Spring Heights Camp and Retreat Center took camp on the road to fourteen locations across the West Virginia Conference through DaySpring Mobile Camp, which impacted 527 campers and 172 volunteers this summer!
At each location, the Spring Heights Staff taught volunteers how to engage with campers, help children grow in faith, and impact their communities. DaySpring shows campers, volunteers, pastors, and staff how to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ and cultivates leaders. Here is a testimony from one church that encountered this life-changing program.
As a Pastor, I have often felt we have spent too much time focusing on what happens inside the walls of the church and too little time on those outside the church. When we become too church-centric, we risk missing the mark in showing people the love of God through Jesus Christ and God’s kingdom here and now. As the Rev. Reggie McNeal states in his book, Kingdom Come, “Jesus did not establish the church to start a new religion called Christianity. He established the church as an expression of the Kingdom for the people of God as they partner with him in his redemptive mission in the world.” (pg. 83)
DaySpring mobile camp is a ministry of the United Methodist Church that goes beyond the confines of the walls of the building. The Spring Heights staff, in partnership with local churches, provides “opportunities for youth to experience camp within their community.” In other words, they help youth and children see and experience the kingdom of God up close and personal in a context that may already speak to them.
This past summer, the churches of St. John UMC (Scott Depot), Winfield UMC and Forrest Burdette UMC (Hurricane) partnered with Spring Heights staff to bring DaySpring Camp to the Teays Valley area. It was an amazing week. Not only did children and youth have a chance to experience camp but they also had the opportunity to see and experience God’s kingdom in the present. They sang songs, played games, did crafts, and learned about God and God’s creation. The level of excitement was extraordinary. They had so much fun, most said they couldn’t wait till next year. It was exciting to see that most of the children were first time participants and many were not previously affiliated with one of the churches.
What I really want to share with you is what happened after DaySpring. Please understand, it was probably the hottest week of the year and all the adults had worked and played hard all week. Many of you know the exhaustion level that comes after a week of something like Vacation Bible School. However, even though everyone was tired, the excitement level never faded. It wasn’t just the children and youth who saw God’s kingdom. The same happened with all the adult workers as well as anyone who might have stopped by the church for other reasons. St. John’s people were so moved by the activities of the week that they wanted to do something more, to continue what began during camp.
It was wonderful. Conversations started, prayers were being lifted, plans began to develop. After much prayer and conversation, we made a commitment to revamping our Sunday School in a way that would be more suited to children today. Additionally, a Back-to-School Blowout, evolved out of the conversations that continued the excitement we saw and experienced during DaySpring. So on Aug. 29, we held our Back-to-School Blowout outdoors. Despite sweltering temperatures, we had a day of fun, games, music, food- of showing the community God’s kingdom in the present. Everyone had a great time, and we are praying for other opportunities and how we can move beyond the walls of our building and show people that God is indeed present and desiring to be in relationship with them through Christ.
Thank you, Spring Heights staff and all who have helped make this ministry possible. It seems like a simple week of fun and learning but the excitement we experienced went far beyond that week and I feel will fuel the ministries we offer well into the future.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Teresa Markins
St. John UMC
*For more information about DaySpring or Spring Heights Camp and Retreat Center visit www.springheights.org. Interested in brining DaySpring to your community? Contact Amy Mullins, at email@example.com or 304-927-5865.