Until several years ago, Mission Centers of Houston offered our pre-teen and teens’ programs an overnight lock-in every summer. In 2010, however, assistant director Haley Jones was struck with the realization that perhaps an even greater impact could be taking place beyond the constraints of a one-night event. With the collaboration of several other Mission Centers staff, the idea of a several-day long summer camp was then birthed. “We wanted it to be something outside of the city limits,” Jones shared, “and outside of what is familiar for our youth.” As the staff continued to dream and plan together, the camp name — Souled Out — was settled on in a way to encapsulate the vision: youth stepping into a greater, more holistic and sustainable understanding and practicing of their faith beyond mere lip service.

Souled Out was a great success that first year as 40 youth, plus volunteers, retreated to a wooded location outside of Houston and spent an entire weekend discussing spiritual disciplines, gender roles, and more. One of the teens marveled at the fact that they had never seen stars until their experience during summer camp; another exclaimed that he had never seen a live deer before. The following year’s experience further cemented the realization that taking the youth to an entirely new and unfamiliar environment outside of the inner city allowed them to pursue unique ways of connecting with God, especially in the natural beauty of His created world. Opportunities to push themselves on a high ropes course, to enjoy walks along unusual and slightly scary wooded trails, and to participate in different team-building exercises also granted our youth a greater confidence in their own capabilities to succeed while further opening their eyes to a world beyond the known boundaries of their inner-city neighborhood.

This year, our goal is to have 80 pre-teen and teenage youth from all three of our Gano, Fletcher and Joy centers participate in the 3rd annual Souled Out summer camp. Unlike the first two years in which the camp lasted for a weekend, however, this year’s camp experience will be lasting for the greater majority of a week (July 8th-12th) in response to the overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from previous years’ participants. It is also our hope that the lengthier amount of time will provide staff and adult volunteers with the chance to engage in even more meaningful mentoring, adventuring, discipling and teaching outlets with our youth.

In order to help increase the level of personal responsibility and investment in their camp experience, each youth will be participating in a work-exchange program beforehand where 2 work days at their center will grant them a $290 scholarship guaranteed to cover their attendance. Community service hours will include assisting with yard work, food and clothing distribution, seniors ministry, neighborhood trash pick-up, and more. Another fantastic element of the camp experience also includes the 2nd annual t-shirt design contest. Different youth submit their unique drawings for this year’s Souled Out t-shirt and, following careful judging from the camp committee, the winner will receive a $25 cash prize, a $50 gift certificate to a local art store so as to encourage their artistic abilities, an opportunity to shadow a local graphic designer and — best of all — the satisfaction of seeing all camp participants and volunteers sport their winning design all week long.

To help make it financially possible for our youth to experience this life-changing opportunity and to connect with God, one another, and the world around them in an entirely transformational fashion, look here. Your support carries with it a limitless potential to touch and transform another’s life — we appreciate you!

April 26, 2012

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