BY HOLLY MCCRAY
A team of young adults is packing for an inaugural Voyage: a two-month summer road trip, crisscrossing Oklahoma, directing a mobile day camp at eight host churches — from Heavener to Duncan, Blackwell to Ada, and more.
This new venture by the Conference’s Camps ministry will "engage with new people in new places, create disciples who continue to be involved in the church and grow and become followers in a deeper way," said Ed Parker, Camps director.
"That’s what drives us."
Youngsters ages 7-12 will start each day learning about a fearless Bible character. They’ll learn archery and tie-dyeing. Inflatable water slides, bounce houses, and bumper balls await their enjoyment.
"We’d love to see 80-100 children at each of our sites," said Neil Tate, Camps program director.
They’ll be welcomed by 14 trained young-adult counselors with lots of equipment, presenting a professional camping program. The team’s leader is Dossanna Miller.
She’s from Fairview, grew up actively engaged in the life of First UMC there, regularly went to church camps, and graduated this month with an education degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
Tate said that Miller initially planned to volunteer for a week at one of Oklahoma’s camping facilities. Then she saw the call for paid mobile day camp staff. According to Tate, her reaction was: I could do this the entire summer!
The first camp is June 5-9 at Ada-Asbury UMC, and the Voyage concludes at OKC-Grace UMC on July 24-28.
Commitment by the host churches is key. That includes promotion, scholarship funds for campers, volunteers, and providing room and board for the team members.
"Our vision is not for the circus to come to town for a week and have a big splash," Parker explained. Camps and Discipleship Ministries have partnered to give even more support to local churches.
Discipleship Director Derrek Belase will help the hosts evaluate their facilities and develop further outreach using Mission InSite.
"What kind of followup can we do after day camp has left so that we have an annual plan for how we continue to engage, to attract these new people?" Parker asked. "Day camp is the cornerstone, part of a larger strategy that fits with where they’re already going or gives them a kickstart."
The Apportionments from every church make possible this New People New Places initiative. An NPNP grant provided startup and development money for the Voyage mobile day camps.
"We are extremely grateful. We can’t do it without Apportionment giving," Parker said. "New People New Places provides the opportunity to try something new, intentionally try it out in a way that we feel is going to impact new children, new families, especially economically deprived folks, whether it be in rural or urban settings.
"This is a way to introduce them to the good news of Jesus Christ and to a faith community which is uniquely Methodist, and give them opportunities to continue their faith journey in a way that will have eternal consequences."
He noted that scholarship support for youngsters also has been received through several foundations, including a Petree Grant. To build a sustainable program, the cost is $100 per camper, but the additional funds will assist families that are economically disadvantaged.
"That’s when the church steps in," he said.
Parents understand there are costs commonly associated with professionally-run summertime programs, Tate explained, pointing to sports and arts camps.
Parker said West Tulsa UMC has secured extra funds to provide free breakfast and lunch for each camper at its site.
"It’s all of us working together to create a customized situation that meets the needs of that particular church or community."
Here’s the mobile day camp summer schedule. Hours will be 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
- June 5-9, Ada-Asbury
- June 12-16, Oak Park Retreat Center, Perkins (partner churches Lost Creek, Eden Chapel, and Perkins-First)
- June 19-23, Heavener-Faithbridge
- June 26-30, West Tulsa (partner churches West Tulsa, Tulsa-First, Tulsa-Grace, and Tulsa-St. Paul’s)
- July 3-7, Blackwell-First (partner churches Blackwell-First, Tonkawa, and Braman)
- July 10-14, Duncan-First
- July 17-21, Owasso-First
- July 24-28, OKC-Grace