Hearing the Call

Darren Reiley '96

Darren Reiley ’96 didn’t realize his call to service until after he graduated. But the executive director of the Eugene-based Peace Village traces his journey back to his Pacific roots.

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Inspired to offer an interfaith, intercultural experience where elementary-aged kids could learn about nonviolence, he’d contacted the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Pacific: Professors Dave Boersema, Mike Steele and Ellen Hastay all got involved. 

Wintry had designed the conflict resolution curriculum as part of her senior project. Elizabeth Wilson, who had directed the Pacific Outback for years and organized the service trip to the Navajo Nation, also played a hearty role. 

Here were people I knew and loved.

And it was here I first heard it: the call.

There is something that happens to you when you begin to turn your focus away from the imminent needs of the myopic self, when the question, “What is my power?” becomes “How can my power serve?” The overcrowded eyesight, so often filled with images of personal goals and resources, begins to relax and we begin to hear that call to become something more. It is the coming of age that all souls yearn for, the passage into the awareness that we have a purpose in the wider dance of life. 

I found community at this Peace Village—an incredible group of people, from richly diverse backgrounds, united by the dream of a more hopeful, peaceful future for our children. 

I returned to the camp the next summer. And the next.

After five years of learning conflict resolution from Wintry and helping her teach it to children—also ironic, since I now assert firmly that children have far more to teach adults about conflict resolution—Peace Village had begun to hum to me. 

I’d finished my folklore master’s degree, and since a teaching fellowship at the U of O was paying my tuition, I decided to add another in English. I’d finished that one as well and was staying at home with my baby daughter, while her mother worked full time, when, one day not long after the Bush invasion of Iraq, Elizabeth called me up.

“Hey Darren.”

“Hey.”

“You know how Charles has been wanting to make Peace Village into a nonprofit?” 

(Charles Busch, the UCC pastor who’d dreamed and run Peace Village, felt called to broaden the vision, to raise funds to pay teachers to deepen curriculum and bring it into schools.)

“Yeah…” I said. 

And that was it. 

It was the first time I remember being possessed by an idea—which is to say, my steering wheel had been commandeered, my vote had been proxied, my volition volunteered. 

I couldn’t not do it. I talked to Charles and began to put together the documents to form a nonprofit organization—again, something totally unrelated to my field of study. I called the Pacific group—Dave, Mike and Ellen—all of whom showed up to serve on the founding board of Peace Village, Inc. 

Long story short: Nine years later, Peace Village has grown. Teachers and students from Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Bahai’i, Native American, Sikh, Pagan and secular communities have added their song to the growing chorus. As of this summer, we have 18 camps in nine states. 

Somewhere in there, my own more native gifts began to insist upon attention, and it occurred to me that we could adapt the curriculum to a high school setting.