For more than 30 years, I have been the Director of Camp Mechuwana. When I look back over those years, I often think of the thousands of youth and adults who have taken part in our programs and how their lives have been enriched because of this experience. Then I think about how we have been able to provide those experiences to so many people. The only way this miracle could and can happen is through the wonderful partnership we have had and continue to have with the local churches. This partnership has been the backbone of our ministry for 71 years.
That partnership has and continues to take on many forms including:
Promoting camp to their own church families by having Mechuwana Sundays that highlight our programs;
Providing scholarships to those families so that every child has an opportunity to attend;
Reaching outside its own walls into local communities to find children who need a week of camp and offering scholarships to families in need;
Providing the volunteers to run our programs. Almost all of our deans or program leaders, many of them clergy, come from our local churches. Their volunteer staffs come from those same churches. Each summer more than 200 adults give a week of their time to be in ministry with us. The deep dedication, the vast array of experiences that those volunteers bring to our program, cannot be measured;
Participating in our volunteer cleanup days to get camp ready in the spring and cleaned up in the fall;
Always answering the call when we need help with major projects and capital improvements; and
Lifting us up in your prayers.
The list goes on and on. This commitment to this partnership has created a tremendous feeling of ownership and loyalty to our ministry.
One of the most significant ways local churches have supported us is financially. The New England Annual Conferences budgets a substantial amount of funds to the camping ministry. It would be very hard for Mechuwana to survive without those funds. Many of our churches are smaller and struggling, which makes their financial support through mission shares even more impressive and something for which I am profoundly thankful.
So what has this partnership and commitment really meant? It has meant that when a social worker calls camp and asks, “Norm I have a little girl who really needs to be in a safe place where people will love her for a couple weeks but we are out of money, can you help?” we say “bring her over and we will make room for her, don’t worry about the money.”
Or offering 42 different camps each summer, including an adult special needs camp for 50 adults, music camps, athletic camps, creative arts camps, and so many more. We can only do this because of great volunteer leadership at each of those camps, with a team of volunteers to take care of the campers’ every need.
It means taking kids into our day camp program whose family cannot afford to provide lunch for them, so we provide it. And on many days, we provide transportation as well. It means never turning anyone away because of their ability to pay.
It has meant that a child who has never had the opportunity to have relationship with God now has one. Because of you, a place has been created where adults and youth can live out their faith by expressing God’s love to each other. This place simply could not exist without you. I thank God for you, the members of the local churches.