What do you get when six churches from a variety of denominations partner with a Denver inner-city ministry and a church camp based just outside Colorado Springs? An amazing camp experience that has allowed Eagle Lake’s Day Camp On Location program to meet kids right where they’re at – literally and figuratively – through North Littleton Promise (NLP).
Several years ago, one of our EL alumni, Suz, began working at NLP. She quickly saw how Eagle Lake could serve NLP, which strives to build life-giving relationships with immigrant kids and their families, with its new On Location program. Now four years into the EL/NLP partnership, Suz has been able to see the impact of several years’ worth of our great Bible camps on her community. We recently sat down with Suz to hear about what she’s seen come out of our partnership.
Suz! What made you think Eagle Lake would be a good partner for NLP?
A lot of reasons. Eagle Lake does so much of the work, especially initially, which is really helpful. Also, the low price makes it possible for more kids to come, and because it’s so close to home, it feels a lot safer, especially for a lot of our immigrant parents new to the area.
But a big part of it is that On Location really serves as a catalyst for these kids’ faith. When they’re with us, they do hear about Jesus and the Bible, but you know – we only see them about four hours a week. And a lot of those hours are also spent doing homework and stuff. Eagle Lake rolls in, and all of a sudden these kids are surrounded by something new and different. They get a full week – 40 hours, which is 10 weeks’ worth of time to us – just full of intense fun with these cool, enthusiastic college kids who are interested in them and are so good at sharing the Gospel clearly and well. Eagle Lake just opens doors that we can’t always.
And as for Eagle Lake partnering with NLP – it solves the problem of having to say goodbye to kids at the end of the week. That was always hard for me as a counselor, but with NLP, we know these kids, and we hear about decisions for Christ they’ve made at camp. (Camp is such a great, safe place for them to learn how to verbalize their commitments to Jesus.) So we’ve created these discipleship classes to teach them about reading their Bibles, sharing their faith with others, etc. It’s just a really unique way to reach people and plug them in!
Will you talk a little more about that, plugging people in? Have you found Day Camp On Location to be a good outreach tool?
Yeah! Four years ago, during our first day camp here in Littleton, a boy living in the apartments across the street from where we were set up saw the inflatables and asked his parents (who were not Christians) if he could come. They said yes, and he ended up accepting Christ that week! He and his fam got plugged in with one of our partner churches, and he’s been involved there since then.
It’s also just a great way to get the community to come together. NLP has a couple partner churches, and initially buy-in was kind of a hard sell. But they decided to try it, and we also reached out to several other churches in our community. (Once we did a week they were totally in – now Littleton loves Eagle Lake Camps!)
And it’s been so cool, because a lot of these churches that have a heart to reach out and serve their communities are smaller and couldn’t necessarily host an On Location program on their own, but they’ve come alongside other churches from different denominations to serve the kids of our community. And again, these kids from all sorts of different doctrinal, socio-economic, and ethnic backgrounds get to come together and just play and hear the pure Gospel message in a fun, safe environment. It’s cool to see the body of Christ be so unified in such a unique way.
So you were a counselor, and then a PC and full time staff. Now that you’re on the other side, what are some things that you’ve noticed? For example, what do you see in the interactions between counselors and campers?
Yeah… A big thing is that we have a lot of boys in our programs but we don’t have a lot of dads around. That these boys get to hang out with young, cool guys who are willing to give them attention is huge. There’s just this sweet joy in male friendship and getting to do things with their counselors like play basketball. And this time together inspires them to be like them, especially in their faith. They’re like, “Oh, this guy’s cool and loves Jesus. I want that, too.”
Another thing is, it’s hard to present the Bible to kids who’ve never read the Bible and even struggle to read. Counselors are so key to bringing it down to the kids’ level and making it interesting and accessible. Eagle Lake counselors do a great job of engaging them where they’re at because that’s Eagle Lake’s heart. I know how Eagle Lake trains their counselors to engage with the Word and engage with their kids, and then these counselors turn around and they teach the kids. And it’s so cool, because these kids are also getting tools for Bible study and Scripture memory, and even for sharing what they’re learning with their friends and families.
Oh, and another cool story: we have a girl who is currently going through some really tough stuff, including her parents’ divorce and even sometimes living out of her car. But when she came to camp, a lot of that just fell away as she was able to just enjoy a week full of happiness and free from a lot of that worry. She was just surrounded by kind, loving people who wanted to make her day fun and memorable. And even though she didn’t make a decision for Christ, in my mind that is still a huge part of what Eagle Lake gives: the gift of childhood and sweet memories. And when she looks back on a childhood full of really dark things, she’ll have this bright, shining memory associated with Jesus in the midst of it. And that’s so beautiful.
A lot of these kids actually have really hard childhoods, but it’s not always their parents’ faults. We’ve heard from several single moms who are working so hard to just get by, and Eagle Lake On Location really ministers to these moms, as well. That’s because they know their kids are in a safe, healthy environment creating these fun, happy memories. It’s an experience they couldn’t give their kids on their own, but Eagle Lake allows them to give their kids this amazing gift. So it’s this alternative but super effective way of sharing Jesus’ love.
So Suz, a year from now, hopefully we’ll be sitting here celebrating the five year anniversary of ELC/NLP. What sorts of things, in your mind, will we be celebrating?
Yeah. You know, it’s so hard to track success in our ministries, because it’s more subjective; but I guess to me success would mean we’ll have some objective, tangible things to celebrate that help us know the subjective things are also succeeding.
For example, this summer we had an On Location Crew camper (that is, a high school volunteer) who wasn’t super into his faith before camp go home and ask his mom to buy him a Bible, and his mom says he’s been faithfully reading and studying it. That’s huge! I’d love to have more stories like that.
Or another example, and this is one of my favorite things about Eagle Lake: every morning I would pick up the NLP campers to take to the host site. I would ask what they were most excited for, and they would always name one of the fun water toys or climbing walls. However, when I asked what their favorite part of the day was when I would drive them home in the afternoon, they would all shout, “Bible study”! I mean, how great is that?!
Finally, a big thing for me is that we’d be able to graduate some of our kids from On Location to up the mountain at Eagle Lake overnight camps. I’m really hoping we’ll get some of our North Littleton Promise middle schoolers up the mountain next summer. And then when they come back, they’ll just feel really bolstered in their faiths and equipped and excited to share it with the people around them.
And thanks to all of you reading this. It’s such a joy to get to serve the local church in their own communities. If you’d like to equip us to continue to serve alongside ministries like NLP and provide scholarships for kids to come to overnight camp, please click here. We’re thankful for your partnership!