Epworth UMC- Backyard Mission Camp 2016
After 15 years of summer mission trips with Carolina Cross Connection, the youth group at Epworth UMC in Concord, N.C. decided to stay home. “Carolina Cross Connection had always challenged us to ‘take it home’,” according to Jen Hedrick, Director of Youth Ministry at Epworth, “and for a long time we would bring that enthusiasm back with us but the energy would dwindle and we'd wait it out until the next summer.” When they got back from CCC in 2014, they designated the second Saturday of every month as an SOS day (Saturday of Service). According to Hedrick, “SOS snowballed. The youth kept coming and we started getting a reputation for being a "go to" resource. Last Fall when it came time to start making decisions about our 2016 Summer Missions plans I started wondering, ‘What would SOS look like spread out over a few days?’” The scripture that Backyard Mission Camp was built on was Matthew 10:5-10 from The Message Translation:
5-8 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
9-10 “Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.While planning for the event, they wrote a grant to the Home Depot Foundation in February and received $2500 towards materials and supplies for home improvement projects for the elderly and veterans in the community. The grant covered all of the building materials for the week-long event. Meals on Wheels provided them with the names of potential families who needed home repairs and they visited each family to set up projects and visit with them. Additionally, they reached out to local agencies to offer support with anything they might need, and got overwhelming response. Epworth UMC has a big field behind the church where they pitched tents, and over 27 youth and adults showed up to work and learn the week of June 19-24. Some of the projects included building a wheelchair ramp, re-decking a front porch that was rotting, and replacing a set of steps. Groups also made stops at local parks, laundromats, car washes and ice cream shops to perform “Random Acts of Kindness,” by buying tickets, ice cream or laundry loads for strangers. Groups also took time to learn about their community from the Department of Human Services and the local Sheriff’s Department. One evening they partnered with the Opportunity House in Concord which embraces the homeless community by offering educational resources, a clothing closet, food, and counseling. They spent a few hours with a group of 1st - 4th graders who are part of a summer enrichment program sponsored by the Opportunity House. The backyard missionaries read to them, led silly songs, did arts and crafts and spent time with the children. Kathy Mills, described as the camp head cheerleader and volunteer, said this about the week, "So much Joy... Good stuff gone wild!" On the final day, groups went to CVAN, a local resource for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. It gives them a safe place to stay and offers counseling and support. The groups did yard work and odd jobs to support CVAN. Each night of the week, the group got together to play in the church backyard, talk about the day’s activities, and worship. "God was there. We met God where God is - in our hearts, in our lives, and in our neighborhood. The kids worked without complaint and joyfully. I am a better Christian because I witnessed God in action that week. It is a memory that I will always cherish," according to Becky Hughes a parent and camper at Backyard Mission Camp. Hedrick summed up her thoughts about the week, “There are moments from camp that can't be put into words: The ways the Holy Spirit moved, the healing, victories, things that made us laugh, challenges we encountered. Those are things we just tuck away close to our hearts as God winks.” See more photos and descriptions of the week at: https://www.facebook.com/backyard2016/ Learn more by contacting: Jen Hedrick Director of Youth Ministry Epworth UMC Concord, NC
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