Terrance had never been away from home before. Not even for a night - let alone all week. Still, he decided to participate in the South Atlanta Youth Group’s weeklong trip to Camp Grace. Both he and his parents were apprehensive, but he’s in middle school, and they all decided it was worth a try.
When the group arrived at camp, they joined other campers as well. Terrance, as it turned out, was the only South Atlanta youth assigned a cabin with no one else from South Atlanta. He was super bummed to be in a cabin alone with strangers, and youth leader Michelle Witherspoon thought he might leave.
They discussed the situation and she asked Terrance to be brave and to try out this new experience. They agreed to meet later in the day to follow-up and to check-in again the next day. “Later that day,” says Witherspoon, “he ran up to me all smiles and really enthusiastic. He told me everything was okay now.”
New friendships. New experiences. New strengths teenagers didn’t know they had. These are some of the very important reasons for summer youth programming. At FCS, we’re grateful to partner with Remerge, which organizes the South Atlanta Youth Group.
In June, fourteen campers spent a week at Camp Grace, which focuses on activities and teaching for urban youth. Witherspoon shared how daily small group times to share highlights and lowlights served to deepen existing relationships that have been growing throughout the year. “More time together, more experiences, being able to be there for them whether they felt homesick or had a tummy ache. It was all a gift and helps build trust for our yearlong programming,” says Witherspoon. Camp Grace also offered a spiritual component that extended an invitation to Christ, as well as affirmed that those who’ve made the decision in the past and encouraged them how to go deeper in their faith.
Another week this summer, South Atlanta youth returned for the fourth year to day camp at God’s Farm. This year, eighteen youth spent the week fishing, canoeing, swimming, and more. They also participated in drills and exercises led by the West Georgia football team. To make the most of the daily commute, Witherspoon says leaders pose intentional discussion questions in the van everyday. Youth discussed everything from their views on peaceful protest to an appropriate dating age.
One young lady was a bit intimidated when she first encountered the enormous rock climbing wall. But she worked at it and stayed focused until she reached the top and rang the bell. The look of joy on her face revealed how proud of herself she was.
These are powerful moments in the lives of our youth and the leaders who serve them every Wednesday night during the school year. Summertime activities are invaluable for building community and trust and offering teenagers the opportunity to get outside their regular routine and explore the world. Thank you for your donations this summer that helped to make these trips possible.