Mother Teresa’s words, “We can do no great things; only small things with great love,” echoed at National Youth Conference and have been chosen to provide the inspiration for next summer’s Church of the Brethren workcamps.
Workcamps offer week-long service opportunities across the US and Central America for junior high youth, senior high youth, and young adults. Held in the months of June, July, and August, the workcamp program of the Church of the Brethren General Board provides experiences that unite service, spiritual growth, and Brethren heritage.
The theme for 2007 draws on the scripture passage, “For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Corinthians 9:10). Workcamps will be offered in 35 new and revisited locations such as new sites in Kansas City, Kan., Camp Wilbur Stover in New Meadows, Idaho, and Reynosa, Mexico, and past favorites such as St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. Six junior high workcamps, 20 senior high workcamps, one combined junior and senior high workcamp, three intergenerational workcamps, two young adult workcamps, and two combined senior high and adult workcamps will be offered.
The program hopes to draw on the excitement generated at National Youth Conference said Amy Rhodes, an assistant workcamp coordinator and Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker. “I think of it as an opportunity for the youth to find out what ‘Come and see’ (the NYC theme) is all about,” she said. At NYC the youth of the denomination “were told, ‘We are the people we’ve been waiting for,’” she said, “and workcamps are opportunities to prove that.”
“Workcamps bring youth together to give a week of service, to go outside of their own hometown and into another community to follow Jesus’ teaching of ‘go and serve,’” said Travis Beam, also an assistant workcamp coordinator through BVS.
The workcamp program organized by the board’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries began in 1988. The number of participants has grown from 46 in 1988 to 622 in 2005. Recognizing this growing interest, the General Board has responded with plans for expansion. Primary changes in the workcamp program are the addition of positions in the office including a fulltime staff member working as coordinator and additional BVS positions. Steve Van Houten is serving as coordinator, and Beam, Rhodes, and Rachel McFadden are assistant coordinators for the year. The new positions support the growth of the program and the greater number of workcamps that are being offered.
The General Board also has outlined several ways of broadening the workcamp program in the coming years, such as offering workcamps during spring break and January term for young adults, in conjunction with the Brethren colleges; providing workcamp opportunities for adults in Sunday school classes and other groups, especially during non-summer seasons; and creating intergenerational workcamps and family workcamps.
Van Houten emphasized that workcampers must anticipate learning as much as they commit to serving. “We learn as much from the people at these places as we share with them,” he said. “We’re joining together and walking alongside the people in the communities.”
Online registration begins Jan. 3, 2007, go to www.brethren.org/genbd/yya/workcamps/index.html. For a brochure listing sites and dates of workcamps or for more information contact Amy Rhodes, Rachel McFadden, Travis Beam, or Steve Van Houten at 800-323-8039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.