By Ryan Brown, UGM Youth Outreach Director
There’s a beautiful synergy that happens at camp each year that is truly an example of the Body of Christ working together to reach young people. As we begin our first week, I’m reminded of how big our camp ‘team’ is, and of course how big God is. God is inspiring people far and wide, in big ways and little ways, to give of themselves so that over 500 kids can have the experience of a lifetime.
Let’s look at our community. First, there are the hundreds and hundreds of people who sponsor weeks of camp for kids. Sometimes they give hundreds of dollars and sometimes maybe only a few. Either way, they all play a huge part in making sure we never have to charge kids. It’s the church small groups, the seniors clubs, the college student, and great grandma - we ALL help kids get to camp. In addition to the individuals, there are the businesses. This year, we were overwhelmed by blessings from multiple sources. From Sodexo, who donated all of our food, to the Elizabeth Pool Trust granted to us for new activity equipment, to the General Store who raised money from their customers this spring to stock our clothing cabin to overflowing. We truly have a camp team in the thousands.
Our camp management staff play a very important part as well. Ken and Jenny Weddle and Ken’s assistant Cliff are truly a gift from God to this ministry. With the usage the camp gets each summer, there is always something to do – a loose fencepost, broken pump, fallen tree. It’s a constant whirlwind of activity – in addition to hosting volunteers and rental groups throughout the rest of the year. This camp is one of the most well-kept camps I have ever been to – and it’s because of this team. The beautiful part is that during the summer, this team still finds time to help kids learn to fish or for quite meaningful conversation with a kid.
Of course, UGM Camp would not be what it is without the local church. These are wonderful ministries in 10 different neighborhoods in Spokane and North Idaho who have a heart to reach the neediest in their area. All year long they are building relationships in the neighborhoods and schools. Then recruiting volunteers who will be their week’s cabin leaders, work crew and program team – and most often, they are the young student leaders from their church. They are on the front lines with the kids as they attend their week of camp, and the best part is they go home with the kids, back to the neighborhoods and schools to keep their newly built relationships going for years to come. The amount of kids who come to camp and then become part of the church is staggering.
And very near to my heart – and an absolute necessity – is the camp summer staff. These amazing people go nine straight weeks facilitating, handling behavior issues, bandaging wounds, cooking, leading, playing, and all the while, keeping a great attitude and making sure each week’s campers and leaders feel safe, supported and loved. This is the group I personally have the privilege of leading and discipling through the summer, and they truly are amazing.
In most camp settings, there’s a budget to be met, prices to be charged, employees to be managed. After being a part of directing hundreds of camps this way, it is very clear to me that God is up to something very different at UGM Camp. It’s incredible to me how God can take so many people – the donors, community, businesses, camp managers, local church and summer staff – and blend our lives together in such a way that draws a beautiful picture of what it means to change kids’ lives forever, expecting nothing in return and providing for all our needs so that we might spend the summer – every summer – giving it all away.
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