You may have wondered, “Where did all these kids come from?” They were all a part of Illuminate 2015. You may have seen them a week ago building wheelchair ramps, cleaning up yards, having food drives and giving out food, or hosting vacation Bible schools around Sampson County. (You probably didn’t see the students sewing dresses for young girls in Haiti, since it was back at the church.) And maybe you wondered what was going on. What is this Illuminate all about?
According to their website, “Illuminate is an annual ministry, where young people come together and work, serve, and help their community, and in doing so glorify God and show his love.” It started in 2008 when two local youth pastors felt like God was leading them to start a camp that was very focused on local missions. From the first camp with a little over 20 students for a weekend mission project, the camp has grown to 215 students for four days of local area service work in 2015.
And, according to a posting about Illuminate on Facebook, a lot of service was done. (Since it’s on Facebook it has to be factual.) They posted, “Illuminate 2015 was a huge success. Here is a rundown of what God accomplished through a group of 215 teens and the leaders that worked with them. Dresses: 236 were made to send to children in foreign missions. Ramps: 25 wheel chair ramps were built. Yards: 8 yards were cut, cleared, and beautified. Food Drive: collected enough to feed 83 families and raised enough money to get 3 1/2 tons of food. Stuff the Bus: Collected enough to fill and purchase 120 backpacks for children this year. Vacation Bible School: over 110 children ministered to 33 salvations. Stop Hunger Now, (a ministry that feeds the hungry in foreign countries): 10,152 meals prepared.” There was also an Evangelism team that ministered throughout the city of Clinton, and a Flex team that did work over at Falcon Children’s Home and locally.
That’s a lot of facts and figures, and they are impressive. But the camp was so much more than that. It was an opportunity. It was an opportunity for the students. It was an opportunity to serve their fellow man, to learn the joy of serving, the need for serving, and the benefits of serving. It was an opportunity for the students to grow and develop their faith in a positive, welcoming environment.
It was also an opportunity for local churches to work together for a common goal. I don’t know the exact number, but there were teens from at least fifteen different churches from different denominations attending Illuminate and serving others during the week. There were also probably around 75 adults from various churches in the area helping to make the camp possible. They helped provide meals, lead the service projects, chaperone the kids, cleaning up and whatever needed to be done to make the camp go. Some were paid professionals (youth pastors, etc.), who went well beyond their 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 their 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 200 starving teenagers.
This year, I once again helped John as he led a group of teens cleaning up yards. We trimmed bushes, mowed yards, and cleaned up for some area nonprofit organizations and at the homes of elderly and handicapped individuals. It’s easy to get frustrated trying to get teens to work, especially in hot and humid weather. But you notice those who will work, and you appreciate their effort. We adults notice the others, also. And I’m sure if they don’t eventually learn how to work, so will employers in the future. Not every job in their future will be in an air conditioned office sitting behind a desk.
Next year’s Illuminate Camp is already scheduled for July 10-14, 2016. Registration will open April 1st. I’m sure many of the teens who attended this year will be ready to attend once again. I’m not too sure about the adults. Maybe we will have recovered by then.
You can already see the impact from Illuminate. It may be a new wheelchair ramp, a yard cleaned up, or food for someone who needed it. But the lasting effect on the lives of the teens who attended, served and were inspired during the week is yet to be seen. And that may be the greatest result of all.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]