2011 Summer Overview
2011 Bel-Aire Summer Camp Summary
For almost 25 years we have been involved with ministry for inner-city kids… which involves extra activities when the kids are out of school for the summer. The extent of ministry each summer really depends on resources and time available and for several years those activities have been trimmed back due to the results of the economy. As the 2011 summer approached I wanted to do more for the kids in Bel-Aire living around our house in that neighborhood. With little thought or means as to how to make that happen, here is an overview of what God did.
· It began with a comment to Sarah Stalnaker at a Clemson game asking her to pray about being a summer intern with our ministry. Sarah is a rising junior at Clemson majoring in Elementary Education and has a desire to teach in an inner-city school. She also worked several years with Child Evangelism along with our daughter Kaitlin who we hoped would also be a summer intern.
· After a few months Sarah called and shared her feelings that God was leading her to work with us for the summer and she joined us in prayer for three more interns to have a team of two girls and two guys… with the guys living at our Bel-Aire mission house.
· Soon Andy Grinner, who had also worked with Child Evangelism for 4 (or 5) years, expressed his desire to work with us for the summer and was shortly followed by Daniel Ross who we also had known for several years. Both were mature Christian leaders among their peers. Kaitlin was lead to a summer camp in California for the summer so we needed one more intern.
· Our ministry friends at Diligent Hands and Gracious Hearts (Elis Beddingfield and Todd Wilklow) had extra work crews coming to Greenville for the months of June and July through MFUGE Ministry and offered those crews to us for the summer. This represented about 3,000 man hours of free labor for Bel-Aire and hard to turn down. One intern, Daniel Ross had grown up around construction and it seemed like a good fit and thus the doors opened for some community development activities in Bel-Aire everyday Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 to 1:30… still allowing Daniel to work part time with the kids. All we needed was extra funds to cover tools and materials, a big “If”.
· Radius Church had one of their summer interns (Courtney McEniry) contact me about doing a drama program with the inner-city kids and through several conversations with Sarah worked out a partnership where our youth would be in a drama program three days a week with Courtney and her co-worker Laura Estep.
· Through a source that Courtney knew about, a group came forward offering to feed the kids (for free) breakfast, lunch and a snack all summer long and through another contact put Sarah in touch with GOAT Ministries who offered to take our kids river rafting.
· Several drives to Clemson for planning meetings revealed that the summer was well on its way and we were just watching God open doors revealing He had great plans for the summer. As the summer planning progressed it would become obvious that the success of the summer would result from the maturity and hearts of the interns God brought. Their ideas and plans revealed experience and leadership and they took the ball and ran with it… taking a great burden off Linda and I.
· Sarah’s organizational skills were revealed early as many things like the drama program and feeding the kids were being nailed down before she even got of school… and she needed little assistance getting things done all summer.
· After Clemson was out, the interns had a week of vacation… then a week of planning before the inner-city kids were out of school. They planned the daily routine of picking kids up at 9:00am and taking them home at 4:00pm and chose to give up their only break of the day (Lunch time) so that the kids could get the nutrition from the lunches that were being provided.
· By the summers start, God had brought us three amazing interns who were extremely spiritually mature for their age, had proven leadership skills, and caring hearts for inner-city kids. But with Daniel working half time with work crews coming in, we were concerned about being short handed. A friend of Sarah’s (Josh Franke) could not find a summer job and started coming everyday to volunteer his time, being the extra help that was much needed. As the summer unfolded there were many days that could not have happened had Josh not been available and his love for the kids pulled him back day after day.
· We tried to have at least one major outing each week (Hiking, swimming, camping, etc). Ruth Clayton, one of our volunteers did a great job of getting us tickets to various venues. The summer activities included, but not limited to, Hiking at Paris Mtn, camping at Table Rock, swimming and water falls, cookouts, movie outings, Japanese Steak House, the zoo, river rafting, Greenville Drive game, making cookies, daily games and free times, drama class, restaurants, video games, art, basketball, kick ball, etc. All to say it was an active summer for kids who otherwise would be on the streets all day with nothing much to do.
· We also had devotions every day and all the activities centered on the biblical principles that were being taught. Towards the end of the summer, it became obvious that devotions and related discussions were more effective in small groups so we split the group up. My group called themselves “Westside Six”… designed their own tee-shirts with our mission (“Seeking God’s gift”) on the back. I have much regret that we did not start the small groups earlier.
· Thank you to Long Branch Baptist Church for donating their facility for the weekly drama classes and also feeding the kids while there were there.
· Thank you to long time friend Scott Stephens with the Harvest Hope Food Bank for donating many food items for the kids and cookouts this summer. Their aid to our ministry was a great blessing.
· A special thanks is also needed to David and Laura Watson whose encouragement and financial support for our ministry made a big difference this summer and have allowed God to use them in many ways in the Bel-Aire community.
· The work was extremely hard, but I never saw the interns waiver and one of the Bel-Aire moms told me that even the kids appreciated about how patient the interns were and how quickly they handled the discipline problems. Evidence that the inner-city kids were seeing the fruits of the Spirit and that they were responding to it.
· As to work crews, we had volunteers from over 16 different states come to minister with us in Bel-Aire this year. Many residents were encouraged by the work that was performed in their yards or on their streets.
· The Bel-Aire Community Garden was started on a vacant lot we cleared and we have great hopes that this site will be a great encouragement to the community and work groups that partner with us to continue to make the garden a reality.
· Time with many of these kids always reveals the need for extended time and concentrated effort to address the lack of discipline and manners that society will require… yet are lacking in some kids. Talks began about transitioning our “Summer Camp”… to the “Bel-Aire Academy” with the mission statement of ‘”To Christ… To College… To Community” working year around with kids in our program.
· Small groups met every Monday from 1:30 to around 3:00pm and we decided that next summer we would start small groups the first week and try to assign one mentor to each kid to meet for one-on-one discipleship and for conversations about Bible lessons being taught. I wish we had started small groups earlier and I loved my group.
· On July 30th we had our 4th Annual Bel-Aire Yard sale where we take donated goods from the suburbs and sale them for a quarter. Kids in the youth group had $20.00 coupons to shop with and had a BLAST. It is always a great encouragement to me to see our Bel-Aire friends get blessed with many needed items to make their lives better. We estimate that over 7,000 items passed from the suburbs to Bel-Aire residence this year. The heat caused a lower turnout and we will plan this event for later in the fall going forward. [Thank you to Mobile Attack for donating storage units].
· At the yard sale, I had numerous Bel-Aire residence come up to me and thank us for the yard work that was done around the community. Evidence we had had a great impact on the community. In my opinion, nothing better opens the doors for evangelism in Bel-Aire than the workdays we do making the community a better place to live.
· The last week the youth put on a play called, “A Day in Our Lives” that they actually wrote and produced themselves during their weekly drama class. A great support crowd came from Radius church and friends and family of the interns and kids to support the kids and the night was a lot of fun. Each kid got roses from Radius volunteers and the kids were encouraged by the support given for an honest program about the reality of their lives.
· The summer ended by us taking the four interns out to dinner to show our appreciation for all the hard work they put into the summer program. I came to love each intern and could not be more proud of them. They were the success of the summer program and it was a great joy seeing them pour themselves into our Bel-Aire youth. If we could have had better interns… I fail to see how as they exceeded my every expectation.
· When the summer was over, volunteers from CREA came and donated labor to rebuild our deck at the mission house. We bought the material because we could not find a donor for that… but it was much needed and looks great.
· In hindsight, if we had known that Josh was going to be available all summer we could have helped him send out support letters for him to raise his support like the other interns. But summer was almost over before I realized he was working full time with us. He was an answer to prayer and I am convinced that God closed the doors on his job search so he could work with us. Believing that, how would it be fair to have four interns and only three get paid? I therefore will be seeking to raise money to pay him for donating his time with us. He too is in college and I am sure could use the money and I feel that to pay him something is only fair.
· Cost: The activities of the summer are over, but the cost has not yet been covered. We are sending out support letters during August and September to raise remaining monies needed.
· Going Forward:
Ø There are meetings and conversations taking place discussing the possibility of creating the Bel-Aire Academy with its goal to bring these kids To Christ… To College… To Community. It would take a community effort to make this a reality, but if God is willing we are ready.
Ø We are planning for next summer which will contain daily classroom lectures and homework assignments focusing on 11 major areas of life that these kids will need to be successful… such as respect, thankfulness, personal hygiene, community, etc. The daily devotions and recreational activities will be centered on each week’s topic and each week will build on the next.
Ø Small groups will be established the first day, and mentors will be assigned to each kid for one-on-one discipleship and to address individual needs.
Ø Conversations and meeting are also taking place to partner with a local church to provide ongoing mentors for the kids year around.
In Conclusion: Over 150 people or organizations gave in one way or another to make the 2011 Summer Camp possible and there would have been a void had any of them not participated. We cannot thank you enough for being involved and allowing God to use you to accomplish His will in Bel-Aire. We are humbled to be a small part.
I say it all the time… but being a ministry made up of 100% volunteers means that nothing happens unless someone gets involved to make it happen. There is much to do and the door is open for you to make a difference. As always, we desire to learn from our mistakes and make each year better then the last. Your prayers for all the above will be much appreciated.
Bridging the Gap,
Ps. if you read this, we would appreciate you letting us know by shooting a quick response.