I’ve been attending Floris United Methodist Church since November, 2013. While I felt welcome, I kept feeling like I didn’t quite fit in. It is hard to make new friends just sitting in the worship services, or even attending the short-term Lenten study. When I heard about the opportunities to serve at “Camp Hutchison” this summer, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. They were looking for someone to teach music one day a week (Tuesdays) for the month of July. I am an elementary music teacher! So I went online and filled out the necessary forms and waited to be notified. When the time came for our training session, I was excited to meet ‘the team.’
I was a little disappointed to find out the camp was only half-days. Even so, everything was very organized and the leaders were very likable. Mary Frances Roll led the ‘enrichment’ teachers on a tour of the school building and talked about the program. At some point in the evening, Mary mentioned the book Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. As the others in the group chatted about their subjects, Mary and I had an animated discussion about this great children’s book and other books she and I like to use while teaching Character Education (CE.) I mentioned that my school job has involved teaching CE to 2nd and 3rd graders for the last six years. She smiled and nodded.
At the end of the tour I approached Mary Frances and told her that I had expected a full-day camp, so if she needed any substitutes I would be happy to help out. Before I even got the sentence out of my mouth, her face lit up and Mary responded, “Would you be willing to teach Character Education on Mondays?”
It was just a week or so before camp and no one had volunteered to lead Character Education. God had prepared me for the past six years, in the appropriate age-groups, using some of the same books that Mary Frances had already ordered on the camp theme. It felt like such a “God thing.” God opened a desire in me to serve and had already prepared a place for me to fit in. At the same time, God filled a need at Floris UMC. Just like two puzzle pieces making up part of the whole. That is how God works.
And how did things go at camp? Working with the children at Camp Hutchison for two mornings instead of one was such an honor. Those children came in with smiling faces, questioning eyes and eager hearts. They were hungry for food and knowledge, but also generous with their personalities and joy.
The volunteers are so amazing. The teens, who serve as counselors, give hours of their summer to be with the students, guide them in their studies, play with them and just hang out with them throughout the camp experience. The teachers are selfless volunteers who arrived with smiles and bags full of exciting programs and ideas to keep the students interested and happy throughout each day.
Finally, the camp was predominantly run on a day-to-day basis by three young ladies who are wise beyond their years. I cannot tell you how impressed I am by their maturity and ability. These young women have been nurtured by Floris UMC and you should be proud of the kind of women you are raising in this church.
So now I have friends. I absolutely will volunteer next summer, if for no other reason than to see those wonderful children again. Some of the teens already mentioned seeing me in church. My co-teachers are now some of the friendly faces I recognize and who also greet me at church. I felt ‘at home’ the first Sunday I visited Floris UMC, but now I know I am part of the family. Guests sit at the dinner table while others serve them. Family members get up and help set the table, serve the meal and even wash the dishes. If anyone wants to feel more included at Floris UMC or in the family of God, here is my clue: Look around and see what needs to be done. Join in wherever you can lend a hand and suddenly, you too will feel like you are just one of the family.