Each summer, youth groups, Moravian and otherwise, have the opportunity to travel up the mountain to Laurel Ridge in North Carolina to attend weeklong mission camps and learn what it means to be a servant. The youth groups and the adults who accompany them serve at worksites and attend program times throughout the week. This year I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend Mission Camp 4 to help Bishop Sam Gray with program.
Program for the 2018 mission camps focused on the story of the Good Samaritan as well as the beloved Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood). In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) a lawyer asks Jesus “Who ismy neighbor?” We flipped this question on its head and discussed what it means to be a neighbor to others. Each day we concentrated on a different character in Jesus’ parable and looked at the story from that person’s perspective. I was so impressed with the campers’ willingness to share personal experiences and their ability to see connections between their lives today and a story from thousands of years ago. It was moving to hear about some of what they’ve experienced, especially the ways that they are already being good neighbors.
Each day the campers had an opportunity to live out the messages from program by serving community members. Most of the groups worked at private homes, doing work like painting, weeding, and other things that the homeowners were unable to do themselves. One group painted the inside of a new home, which was to be called Safe Haven and opened as a home for single mothers. Another group had the chance to visit Ebenezer Christian Home for Children, which is an organization that takes in foster children. Some of the groups grew close with the homeowners whom they volunteered for and shared life-changing moments with them. When we talked about being a good neighbor, it was wonderful to hear the campers say that they were being good neighbors by volunteering, but it was even more touching to hear them talk about the many ways in which those they volunteered for were being good neighbors to others, too. The homeowners were invited for dinner at Laurel Ridge on Friday night, which was an incredible opportunity to see the relationships that had been built in just one short week.
Everything we did throughout the week was magnified by the beauty of Laurel Ridge Camp and the hard work of the staff there. It was such a blessing to be welcomed into the community and to have an opportunity to witness a new camping experience. I am so grateful to all of the Laurel Ridge staff and those who led program throughout the summer for being committed to supporting missions in this important way. This one-week camp was some campers’ first experience with missions, but many of them will continue to grow into a life of service. What a joy to witness!