July 30th 2011
Jim--a recent graduate from Wake Forest University who is spending two years with Teach for America in Charlotte--decided to spend his summer break interning with UrbanPromise in Honduras…before he heads back for another long year of teaching. Jim could be doing a hundred different things with his summer, but has enthusiastically embraced a summer of sacrifice and challenge.
“What’s been the highlight of your summer?” I inquired between bites of fried Plantain.
Jim paused for a moment, smiled and told me that his highlight happened that morning.
“This kid named Marlone gave me a big hug after camp and told me that he really enjoyed the program this summer. When I asked why he was saying goodbye he said, ‘This is the last day of Camp Joy, right?’”
Jim broke the news to Marlone that there was still one more week of camp.
“When I told him there was still another week of camp, Marlone went nuts—he started dancing, singing, and just lit up with a big smile. He was just giddy. That made the whole summer for me!”
What an amazing image—an 8 year old boy dancing with joy over learning that he has an extra week of summer camp.
Three years ago Blair Quinius had a vision to develop an UrbanPromise type program in the remote town of Copan Ruinas. Copan has a population of about 8 thousand people with very few activities for children and teens. This summer UP Honduras is hosting 3 summer camps—Joy, Peace, and Grace—and a dynamic StreetLeader program. Hundreds of youth are touched by the programs.
With their UrbanPromise office in the heart of town, youth drop by around the clock to receive tutoring, dialogue with a staff member, or just hang out. In a few short years this ministry has become a fixture in the community—an oasis of hope for young people whose futures are often limited due to lack of educational and job opportunities.
This summer UP Honduras is hosting 11 college-age interns—like Jim—from around the world. These young people are staffing camps, living communally, learning about Honduran culture, and providing fun opportunities for kids like Marlone.
Over the years my role has distanced me from the front lines of youth ministry. I’m called to spend increasing amounts of time with donors, board members, and involved in strategy sessions. It’s always good for me to be guided by an image of a little Honduran boy, dancing with joy upon hearing the surprise news that there is one more week of day camp, one more week with his favorite counselor, one more week of singing crazy songs.