. I thought the storyteller's instruments were magical. That's when I fell in love with music.
When I was a teenager, I started singing, dancing, and drumming. My dad was a donkela - a great dancer!  I wanted to be a donkela, too! I visited 62 different villages in Ivory Coast to learn their tribal dances and traditions. Dancing and making music became part of my soul. I wanted to show other people how dance can be healing, powerful, and bring people together.
Without telling my parents, I secretly tried out for the National Dance Company of the Ivory Coast. It was not easy. In order to be selected, we had to prove our endurance by dancing nonstop for 4 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. Our feet would bleed after stomping on the dirt floor for so long, and we had to wrap our toes with sewing thread to stop the bleeding. To get to the school, I had to walk 5 miles from my house and 5 miles back, five days a week for two months. My grandmother would always take care of my sore feet when I came home. 
After working so hard, and listening and being on time, finally the day came when I was selected to be a part of the National Dance Company of the Ivory Coast! I had become a donkela!  Six months later, the National Dance Company travelled to Memphis, Tennessee. This was my first time in the United States. It was incredible. I was smiling the whole time! 
The people in Memphis were so kind and welcoming to us. One man even gave me a brand new pair of boots because we were not used to the cold. My dad didn't even know I was here. He thought I was performing somewhere in the Ivory Coast. I called him from the hotel and said, "Dad, guess where I am. I'm in the United States." "In the United States of what?" he said. 
Then I traveled with the dance company to New York, where I had to learn to speak English very quickly so that I could be a teacher. I also got to go to Disney World to perform as a dancer and drummer at Epcot Center and Animal Kingdom. I came back to New York and continued teaching, eventually working with all ages of students. After becoming a resident, I got married and all my six children were born here.
Now, teaching and performing are my life. It is still where I find myself. And it's where I've seen children feel free. It's been incredible seeing what a difference drumming and dancing can make in a child's life. I've taught in schools, in community centers, in universities, in hospital psychiatric centers, and even in jails. I have seen kids who were depressed and contemplating suicide light up and smile when they were drumming. And to see these young men in jails that spend all day fighting and arguing, sitting side by side playing the drums-it's so powerful. Just as I had felt as a child, I still feel dancing and music are healing.
In this country, to relax and leave the cares of the world, you read a book or watch TV. Back home, it was the job of the storyteller, to put us in a different state, to transport us to another place. That's my intention with my students--using the rhythms of drums and dance, I want my students to leave the cares of this world, the long days and the hard work, and to be transported somewhere bigger, better, and more free.

Office hours are Tuesday thru Friday, 10:00 am to 1:30 pm or by appointment.
Phone: 973.376.0668  
Fax: 973.376.4002
Website: ststephensmillburn.org
Main email: church@ststephensmillburn.org
Follow us on:  Facebook and Instagram

Doreen Schindler, Parish Administrator can be reached at ext. 32 or

The Rev. Paula J. Toland, Rector can be reached at ext. 21 or 
She is an occasional blogger at fromthestillness.