With that said, you are probably all wondering what my "extremely busy" summer looked like. Well, I am about to tell you. This summer I served as part of the day camp team for Alabama Rural Ministry's summer camps. Now our "camps" are not like a regular church camp, but rather an opportunity for youth groups or other teams to come volunteer with us for a week, working on home repair or at the children's day camp (similar to Appalachian Service Project or Service Over Self).
I had gone on several mission trips in college, even co-led one my senior year, but now instead of coming to the organization to serve, I was part of the staff there to receive the incoming teams. The experience was very different for me, but I have realized that working with short-term teams is something that I very much enjoy. My first exposure to this was in Ecuador, helping to host a few mission teams from the U.S. like in the picture below, where they were building a dining facility for an after school program in Pijal.
So, I began this summer very excited to learn from these youth teams and to help them grow in their relationship with Christ through our theme of TRANSFORMATION as in Romans 12:1-2. Over the course of these two months, we had six groups stay with us in Tuskegee, most from Alabama, but including one from close to home - Cincinnati, Ohio! All of the teams were a joy to work with. Each week my job was to coordinate the activities at our day camp and make sure the volunteers interacted well with the kids.
Then in the evenings, we as a staff would lead worship with the teams. Our nights often involved learning about the community and the poverty that exists there, or reflecting on how our lives can be transformed when we decide to follow Christ. We asked the question, who do you think you are? Instead of conforming to what society says we should be, we can be renewed by changing the way that we think. We talked a lot about identity, about how the world sets out to make us question our relationship with God. But when we see our true identity as children of God, it enables us to live out our call to serve God with all that we are. No one can ever tell us that we are not good enough to do that.
As we led the youth on this transforming week, sharing in discussions about our day with the children or families, I could see the wheels turning in their minds. Not everyone was visibly transformed immediately or even within the 5 days of their time with us, but my hope is that something they saw or heard during that week changed their way of thinking about God and themselves. That they would have gone home with a new sense of the love that Christ has for them and how they are called to share that with others.
This is just one snippet of my amazing and challenging summer - tune in next time to hear more about what we did with the kiddies at day camp for 7 weeks!