Jordan had never been in a boat before, nor had he ever experienced floating in a lake with a life jacket on, and he had certainly never ridden in a tube pulled by a ski boat. With more than a little trepidation, Jordan slid off the side of the boat and into the waters of Lake Allatoona. As he was finally convinced to let go of the boat and learn to trust the life jacket, his face erupted into an enormous grin, and he shouted “I’m free!”
Such moments are what drove the Marietta Adventist Church (Marietta, Ga.) to launch MAC Camp, a Christian day camp that exists to introduce young people to Jesus Christ and to give them life opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have. Under the direction of Jeff Wood, Marietta Church associate pastor, MAC Camp has been designed to create a residential summer camp experience in an urban environment.
Each morning begins with a rousing song service, the MAC Time morning show, and a worship thought provided by the staff and pastoral team. Campers then participate in classes such as Lego builders, pine wood derby cars, Christian drama, soccer, cooking and baking, and much more. In addition to the on-site classes, the camp takes weekly field trips to the local pool for swimming lessons, to the lake to go boating, and to an indoor rock climbing gym. Campers also spend an hour each day in MAC Class 2.0, a summer school program designed to bridge the educational gap between school years.
While planning, MAC leadership reached out to local community organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and a homeless shelter that provides temporary housing for displaced families. An offer was extended to provide a summer camp experience for kids who would otherwise never have the chance. Currently, 75 percent of camp attendees come from these community relationships. While this dynamic has brought its own set of challenges, one camper summed up why the staff have dedicated themselves to the program. While being dropped off one morning, she looked out the window and said, “I love camp!”
Emily Leffler, an English teacher at Battle Creek Academy who came to Marietta to serve as summer camp director, believes passionately in the mission of MAC Camp.
“No matter how long or exhausting the days get for the staff,” she said, “what keeps the program going is seeing campers try new things, learn new skills, and most importantly, meet Jesus every day.”
Written by Jeff Wood, Marietta Church associate pastor, and Emily Leffler
Photos by Danielle Butala