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Dear friends, Twelve teenagers sit cross-legged in a circle, leaning forward, every eye focused on the map of the United States taped to the wall. On a flip chart are listed the cities where they have contacts, cities they could do performances on next summer’s tour. It will be their choice. They will have to do much of the preparation work themselves — corresponding with their hosts, creating new choreography, raising money, planning the route and food, equipment and lodging for their two week road trip. It will take all winter and spring to organize everything, endless hours of practice to get their performances perfected. But when summer finally comes, they will be ready. And very excited!

Not what you normally think of when someone mentions summer camp? Probably not. But, then, our youth program is not your average play-eat-and-hug program. It is about building character, discipline, values into the lives of urban young people over time — years of time. It is about developing leaders. Leaders must learn to make good decisions. And leaders must learn to take responsibility. That’s why twelve young people are so intense as they sit in a circle studying the map and discussing their itinerary.

And another thing leaders must do — they must give back. These twelve, and scores of others like them, have received much in their young lives. Perhaps their families are not as advantaged as some, but they have received a nutrient-rich diet of affirmation and affection, discipline and training — growth starter that has caused their young lives and spirits to flourish in amazing ways. So excellent, so noticeable has been their development that last month several of them were invited to the White House to perform for the First Lady. Twice!

The summer tour is one of their best ways to give back. They will perform before youth in other cities, sharing a message of their own design to communicate hope, faith, reconciliation and values that a new generation of urban young people so badly need. They are becoming our ambassadors of Good News in the city.

These talented young people and several hundred others who will participate in our very diverse summer camping program need a little help from caring adults. A sponsorship of $100 will fill the gap between what they raise and the actual cost of the summer program. Would you like to invest in one or more of them? Ask your Sunday School class or office if they want to participate as well. It’s the best investment I know in the future of our city.

Grateful to be your partner in service,

Bob Lupton

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