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Passport Camp Joins Us Downtown
Gathered in a circle around their leader, the youth undertook their own daily ritual in Green St. park as some of our beloved looked on from the playground and the tables. They spoke about where they had seen God in our own backyards and where they had felt the Spirit moving in our midst. I looked on with fascination as story after story rolled from their lips with quiet confidence that the God who loved them in their homes had already been on the move in this place so far away from all they knew. Then, one of these blessed teenagers said something that made me realize the long, busy, and humid week had been more than worth it: “I was surprised because the homeless people we met today weren’t mean or scary at all—they were pretty much just like me.”
Grace and Main Fellowship has had the wonderful privilege of working with teenagers from all around the nation over the last few weeks courtesy of Passport Camps. Passport is a Christian and non-denominational summer camp company “whose goal is to work for integrated, ecumenical, inspirational weeks of summer camp that model important lessons like service in the name of Christ.” This summer, Passport came to our local Averett University for three separate camps of one week in length. Every camper who attended Passport at Averett University this summer was assigned to one of a variety of mission projects and commitments. Grace and Main offered an opportunity for youth to participate in our weekly service and relationship-building in Danville.
Each week, from Tuesday through Friday, teenagers from Passport met us in Green St. park around noon. They came with energy, enthusiasm, and containers full of basketballs, bubbles, Frisbees, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk. Half of the group stayed in the park with some of our leaders and adult chaperones from Passport, while the other half did something a little different every day. Members of the two different groups changed every day so that all students could have an opportunity not only to play with children in the park, but also to meet and love our homeless and near-homeless brothers and sisters.
On Tuesdays, they worked together to assemble and sew cloth bags to carry lunches for our beloved with whom we eat and visit on our Roving Feasts. These bags are in such constant demand that we are always thrilled to have more. On Wednesdays, groups of students made hundreds of sandwiches and lunches and packed them into the cloth bags made on the previous day before storing them in the refrigerator space loaned to Grace and Main by Ascension Lutheran Church(maybe your congregation has space they could lend to us for storage as well?). On Thursdays and Fridays, the students packed up these lunches in the bags they had made and went in two groups on our “Roving Feasts” to have lunch with our beloved wherever they might be taking shelter from the heat.
Their mission site leader, and Bible Study Leader, Kyle Alexander told us: “my campers have had nothing but positive responses to becoming a part of such an amazing community of people. The work you all have started is truly inspiring.” Scott Ford, Operations Coordinator for Passport Camps, said, “I’m delighted that Passport campers could assist with the ministry of Grace & Main, and I know that you all have deeply impacted those who worked alongside you during three weeks of camp. Your example and approach to following Christ in community is something I hope our campers will take with them to their respective homes across the southeast and beyond.”
As each group departed us on Friday, they were brimming over with questions about how we do what we do and what our community is like. Their interests were piqued by the way that our little band is following after the Spirit and their passions were ignited by being a part of a ministry that is so much bigger than any one of us. We told them all about our many supporters who make it possible for us to do what we do, and as they left, we told them, “What makes all of this different is that you didn’t come here to do a one-time project for somebody’s benefit. Instead, you joined with a community of mission that was serving before you came and will be serving long after you go. What you’ve done doesn’t die as soon as you leave. No, it will grow and flourish and be tended by our community—your week in our midst has been a blessing to us, may it be a blessing to you as well. Go in peace as honorary members of Grace and Main, for this last week that’s what you’ve been.”