Jazmine was a young lady who came to the Marietta Adventist Church as part of the MAC day camp program. Her aunt was looking for a program that could benefit her niece and nephew and give them a positive outlet for the summer, and MAC Camp gave them that opportunity. MAC was originally intended to support local church families, and had many elements of a traditional residential church camp.
One of the primary goals was to give campers a chance to experience things they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience. Trips to the local pool, indoor climbing gym, ceramics painting centers, and Lake Allatoona, provided campers with the chance to experience rock climbing, swimming, tubing, and boating, many for the very first time.
The Marietta Church believes they are called to use their God-given strengths and gifts to build up the body of Christ and the surrounding community. Recognizing MAC Camp as an opportunity to practice the principle of service, Jeff Wood, pastor, contacted the director of the local chapter of the Big Brother, Big Sister organization and a short term homeless shelter near the church with an offer of scholarships for the camp program. On the first day of camp, 75% of registered campers came from these organization as well as community families looking for quality affordable camping.
Jazmine, was one of the campers who came through Big Brother, Big Sister. Some would say she arrived at camp with a “chip on her shoulder” She instigated fights and arguments, refused to do what she was asked and, as she explains it, “pretty much wanted to make everyone’s life a little bit miserable.
The first two weeks of camp Jazmine found herself talking to camp leadership almost daily about some rule infraction or other. “I was always in trouble,” Jazmine explains, “but somehow I knew even when they were making me sit out or talking to me about something I had done, I knew they still cared about me, which is something I really didn’t get.” Little by little the staff began to break through the walls she had built for herself.
One Friday night, Jazmine, who had decided to attend a church youth even, approached Emily Leffler, the summer camp director, aside and confessed that she “wished I had what they had.” She explained that, “God was just some kind of nebulous concept out in space, but I was pretty sure up until that summer He didn’t really care about me. Seeing the camp staff live like they knew He was a part of their lives made me want that.”
Leffler directed Jazmine to the youth group leaders, and together they got Jazmine involved with Twelve, the Marietta Church youth group. Jazmine began attending youth group programs, and through the support of the local church, enrolled at Atlanta Adventist Academy and her life is on a very different path. Jazmine credits the summer camp staff for her turn around.
“I saw something in the staff. They were different. No matter what I did, I knew they never stopped caring about me, and even when they were mad at me, I could always see that they were trying to help me, and loved me no matter what. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to know what made them different.”
As MAC Camp prepares for another summer, plans are in place to reach deeper into depressed communities near the church and offer quality summer camp experiences. Funds are being raised to extend scholarships to even more families who desperately need spiritual educational opportunities for their children during the summer months. If you would like to support this ministry, information can be found at www.macdaycamp.org.
by Emily Leffler