For the sixth consecutive year, a team from Edenderry CE travelled across the Atlantic ocean to sunny Philadelphia to help serve Grace and Peace Community Church. Each year the team has had the privilege of facilitating the churches summer camp, which runs for four weeks.
So very early on Friday 23rd June (1 am to be precise), eight individuals set out from Watson Street, Portadown. Stopping off in Madrid on the way, the team arrived in Philadelphia at 4 pm the same day. Thankfully American customs ran smoothly but we ran into difficulty soon after as we quickly discovered that Daniels suitcase had failed to make the journey over to Philadelphia. Thankfully, Daniel didn’t have long to wait for his suitcase to arrive, as it was returned to him within three days.
After the initial weekend of climatizing and with the team fully complete due to the arrival of Peter, we were ready to start camp on Monday morning. Overall, the camp ran very smoothly over the course of the two weeks that we were serving. Throughout our team, we had seven individuals fulfil the task of counsellors, in which they would lead a group of young people throughout each day and we had two individuals teach the Bible class.
Upon reflection, there were a plethora of positives to take away from the entire trip which ultimately highlighted just how much God blessed our time in South Philadelphia. One aspect that I was incredibly grateful for was the genuine unity within the team and alongside the various other individuals, we partnered with in facilitating the summer camp. As already mentioned, the camp ran incredibly smoothly, with little hiccups which enabled us to perform better as a team and get into our rhythm quicker. It was also such a privilege to have ample gospel opportunities with the kids but what was a greater encouragement was witnessing many kids respond so positively. One specific way in which we saw this was on our last church service as a couple of kids who had never worshipped at Grace and Peace before showed up with their parents. Outside of camp life, we are all had a fantastic time experiencing the American culture, with numerous trips to Dunkin Donuts, getting to the beach at Ocean City and watching the Phillies play on the 4th July. One additional highlight for myself, and indeed the team, was spending valuable time with close friends both in and out of camp, whether that was Joe Sinagra or Laurelvale’s finest; Alex Richardson (Pal).
Nonetheless, the trip wasn’t free from trouble with the biggest problem is that the entire team was hit with sunburn whilst away at Ocean City just before the second week of the camp began. As Monday morning arrived, each of us was far from 100% and motivation levels were rather low. Though, as I thought about this experience, I was once again reminded by God of the fundamental basis of Christianity, that it is when we are weak that we are strong. Our strength and capabilities are a gift from God and this experience particularly prompted me to lean on him as my source of strength and refuge. Furthermore, in typical fashion, readjusting back to normality is always a personal struggle of mine. It is always difficult reintegrating back into a routine, yet being desperate to jump back on the next flight to Philly.
In closing, it was a bittersweet day leaving on Monday, 10th July. Everyone was excited to return back home to see friends and families and share our experiences but whether it was the first time or sixth (in my case), saying goodbye to dear brothers and sisters in Christ was yet again difficult.
Anyway, we’ll see them next year for summer camp 2018.