Red Bird Mission Summer Youth Day Camp is a free six-week program, offered three days a week, for children, ages five to fifteen. The camp is located in Clay County, KY, which was recently named the most difficult place to live in America. The median household income there is half the national average. At the free Red Bird Mission Summer Camp, children receive breakfast, lunch, and snacks; extended childcare is offered for children and youth whose parents work.
The families of the children attending the Red Bird Mission Summer Day Camp don’t have transportation to take their children to camps in the surrounding towns, and they can’t afford the other camp fees.
Red Bird Mission Camp staff include a college student intern from the Kentucky Conference’s Isaiah Project, which places students interested in ministry and missions at conference churches and ministries for the summer. Youth, ages 13-15, who have attended the camp, are hired as part of a teen leadership program, which builds confidence, work skills, and leadership skills.
A Story to Tell
Meet Thomas, the son of Red Bird Mission staff, who lives with his sister and parents at Red Bird fulltime. He has been attending the Summer Youth Day camp since he was ten years old. He has always been active as a camper, and he is a natural leader. Thomas is well-versed in the Bible, and he enjoys helping other youth. The year he turned thirteen was the same year that the camp began the teen leadership program. Thomas thrived in the program, showing a love for working with children.
Last year, Thomas applied to be and was accepted as a paid teen leader. He was an exceptional leader and was rehired this past summer. He feels that he learned many of his leadership skills through attending camp and using the life skills taught. He hopes to continue to work with youth after he graduates next year.
(The following activities may be used in any order that works with the children you teach.)
Locate the United States on a map. Now find Kentucky. Next look in the Southeastern corner for a small town named Beverly. Beverly is the town closest to the Red Bird Mission.
Red Bird Mission is located in the Appalachian Mountains. It is an isolated, rural, distressed area. Chronic poverty, a lack of jobs, poor housing, and the rugged mountainous terrain provide obstacles to a fuller life for the residents of this area. Red Bird Mission strives to meet people’s needs through ministry in five areas: education, health and wellness, community outreach, economic opportunity, and community housing improvement.
The summer camp for youth is one way Red Bird Mission seeks to help this community grow, live, and thrive as full participants in the community and the world around them.
Read Matthew 25:34-40 together. Invite children to listen to what God asks us to do. After reading the Scripture ask the following wonder questions:
- I wonder what you learned about God.
- I wonder what you learned about yourself.
- I wonder what God calls us to do.
- I wonder how you can practice loving God.
- I wonder how you can share God’s love with others.
Talk with the children about how the Red Bird Mission works to provide clothing, medical care, food, and education for people in need in the community. Let them know that this includes children their age and youth in grades six through twelve. Say, “Every summer, youth are invited to come play and learn at the Red Bird Mission youth camp. Here they gain important tools for living, studying, and working so they will succeed and thrive as they get older. Pray for the youth, their leaders, and their families.”
Then invite the children to write down/talk about a person they know who is in need of food, clothing, shelter, medicine, or education. Pray for these people too; then say: “God calls us to use the gifts we have to help these people too. I wonder how you can share food, clothing, shelter, medicine, or education with persons in need. ”
Sing songs that bring to mind how we are learning and growing in God’s love:
“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” 518, The Worshiping Church
“God of the Sparrow,” 122, The United Methodist Hymnal
“God Will Take Care of You,” 130, The United Methodist Hymnal
Invite the children to write a short description or a skit that they will use to share the ministry of the Red Bird Mission with your church in worship. Also invite them to writea prayer for worship and to lift up the children, youth, and adults involved in and blessed by the ministry of Red Bird Mission. If your group is large, you might choose to break them into small groups to do this work; and/or you might decide to set aside several meetings to work on these together. Close your time together by saying the prayer that the children wrote. See the suggestions below regarding how the description, skit, and/or prayer might be used in worship.
Break Bread Together
Explain that the Red Bird Mission works to ensure that the people in the community have nourishing food to eat. People in the Appalachian Mountains eat much of the same kinds of food we do. However, they often rely on fresh food that they can grow in their own gardens and on their own land. This includes apples, green beans, squash, corn, beans, and much more.
You have many choices about what foods you might share with the children as they have a taste of the Appalachian mountains and remember the ministry of the Red Bird Mission. You might choose to bring in apples, homemade cornbread, apple dumplings, applesauce, pumpkin seeds, biscuits, grits, or pound cake.
As you eat (if you do not live in the mountains), talk about what it would be like to live in the mountains. Ask the children if they grow their own food at home. If they do not, encourage them to imagine what that might be like. End your time together by asking the children to share their favorite foods. Help them identify whether or not their foods can be made with ingredients from a garden in the area or if the ingredients have to come from other locations. Give God thanks for the food you enjoy together.
Say: “Youth who come to camp at Red Bird Mission really enjoy getting to go to camp, spending time outside, and eating healthy meals.”
Ask: “Have you ever been to camp? What was your favorite part?”
Say: “Being outside is one of the best parts of camp. We are going to go on a hike together. I want you to pay attention to what you observe outside that you would never see if you stayed inside all the time.”
Take the children on a “hike” around your church. Stop periodically to ask what they are noticing, seeing, and experiencing. When you are back in your original location, take time to say a prayer, thanking God for creation and for camps that give us an opportunity to explore God’s creation as we play outside. Children might choose to bring in sticks, leaves, or other materials to make “rubbings” if you have time. Place the collected items under a piece of paper and then use a crayon without paper to rub over the item that is under the paper. A sketching of the object should appear. Tell the children that their artwork is a reminder of the many good things we experience when we take time to go outside and explore God’s creation.
Bless One Another
As you prepare to say goodbye, thank the children for joining you as you all learned more about the youth camp at Red Bird Mission. Ask them to go home and share what they learned with their families and to invite their families and friends to help raise money for Red Bird Mission so youth will have a safe place to play and learn during the summer. As they leave, take time to offer each child a blessing:
Ask the children if they would like to receive a blessing, then make the shape of a cross on each child’s forehead or hand while saying these words:
(Make a vertical line.) “God loves you.”
(Make a horizontal line.) “God is with you.”
(Look the child in his/her eyes.) “Go share God’s love with others.”
- Invite the children to share their description of Red Bird Mission and the prayer in worship.
- Follow the prayer with a call for a designated offering
- If you have multiple classes, you might consider doing this for multiple Sundays, or have one class write and share the description and another write and share the prayer.
- Celebrate as a congregation the money you raise, giving thanks for the ministry you and so many others make possible.
Send all money collected to your annual conference treasurer marked The Advance #3021113. (You can also give electronically at http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/3021113.) OR you may send your money directly to: United Methodist Children’s Fund for Christian Mission (or UM Children’s Fund), Discipleship Ministries, PO Box 340003, Nashville, TN 37203-0003. (Please include your church name and complete address with your contribution.)