The 2018 Urban Hope Summer Camp was a summer camp for the ages! Even though this will be our last camp, we held no punches and went out with a bang. Sure, we kept some of the traditional activities but we also experimented with a lot of first time things as well. To kick it off, check out the hip hop elective’s first ever Urban Hope Summer Camp music video shot for a song they recorded called, “We Got It Now.” The trio includes camper, Tyler Lee-Thaxton aka Young Ty aka DJ Khi, longtime summer camp staff, Destin Johnson aka Spade, and Urban Hope director, Brandon Hudson aka namuh stay.
God’s Girl: Take Time to be a Daughter Today
This summer, we had our first ever Girls’ Week. I started planning for Girls’ Week months in advance, but I wasn’t sure what the theme would be. Until I was driving one day and saw a billboard that read “Take Time to be a Father today.” The picture was a father lifting his daughter up into the air and I immediately thought to myself, “take time to be a daughter today.” What would it look like if I intentionally took time today to be a daughter of my heavenly father? What if I decided to trust him and cast my cares and anxieties on him? That became the theme of the week: God’s Girl—Take Time to be a Daughter Today. We started the week off taking about what it means that God is our father. The girls didn’t have much to say. The majority of them said they didn’t know what it meant that God is our Father. Here was a profound truth of our faith that the girls were missing an understanding on. I couldn’t wait for them to hear and learn how God sees them and the role he wants to play in their lives. We followed the discussion up with letters from God. Each girl was given a personal letter written from God to them. It included scriptures about his love and care for them as well as his knowledge for them. One of the camper’s letter from God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” I asked her how it made her feel to know God feels that way about her. She said, “It feels really great to have someone in my life who will never leave me.” “Did you know that already,” I asked her? “No, I didn’t” she responded.
Each day had a different focus dealing with some characteristic of God as our father. We learned that God knows us (Psalm 139), that his love is unconditional, and that he tells us not to be anxious (Matthew 6:25-34). Finally, we looked at what it means to love God back. One thing I wanted to do with Girls’ Week was create a space where the girls could just be kids. Where they could be goofy, have fun and not feel like they have to be anything else but a child who is loved by God. I fear that as young ladies we are told we have to grow up and become women too quickly and we miss out on some of the pleasure of just being kids. I wanted the girls to know that, for God, they don’t have to be grown, they don’t have to have it all together. Seeing the girls outside playing and running around was the best thing in the world. We played Fear Factor and got all messy and they loved it. We had a piñata and for those moments we were all young again. Unhindered by the expectations of others, we were free to be. One of the adult leaders told me during our debrief session that we did things that week that she never did growing up and that she loved it. I loved being able to share those moments with the girls. We went on a mall scavenger hunt. There were 12 girls and three adults split up into groups. We had a ball going through the store and taking pictures of all the listed items we could find. As I walked around watching the groups explore, I felt joy in my heart seeing God’s people together playing.
Girls’ Week was where I believe I was most used by God during the summer. All of us need God to heal wounds in our hearts, especially me. As I watched God bring truth to the ladies, he was reminding me that he is the master Artist. That he knows what he is doing in our lives and he is making all things new.
Here is a poem I wrote during our painting session with fellow camp counselor, Jennifer. The focus of that day was that God knows us and as we painted flowers we were encouraged to think about how we are God’s flower—beautifully and wonderfully made.
Paint my Darling
Sometimes we go through life not wanting to do anything because we are afraid we’ll mess up.
As I paint my flower, I think of that,
Each stroke a reminder to me that I can’t erase it.
That what I create won’t be beautiful.
So, I don’t want to paint it
I’d rather it be bear than have mistakes on it.
My life is the same.
At times I’d rather not live than live and have a life that’s not perfect.
How can I know what colors will go right with each other?
What choices will make my life beautiful?
Slowly I pick up my brush and paint,
Reminded that beauty is the one holding the pen.
She gets to decide what is beauty
She gets to say what is right and what is wrong
But more importantly, there is one standing behind her
Looking at her life, her painting
And stitching it all together for a masterpiece…
She will be a masterpiece even if she can’t feel it
She will be a masterpiece because she is loved and known and cared for
She is loved
Paint my sweetheart
Paint my darling
Don’t let fear keep your hand still
Live my sweet heart
Live my darling
Don’t let fear keep your life still
You are loved
-Marchelle Huggins is a student at Bowie State University studying sociology. She spent four summers at Urban Hope and made an indelible impact. Her compassion, creativity and love for community will forever be with us.
Overcoming the Darkness at Camp Durant
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”-John 1:5
Quickly, the boys ran into their tents, knowing that darkness had come. All day long, they had prepared for this moment because they refused to underestimate their adversary a second time. Flawlessly, they put their plan into motion. One boy served as a lookout, while the other boys stealthily moved their cots into other tents. This time, they were prepared for the darkness.
“Turn your light on,” one boy cried out!
“It is on,” the other boy whispered back!
Relentlessly, their foe summoned legions of fear, suffering, and isolation. Mere flashlights could not vanquish them.
With flashlights in hand, the boys blindly navigated the darkness, until every tent was rearranged. New tent communities had been built. Although all of their flashlights had died, the boys could finally see. They had overcome the darkness.
-Xavier Adams is a second year student at Duke Divinity School who loves to teach, mentor, and develop young people. He hopes to combine his theological studies with a Master of Arts in Teaching so that he can invest in the lives of students as a teacher. As a former Boy Scout himself, Xavier played a critical role in making our time at Camp Durant adventurous and meaningful.
A Walltown Youth PSA: Lift Weights. Live Healthy.
This summer with my weightlifters was one I’ll always remember. Though it was my second year as a camp counselor, this was my first time planning and leading an elective. From previous experience, I thought I would only get about two or three kids but I ended up with six! My initial plan of teaching about the importance of safety in the weight room paled in comparison to the kinds of holistic health discussions we had by the end. We explored muscle groups, proper dieting, exercise, and more. As the summer came to an end, and each elective started preparing to perform at the summer camp banquet, weightlifting was always naturally left out. But with just a little brainstorming, we decided to record a video highlighting everything we learned over the summer. The kids enjoyed recording the movie and finally seeing their finished products on the big screen (check it out for yourself). I’ll be forever grateful for the time we had together.
-Jimaune Williams is a student at UNC-Charlotte studying business and marketing. This was his second year as a summer camp counselor. He brought a great deal of energy and experience to the role allowing the kids to connect with the content and concepts he wanted to instill in them.
The Power of Working Together
In past summers, Urban Hope has taken overnight trips to Camp New Hope in Hillsborough, NC. This year, in lieu of Camp New Hope, we took the boys on a week long trip to Camp Durant, a Boy Scouts camp in Carthage, NC. As newly formed Troop 404, we embarked on a 6-day, 5-night journey into the unknown. During our trip, the guys were tasked with a community service project that was meant to leave our mark on Camp Durant even though we were a new troop. We decided to clean the pavilion near our campsite. This pavilion had been out of commission for over 5 years and spider webs, beehives, mounds of dirt, and debris were everywhere. The task seemed tall to say the least. The kids had been struggling the whole week with fighting among themselves and adjusting to new surroundings. I honestly questioned if we could even get the project done. Just when I doubted our abilities, God reminded me of his power. The boys worked together and their senior patrol leader, Jaheim, delegated roles for each of them to fill. They accepted their roles and exceeded in their duties. The pavilion went from an abandoned eye sore on the face of the beautiful campsite, back to the remarkable wonder it once was (check out the photos of our finished product). God showed the boys and myself the power we have when everyone is on one accord. When we work together, there is nothing we cannot do!
-Stephen Melvin, Jr. is a student at North Carolina A&T State University studying accounting. Although this was his first summer as a camp counselor, Steve is no stranger to Urban Hope. He was a camper himself for several years, worked as a counselor-in-training in high school and has continued to remain active with us since graduating from high school.
A Look Back Over the Years
I started working with Urban Hope when I was 18 years old. I had no clue what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to work with youth. I didn’t know how I would execute “raising up generations of young heroes” when Bahari, the director at the time, shared the mission statement at our counselor orientation. As the summer continued, I began to find my footing. Quickly, I developed a strong relationship with the young ladies in the summer camp. In my first “Single Gender Devotion,” I had about 5 girls. I took them outside, stretched a blanket out under a nice tree beside the church and we all sat down. I handed out journals to each girl. Each journal, a different color, matching what I thought would fit their personalities. During that time, there was an energy of transparency and openness. We shared stories, talked about the beauty of God’s creation, and how powerful they were as young women. Walking away from that session, made me feel so empowered, and fulfilled. In that very moment, I felt that God had placed me right where I needed to be. We continued a pen pal system throughout the summer, writing in our journals to one another, and using the freedom of words to express how we felt. I discovered my affinity for working in the community, especially when it came to help build confidence in female youth. In the summers to come, I combined my two passions and started teaching dance during camp electives. My devotion to working with young girls, has lead me to work in many facets over the years in and outside of Urban Hope. I focus on empowering and uplifting the girls, inspiring them to be who they are, unapologetically. Helping them to express themselves through their God given gifts. You meet the child where they are, and speak life to their gifts. This enables them to believe in what was already there. I will continue to operate in my passion for working in community and pouring into young women. I believe through love and service God has and will continue to use me to do great things.
-Jennifer Jones is a student at North Carolina Central University studying social work. Since 2008, she has served on our summer camp staff eight times. For the last six years, she has served as an academic coach at our Walltown Aspiring Youth after school program. This fall, Jennifer is one of three young adult leaders who will be stepping up to lead Urban Hope in its next phase of ministry in Walltown.