For the past two summers, I have loved going to FUGE camp located in the mountains of North Carolina. While thinking about my summer plans for this year, I felt like God had something different for me. I just didn’t know what His plans were at the time. After praying for a while, my cousin, who went to North Carolina Wesleyan College, called to tell me about a program she got an email about. I’m not the type of person who decides to do something quickly, 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. I’m excited to share my Youth Theology Institute experience with you!
The YTI was funded by a grant the college received. Its 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 classes. We then enjoyed supper and free time along with services and small groups.
On June 26, 2016 I walked onto 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 prayer walk in nature Sunday afternoon. We occasionally stopped along the route to have object lessons.
Bright and early Monday morning, 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 downtown and ministers through their thrift shop, church services, Bible studies, computer lab, food drives, and summer programs for children. The staff at Peace Makers explained that they “partner” with individuals and families. By saying partner, it’s a two-way relationship. Each person has something to offer to one another.
On Tuesday we learned how a pastor from Conetoe, North Carolina saw the needs of his community and took action in making a difference. The pastor discovered that the deaths of his friends and family members were related to genetic and health issues. The pastor now teaches valuable working skills to local young people. He also has a farm where he grows food for his community. Our friend reminded us that our bodies are God’s temples. Therefore, we should fill ourselves up with things that will be beneficial to our well-beings. We served this ministry by cleaning their Family Life Center, staining their porch, playing with local children, and helping on the farm.
We, the YTI members, all felt an outpouring of God’s presence Tuesday night. We experienced God’s presence in a strong way and prayed together. It was a very special experience I will always cherish.
Wednesday morning started off with a Vocational Ministries Panel. The panel consisted of around ten 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, and how they live out their faith through their vocations. Advice they could have told their younger selves was shared with us as well.
A few churches in Rocky Mount sponsored and hosted the Harlem Legends Worship Event. It was a fun time to serve the community through basketball. The Youth Theology Institute 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. They also provide free coffee and snacks.
We went to Oakmont Baptist Church on Thursday. Located in Greenville, we learned about Oakmont’s medical and housing ministry. We also had another panel.
I was talking with my counselor in her dorm room right after small group Thursday night. It was probably after 11:00, and she had to go get some campers from outside. Instead of bringing them back inside, my leader told me to come outside to watch something amazing happen. I found peers opening up, 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! Camp would not have been what it was without our prayer time in the gazebo!
We had our last panel with some men from Southeastern Bible College Friday morning. After that, we 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 goodbyes. North Carolina Wesleyan College felt like a second home to me, and I had bonded so deeply with the people I had met.
I’m so thankful for the opportunity I had to be apart of the Youth Theology Institute. The experience, meeting brothers and sisters in Christ, forming lasting friendships, and learning more about my calling greatly impacted my life.
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. The Youth Theology Institute will also have a reunion in February.
Pictures above were taken by Blakely Clark Rollins.