Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Camp Outreach - A Success!

We just completed our 2011 Camp Outreach Indiana. 85 volunteers from 10 states converged on Indianapolis the week of July 11-16 to put authentic Christian values into practice. Our work had three main thrusts: projects that help rehab houses where there was a legitimate need for widows, the elderly, orphans, fatherless and the poor; teach Jesus Christ to children in the neighborhood and  lives and put our Christian faith into practice.

While the numbers don't begin to tell the whole story, they do reveal a little about how hard everyone worked. In the projects side we worked on 12 properties. In one house where a widow was taking care of her widowed mother, had a child with cerebral palsy and was raising three other children we:
  • Replaced her kitchen cabinets, countertops, rewired two kitchen lights and painted;
  • Repaired her bathtub, tiled her bathroom floor, brought in a new vanity, installed a new door and casing, painted the bathroom and reset her wobbly toilet;
  • Installed four bedroom doors and two closet doors. (There were no bedroom doors before);
  • Installed wainscotting to protect the sheet rock walls from damage by the wheel chairs;
  • Repainted the entire interior of the house;
  • Replaced all the outlets and switches and repaired electrical circuits. (We found there had been a bad short in one of the outlets that coud have caused a catastrophic fire);
  • Hauled away all the debris.
There were 11 more projects sites, including repainting the interior of a woman who is raising three young boys by herself; tearing out a crumbling porch and pouring 5 yards of concrete to fix the porch, the steps and the steps to another home; repairing gutters; purchased and spread 10 tons of dirt to cover a yard where lead in the soil was causing the child to test at dangerous lead levels; helped a woman who has multiple family members living with her while they search for work to sheet rock walls plaster walls that had air blowing through them; cut down the head-high grass and weeds on an abandoned property; filled a trench that had been left in a yard; tore off and roofed part of a house where there was a severe water leak and tore out dead bushes and scraped and painted a garage for an older couple suffering from COPD.

As good as the projects were, the children's program was equally a success. We had 70-75 children each day in our vacation Bible school based on the "Hometown Nazareth" program. Last year we had 30-60 each day and the previoius year was 22-35 each day. One lady pushed a stroller and walked with her young children a mile and a half each way to make sure her kids were part of the First Outreach program.

We also fed breakfast and lunch to all the children, some of their parents and to all 85 of our workers. Bob and Brenda Howard and the kitchen crew had a busy and appreciated ministry!

The "Hometown Nazareth" program was an enormous help. The children were divided into 8 tribes - each named after one of the tribes of Israel. Stephanie Smith played the role of Mary and told a story each day about Jesus when he was a boy. The story would relate to the children and everything was Biblically sound. (Even the story of the birth of Jesus had the kings coming later - as the Bible actually teaches.) When we talked about the name of Jesus we showed the children what their names meant. That was an eye opening event for many of them. When we talked about Jesus having a home we related it to them having a home ... it was very effective.

Jeanie Hinds would lead them in singing some rousing songs. Then the "tribes" would go to the market place which was located at the Common Ground Ministry House just a block away. There some of our volunteers played the role of capenters, bread bakers, synagogue leaders, quarry men, bead makers, etc. Some were believers in Jesus, some had doubts. (Remember what was said about Jesus not performing may miracles in Nazareth because of their lack of belief? Matthew 13:57-58)

My wife, Jennifer, played "Eunice." Eunice was a busy body who didn't believe that Jesus was what Mary thought. I wasn't sure how the children would react to someone play acting that they had doubts. Jennifer must have been a good actress - one little girl came up repeatedly and tried to assure Jennifer that Jesus really was the son of God. Toward the end of the week Eunice became more convinced that Mary was right.

In the tribe "huddles" they would discuss Jesus and what some of the doubting neighbors or Nazareth shopkeepers said or those who had open minds. In defending their faith, even the younger children seemed to become more convicted of their beliefs. I am reminded of a youth congress we had years ago. I found that young perople were examining and defending their faith in school at a much earlier age than I imagined.

It was very successful. The dramatic increase in attendance attested to the popularity of the program. Of course, not every child was there every day. We are still going through our attendance lists - 120 young people were registered and we estimate that about 100 or more children attended at least one day of the vacation Bible school.

People ask, "Why do we do this?" I am sure every volunteer has their own reasons. We do it for four reasons:
  1. We want to follow what Jesus taught and what Jesus did. Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, caring for the poor, teaching the ways of life that turn us into a blessing to others and breaking the bondage and curses that come from sin are important to Jesus. Because they are important to him, they are important to us.
  2. We want to follow the leading of the Spirit of God and this is what we think we should be doing.
  3. We really, deeply, enjoy helping our neighbors and their children. Make no mistake - while there are many loveable neighbors, there are some that are not so loveable. But learning how to show them love in practical ways changes us. Showing them that God and Jesus are interested in their lives can help change them.
  4. We want to learn how to become more effective in evangelism. Evangelism to us means connecting people to the real, authentic Jesus and our Father in heaven. If we are going to talk about the love of God, we think we should be showing the love of God. Camp Outreach has become a learning tool for us locally and for congregations across the country.
Thanks to all the volunteers and donors who helped make this year's Camp Outreach a success. With our growth, we feel that next year we plan to make changes. We've outgrown our local resources to manage everything that is being done so we are going to ask for help. With so many young people coming, we want to ask adults to do more in mentoring job skills (like how to paint properly, tape drywall, etc.), mentoring in life skills and in the faith, and jobsite management.

If you have comments or are interested in being a part of this effort, give me a call or shoot me an email.

Until later,


Guy Swenson
Common Ground Christian Ministries