Last week, I got to work with a group from Des Moines, Iowa at the Soaring Eagles Learning Camp which is supported by Brown Memorial Park Ave Presbyterian Church. This is a four day camp at a neighborhood school called Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School. It is a program for Eutaw-Marshburn students to help connect the summer vacation academically. The Soaring Eagles Learning Camp or SELC started in the summer of 2012. Through the years, the volunteer staff for SELC has stayed consistent and people come back year after year, from both near and far.
As I started the week with the group, it was made known, during opening worship, that there were a lot of anxious feelings from the group about being able to relate to the campers. I kept this in mind as we started our first day. As soon as the campers started to arrive, the youth instantly started to engage and get to know the campers. At the end of the first day, I knew it was going to be a good week at this camp. As the week continued on, I could see the relationships build between the campers and the Iowa group.
One of my favorite moments from the week happened on Wednesday. The camp went to Woodberry Crossing which is an outdoor educational facility. For the bus ride, we all had assigned seats. When one of the girls in my group found out she would be sitting with me, she said “I get to sit by you?” with a huge smile on her face. I told her yes and she gave me a huge hug. This made me feel so good to know that I had built a genuine relationship with her. By the end of Wednesday, I could see that every single one of them had embraced each of those campers and casted no judgement on them. I knew that Thursday would include some hard goodbyes from both the youth and the campers.
Thursday was a fun filled day with parents and family members but it was also filled with some sadness since it was the last day of camp. It was so beautiful see the family members interacting with their campers and talking with all the counselors. I could really feel the sense of community and relationships that this camp has built. As Thursday wrapped up, we were lead in a closing debrief/evaluation. We stood in a circle and each person shared something special from the week. It was such an impactful and joyful moment to hear what everyone had to say about the relationships that were made with the campers and each other.
This was a very meaningful and emotional week for me. As someone who is a teacher and loves being around children, there were so many moments that made my heart happy. I got to see the relationships that were built with the Iowa group and the campers. The relationships that were made impacted both the campers but also the Iowa group. They crossed boundaries and made those meaningful relationships we hope that every group can make. For me, seeing that be accomplished was beautiful. Thursday led to a lot of goodbyes that I wasn’t ready for. I said goodbye to some great campers who I grew to love. I also said goodbye to a group that I was really able to bond with and who I believe took a lot away from their experience here. However, I knew that this week made for a lot of heartwarming experiences and relationships. This week is what The Center is all about: crossing boundaries and making mission relational!