For the past two summers, I have loved going to FUGE camps located in the mountains of North Carolina. When thinking about my summer plans for this year, I felt like God had something different for me. I just didn’t know what that was at the time. After praying for a while, my cousin, who went to North Carolina Wesleyan College, called to tell me about a program/camp she got an email about. I’m not the type of person to decide quickly to do something, but I had a special peace about being apart of this new program as soon as I heard about it.
It has now been a week and two days since I left North Carolina Wesleyan College Youth Theology Institute, and I’m excited to share my experience with you!
The YTI was funded by a grant the college received, and it’s purpose is to provide rising tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade high school students the time, place, and tools to discern God’s calling upon their lives. Each day we traveled to a place or ministry where we served, came back to campus for lunch, and had three hours of class. We then enjoyed supper and free time along with service, fellowship, and small groups.
On June 26, 2016 I walked on a college campus for the very first time, and got settled into a dorm room that would be my home for a week. Sunday was a day of new beginnings and the start of new friendships. There was a total of 40 students, five counselors, three teachers, and one director. We all went on a nature/prayer walk that afternoon where we occasionally stopped to have object lessons.
Monday morning, bright and early, we helped with a community homeless breakfast in Rocky Mount. What stood out to me there was that the people didn’t come just to be served. They felt at home, loved, and were being fed both physically and spiritually. Also, the men participated in cleaning up.
After the breakfast, we went to Peace Makers in Rocky Mount. Peace Makers is located down town and serves many different purposes including: the thrift shop, church services, Bible studies, the computer lab, food drives, and summer programs for children. Their staff explained that they “partner” with the individuals and families. By saying partner, it’s a two way relationship. They each have something to give to one another.Tuesday we learned how a pastor from Conetoe, North Carolina saw the needs of his community and took action in making a difference. Family members and friends had been dying suddenly, and he discovered that the causes were genetic and health issues. The pastor now teaches the youth valuable working skills along with how to be healthy, and has a farm where he grows food for his community. He reminded us that we should fill ourselves with things that will be beneficial to our health because we are God’s temples. We served this ministry by cleaning their Family Life Center, staining their porch, playing with the children, and helping on the farm.
The YTI members all felt an outpouring of God’s presence Tuesday night after our service when two of our pastors prayed with us individually. Students were experiencing God’s presence in a strong way, and we were all praying together. It was a very special night.
Wednesday morning started off with a Vocational Ministries Panel. The panel consisted of around 10 adult believers from different vocations. This was one of my favorite parts of YTI. The panel talked about their backgrounds, how God changed and called them, how they live out their faith through their vocations, and also told us things they wish they would have known as teenagers.
A few churches in Rocky Mount sponsored and hosted the Harlem Legends Worship Event which was a fun time to serve the community through basketball. The YTI was able to help with this event by registering and greeting guests, handing out water bottles, and cleaning up after the event was over.
After a busy day, The Outpost in Rocky Mount welcomed us into their ministry for a night full of fellowship, fun, friends, team chant battles, and snacks. The Outpost offers a safe and loving environment for NCWC students to study, and enjoy free coffee and snacks.
Thursday we went to Oakmont Baptist Church in Greenville where we learned about their medical and housing ministry, and had another panel. Camp wouldn’t of been what it was without our prayer time at the gazebo back on campus that night. I was talking with my counselor in our dorms right after small group (it was probably after 11:00) and she had to go get some campers from outside. Instead of bringing campers back inside, she told us to come outside because something amazing was happening. We found peers opening and sharing their hearts, being real and honest about their struggles, and rededicating their lives to Christ. It was something amazing to be apart of and experience! Security eventually told us we had to stop and go inside because it was so late and people were trying to sleep!
Friday morning we had our last panel with some men from Southeastern Bible College, and then packed up to go home. We ended YTI 2016 with a luncheon, and a few speakers. I was honestly in tears (really trying to hold them back) as I was saying good-byes. North Carolina Wesleyan College had come to feel like a second home, and I had bonded so deeply with the people I had met.
Although camp for this year is over, YTI is not. Each student has been placed with a mentor to grow and serve with for the next year, and YTI will have a reunion in February.
Pictures above were taken by Blakely Clark Rollins.