By Amanda McLearn-Montz
This past July, 12 people joined me in the hills of Maryland for the We Are Able workcamp. This annual Church of the Brethren program is for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and volunteers who serve as their assistants. The adults with disabilities and the assistants come together for four days to do service projects, fun recreational activities, and devotions. The workcamp is a time of building community and strengthening faith.
This year, our workcamp group served at the SERRV and Material Resources warehouse at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md. We priced fair trade products, sorted hygiene kits, and unloaded donations. Participants were given tasks that fit their abilities, and we all enjoyed serving together. While pricing products, we told jokes and made an efficient assembly line. We sang songs while we organized the hygiene kits and pondered where in the world the kits would go. The small group that unloaded donations chatted and laughed with the warehouse workers, and one participant said the unloading was his favorite part of the workcamp.
When our service shifts were over each day, we did different recreational activities. We went bowling, played games, and swam. One afternoon, we went to a state park where we hiked to a waterfall. The hike was harder for some of the participants, but we cheered each other on and all of us completed it. We celebrated finishing the hike with high fives, and then we swam in the lake. We concluded our park outing with a cookout next to the lakeshore. All of our fellowship time strengthened our community, and I loved seeing friendships form and deepen throughout our time together.
Whether we were doing service projects or recreational activities, everyone stayed positive and treated each other with kindness. One of the assistants, Nancy Gingrich, said she was impressed with the “can-do” attitude of the group. This was the first We Are Able Workcamp for her and her son, and they both loved their experience.
“I thought of two words that I didn't hear all week, ‘I can’t!’” Nancy told me. “No one had a negative thought that entire week. What a blessing!”
We hope you will consider being a part of this amazing workcamp in the future. Participants with intellectual or developmental disabilities must be 16 years of age or older, and assistants must be 18 years of age or older. For more information, contact the Workcamp Office at 847-429-4396 or email@example.com or visit www.brethren.org/workcamps . Dates for the 2017 We Are Able workcamp will be posted in the fall.
-- Amanda McLearn-Montz is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker and an assistant coordinator of the 2016 Workcamp Ministry of the Church of the Brethren.