By Lisa Black
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (July 23, 2017) -- Camp in the Community is a summer camp experience birthed from the Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries, which owns four resident camps. Dickenson, Bays Mountain, Wesley Woods and Lookout make a profound difference in the lives of young people through summer camps, retreats, and outdoor education.
The mission of Camp in the Community is to “give children from all neighborhoods the opportunity to experience the love of Christ through the transformational power of camp.”
My experience with Camp in the Community began with receiving a phone call in February 2017 from Alisha Balcom, director of youth ministries at Kern Memorial United Methodist Church. She asked if Valley View United Methodist Church would be interested in partnering with her church to provide a meal for day campers.
My question was: “What is Camp in the Community?” Since my husband, Pastor Bobby Black, and I were new to the Oak Ridge District, I had lots of questions.
We didn’t waste any time getting to know one another in our first meeting. All my questions and then some were answered. The materials I received covered everything, including a handbook for parents and campers, youth counselor training, and most important, a brochure entitled, “Why Become a Partner Church?”
I was thoroughly convinced by Alisha’s dedication coupled with her commitment to reach out to the community. I knew I was on board with this camping experiment.
I took my meeting notes and materials back to the Valley View congregation and presented this ministry opportunity. The partnering participation was overwhelmingly approved. In fact, we received enough donations to not only provide breakfast items for one day but to have enough to share two mornings along with some in-between snacks.
In the months that followed, Alisha kept us informed of our responsibilities, and we had volunteers in place for the week of June 19-23. In addition to serving breakfast, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with Barbara Rouse and other volunteers from Kern Memorial UMC. We handed out breakfast items from the kitchen window, and as the children filed by, engaged them in simple conversation.
The joy of seeing 40 children begin their day with Holston Conference Camp in the Community staff members -- Michael Neubert, Brooks Coker, Morgan Lee, Joshua Cormany, and Daynah Charlow -- was so uplifting as they were greeted at the registration table with exceptional enthusiasm.
The love of Christ was communicated throughout the week with Bible-based programming. The theme was “No Greater Love," our scripture was John 15:13, and throughout the week campers learned (through Bible stories) John Wesley's three simple rules: Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.
On Friday, the communion service was celebrated by a retired pastor, the Rev. Walter Willis of Kern Memorial. It was such a spiritual teaching moment for the children. The staff members led the children into the service with music followed with a clear definition of this holy ritual.
As I left the sanctuary after the communion service, I didn’t want my time to end as I had met new friends and had shared time and space with a new ministry. I was enthused that our church had learned how to reach out through partnership.
I hope your church and community will have the opportunity to experience this life-changing week in the future. What is Camp in the Community? I will never have to ask that question again.
Lisa E. Black attends Valley View United Methodist Church, where her husband, the Rev. Bobby Black, is pastor.