Children from a Hispanic church are able to attend camp, some for the very first time, thanks to a $1,000 Change for Children grant.
“This is the first year where we could send eight new children,” said Karen Neff, one of the organizers of Mi Casa del Afarero, or Potter’s House United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, a part of the Maryville District.
Neff said this is the third Change for Children grant Potter’s House has received.
“Each Change for Children grant is to help the kids go to camp,” she said. “We’ve never use it for anything else.”
Neff spoke of one girl who has attended camp five consecutive years. Yoana, now 12, received a five-year patch this past summer from Camp Wesley Woods.
“She said camp is the most favorite thing in her life,” Neff said. “(Yoana) just lives to go to camp. Of all the kids, Yoana has been the most touched. And it has done the most in her life.”
Last year, 23 children from Potter’s House attended Wesley Woods. The largest group included 31 campers, according to Neff. Because so many children from Potter’s House want to attend camp, camp officials asked Neff to send smaller groups throughout the summer instead of a large group at once.
“All summer long, we are taking kids back and forth to camp,” she said
Several churches donated to help Potter’s House. Friendsville UMC purchased sleeping bags, duffel bags, and water bottles for campers so they would “fit in,” Neff said.
Bonnie Howard started this ministry to the Hispanics in the Philadelphia/Sweetwater with backyard Bible schools in 1994, Neff said. The woman had a vision for reaching them in her own backyard after she participated in a ministry trip to Guatemala. Neff began working in the ministry five years ago. Her efforts escalated into a full-blown children’s ministry. In fact, 40 children attended the first day Neff conducted the ministry.
“I never dreamed so many would show up,” Neff said.
As ministry leaders developed relationships with the children’s parents, they realized the adults needed interpreters and other help. Out of those efforts, the church was born.
Potter’s House now meets in two locations, one each in Philadelphia and Sweetwater. Church services started two and a half years ago, led by Daniel Castillo.
The children’s ministry meets weekly in two locations: on Mondays in Philadelphia, on Tuesdays in Sweetwater. Neff said the children sing, hear Bible stories, and play games.