First Time Camp Experience for Inner City Youth
by Ginger Smith, Executive Director – Mission Centers of Houston
Souled Out Camp was a huge success! Youth from Fletcher Mission, Gano Mission and Joy Fellowship joined together for the 2nd annual camp at Trinity Pines Conference Center. The theme verse for the camp was Matthew 5:16, “let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Daily worship services led by Larry Mayberry (youth pastor at Memorial Drive Baptist Church) and Aviator Love (all-girl band that includes MCH intern, Sandra Gomez) focused on making good choices and recognizing the importance of following Christ in daily life. In addition, various teaching sessions were held that addressed topics like “Souled Out”, “Believing God”, “Serving Others”, and “Living Out Your Faith.” Youth also participated in the Challenge Ropes Course and enjoyed water activities like “the Blob”, canoeing and swimming. Many of our kids have never experience life in the country. This was truly a special experience for them. After a Friday night hay ride where the youth saw deer on the road, they came back excited to say they had seen deer in real life! For many, this was a first. It’s amazing what the simple things in life will do for someone who has never experienced them before.
Jesus, a 14-year old camper, said that going to camp meant that he “got closer to Jesus and learned to pray more.” Jose, a 12-year old camper, said that getting to go to camp meant a lot to him. “It meant that I worked hard to be able to go and that is why I deserved to go.” Jose had to attend regular after-school programs at Joy Fellowship Center as well as bring his Bible, participate in activities and offer community service in Joy Center’s food pantry. In a sense, going to camp was a reward for his hard work. For these boys and others, camp was a life-changing experience where nature and the city coincided in a way that left a resounding impact on their lives.
Since many of our campers did not have the resources to bring towels, hygiene items or even to pay their registration fee, Get Together members, Steve Biegel, Quincy Chapman and others stepped up and provided items that allowed them to participate in camp. Donors gave towels, soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, bug spray, sunscreen, snacks and more – items that most of us take for granted. Get Together Executive Director, Cathy Lawdanski, said that “It might occur to some of us that kids served by MCH would not have the registration fee to pay for camp, but the fact that they may not have the basic hygiene items that we take for granted is a real eye opener to the financial constraints their families face. I’m so glad that members of The Get Together were eager to provide what was needed to ensure a great camp experience for these kids” . The camp was truly a joint effort that allowed many to invest in the lives of our inner city youth.