What Are Camp in the City Host Homes?
This year Camp in the City is bigger than ever! We’re hosting more campers and camp counselors than we ever have before. Camp counselors typically stay with GFCers during their time serving at GFC, and this year, May 25 – June 1, we’re looking for new families to host Pine Cove Counselors. We’ve asked a couple of our seasoned hosts to write about their experience hosting counselors to give you an idea of what it includes!
’Tis the Season! No, it’s not time for putting up the Christmas Tree, but there is something special we are counting down to at our house…Camp in the City is coming to town! For our family, that means Pine Cove counselors are hanging out with us for a week, and there is much to be done to prepare. The house gets spruced up, the beds get fresh linens, and the refrigerator gets fully stocked. It’s a big job but totally worth every bit of effort!
In 2013, my family hosted our first group of guys from Pine Cove and had an amazing experience! At the time, our son, Noah, was in camp and our 3 year old, Ethan, was too young to go and very disappointed about it. Looking back on that week, “Bama Jama” and “Storm Chaser,” as they were known at camp, stand out in my mind. After long days discipling the kids of our church and community, these guys would come into our home in the evenings and continue to pour out onto our sons what God had put inside of them. I found “Bama Jama” hanging out with Ethan building lego creations while weaving our Heavenly Father into their conversation, and “Storm Chaser” was always ready to wrestle and give piggie back rides. These guys brought camp home with them and made my little one feel like he got the whole experience, too. He excitedly awaited their arrival every evening and cried when they left for good. I remember teasing at church the following Sunday that we had all worn black because we were in mourning.
Each summer, the same opportunity to host has come, and we all chip in to make the experience a great one. Rather than have their Pine Cove “brothers” sleep on the floor, Noah and Ethan gladly give up their bedrooms and bunk together on air mattresses. They also become little detectives to find out what special treats and snacks each of the guys likes so that we can be sure to have the pantry and fridge full of goodies. It brings us so much joy to keep a ready supply of Annie’s Organic Gummy Bunnies on hand because one of our guys loves them; to make another run to Sam’s for Naked Smoothies and Gatorades since they seem to disappear every morning as the guys head out the door; to learn how to make homemade biscuits and gravy because it’s a comfort food for one of our new friends. Learning how to serve well has been a wonderful teaching opportunity for the little men at my house who are watching every summer.
As the years of camp have gone by, we are now preparing for our sixth group of Pine Cove Men, and I say men because they truly are men of God. They may be young, but their faith is strong, and their lives are grounded in the Word of God. My boys are not the only ones who get excited about camp week. My husband, Chad, and I have grown to love the experience as well but for very different reasons than the kids. The young men who show up at our doorstep each summer are influences that we intentionally put in the lives of our sons. Our boys look up to these guys and want to be like them, and we couldn’t ask for better role models. We’ve seen them play basketball in our cul-de-sac exhibiting good sportsmanship whether they win or lose. We’ve seen them join in board games with our family laughing and showing that you don’t always have to take yourself so seriously. We’ve seen them clear away the dishes from the dinner table sending the message that everybody can chip in to make the job go faster. We’ve seen them pile up their electronic devices on the kitchen counter before bedtime proving that no matter how old you are, you must be proactive against the temptations that are always lurking. As parents, we can discuss these issues until we are “blue in the face,” but seeing real men in action packs a bigger punch. As a mother of sons, I would commit to feeding these guys all summer long to get that kind of return on my investment!
An unexpected benefit of hosting that my husband and I have experienced has come during our late night conversations with the counselors long after our little boys have gone to bed. We believe that it is no coincidence which young men come into our home each summer. So many times we have found that they are struggling with some of the same issues we’ve already worked out during our education, with our families, in our marriage, and through our parenting. They come loaded with great questions, and although Chad and I have so far to go in our walks with Christ, we trust that the experiences we’ve had on our journeys give us unique insight. It has been a pleasure sharing that with these young men over the years. We believe that God has intentionally crossed our paths with some of them and hope that we never miss an opportunity to be used by Christ in their lives. The connections we make with them in a week have the potential to impact all of us for a lifetime.
This season of the year brings with it many things for many people…end of school, spring cleaning, and family vacations. I count it a privilege for our family to add Camp in the City to that list, and it wouldn’t be the same without their counselors in our home. We can’t wait for our Pine Cove family to show up!
Several years ago our grandson attended Camp in the City at GFC. As I drove him to church and saw all the fun equipment that Pine Cove Camp brought and heard the stories each day, I was so impressed. I loved that GFC was bringing the gospel here through a camping experience for our kids and also for the kids from Mountain View Elementary.
Last year we decided we wanted to help by hosting some of the counselors in our home. What a treat it was! We had no idea how much work those counselors and workers put into the preparation and details for the week. We learned that we were their first stop for camp but they had been in Florida training, praying, and fellowshipping before they arrived in Johnson City. They were well prepared and many were coming back for a second year. We could tell right away how much they loved what God had called them to be a part of.
We hosted four college aged girls that week. They were from Texas (our home state), N. Carolina, and Alabama. What a blessing. I was not sure what to expect but I can truly say that they were sweet, fun, respectful, and cleaned up after themselves! We enjoyed hearing their stories about their day and learning how we could pray for them and the kids. This really made us feel like we could share in what God was doing through this ministry at Grace Fellowship. We also got to know them personally and gained insight into their families, majors in school, how they came to their positions with Pine Cove, and what they hoped to do in the future. There were opportunities to fellowship over meals, play games, spend an evening with them at church, and attend their closing time.
As much as we enjoyed them, we had time during the day to rest and relax. During that time, they were hard at work with our grace kids and came home tired but enthused. Perhaps the most special night was when they invited us to join them in their nightly devotions. It was great to see God at work in the lives of these young people and their passion to love and serve Him through Pine Cove. They were wonderful examples of God’s grace for the children who attended that week.
Are we hosting again? Yes, and we hope many of you will also. The fun, memories, and getting to see God at work make it worth it.
Ned and Sue Evans
Currently we are in need of beds for 8 boys and 7 girl Pine Cove camp counselors. Please email Malia Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible if you are interested in hosting.