Illuminate. It is defined as, “to supply or brighten with light.” And for a few days recently, around 180 junior high and high school students were brightening the Sampson County area with the light of compassion and caring, during the 2016 Illuminate Youth Camp.
According to their website, “Illuminate is an annual ministry, where young people come together and work, serve, and help in their community, and in doing so glorify God and show his love.” It started out in 2008, when two local pastors felt like God was leading them to start a camp that was very focused on local missions. From the very first camp with a little over 20 students for a weekend mission project, the camp has grown to 180 students from around 20 different churches, for four days of local area service in 2016.
Again this year, the Illuminate student campers and the adult volunteers were out brightening Sampson County. There were nine wheelchair ramps built for the handicapped. Vacation Bible School was held at various parks and locations. School supplies were collected to assist needy students this fall. Yards were cleaned up, painting was done, and repair work was done to assist nonprofit organization and needy families. Dresses were made to be sent to children in foreign countries. Food was collected to feed needy families in this area, and meals were prepared to be sent to foreign countries through the Stop Hunger Now organization.
Illuminate gave the students the opportunity to serve others, learn the joy of serving, the need for serving and the benefits of serving. It was also an opportunity for the students to grow and develop their faith in a positive, welcoming environment. As one camper told this newspaper during Illuminate, “I felt like I got closer to God this week.”
It was also an opportunity for local churches to work together for a common goal. Besides the teens from the different churches, there were probably around 75 adults from various churches in the area helping during the week to make the camp possible. They helped provide meals, lead the service projects, chaperone the kids, cleaning up, and doing whatever needed to be done inorder for the camp to be a success.
Some of the adults helping out were paid professionals (youth pastors, etc.), who went well beyond the call of duty in their service and leadership. But most of the adults helping out during Illuminate were volunteers, giving their time to help the teens and serve others in the community. Many took time from their jobs, and even vacation time, to do things like sweat during a service project, or fix a meal for 180 starving teenagers.
Once again, I volunteered during Illuminate and worked a couple of days with the youth cleaning up yards. As usual, it was hot and humid, but the kids this year were good workers. The other adult workers, from Benson PH Church, were younger guys and hard workers.
But, as I was working, I had other things on my mind. The week before, I found out that a close friend of mine had a “light” heart attack. (FYI, a light heart attack is a heart attack that someone else has.) Daniel has been a friend of mine since college, and we are still in regular contact with other, even though he and his family live in Charlotte. Well, the “light” heart attack turned into a serious quadruple (that’s four) heart bypass surgery.
As I was thinking and praying about Daniel, I thought about another guy around my age, who is heading into surgery next week, not knowing what the surgeons will find when they open him up. There are also men I know who are dealing daily with sickness and loss in their families, and the difficulties of growing older. Finally, I remembered back to a friend from Kiwanis, who found out this past January he had cancer, and by April he was gone.
It’s great to see all the effort and time that churches and individuals took to once again make Illuminate Youth Camp a success for the youth. With all they are facing in this world, the young students really need, and will need, a relationship with Jesus Christ. But you know what? All of us old guys need Jesus, too.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]