By Julie Lorenz
Throughout June and July, the Summer on the Run team made friends like Billy in a number of places. Under Heinrich’s direction, nine college students ran the program, assisted by a different group of volunteers at each location. In addition to the Mayfair church, the program went to the Gracepoint church in Rocklin, Redwood Creek Camp in Humboldt County, Adventist Christian School of Yuba City, the Chico church, and Redwood Camp Meeting in Redcrest.
Summer on the Run has grown since its first session last year. “This summer we were more intentional about reaching out to unchurched kids,” said Heinrich.
On the first day in Yuba City, 96 kids showed up—80 percent of them community members. At the weeklong Redwood Creek Camp, the team worked with 92 kids—more than half of them from a nearby Indian reservation. In Chico and Yuba City, the program provided a week of fun for many children who had been displaced by the Camp Fire.
The initial attractions of Summer on the Run were what Heinrich calls “ministry toys”—the waterslide, the huge inflatable obstacle course, and the bounce house. But the children also enjoyed the daily worships and small group Bible studies. “We would introduce them to Jesus every morning,” said team member Samuel D’Autruche, a student at Pacific Union College. “The kids were very interested in the Bible stories. They hadn’t been exposed to that kind of thing.”
The team members worked hard, arriving at most locations on Sunday afternoon to set up and then running the program from Monday to Friday. “I really believe in what we’re doing—bringing camp to the kids that wouldn’t usually have access to it,” said D’Autruche. “There are kids everywhere that don’t get to experience this kind of fun stuff.”
D’Autruche and the other college students learned leadership and ministry skills as they discipled the volunteers and worked with the children. “The way that Eddie has designed the program, the college students are running it and the rest are support people,” said Janeen Little, Lodi Academy chaplain and Bible teacher, who served as pastor at Redwood Creek Camp and assisted at two other locations. She brought a group of her high school students to help in Chico. “I wish that everybody could have the opportunity to be involved with Summer on the Run,” said Little. “Watching youth grow in Jesus is more invigorating that anything else we can do.”
Heinrich wants Summer on the Run to introduce local churches to their neighbors. “We are building relationships so the community knows who the Adventist church is,” he said. “This is a long game. We’re not looking for baptisms this year. We’re interested in what the results will be five years from now. We’re all about building relationships, making connections, and introducing kids to Jesus.”
In early July, Billy (not his real name) and his grandmother were driving down a street in Stockton when they saw a giant blue inflatable waterslide. “Grandma, stop the car!” shouted Billy, and his grandmother steered her car to the side of the road.
“How can I get my grandson down that waterslide?” she asked a man standing nearby. The man—Northern California Conference (NCC) Youth Director Eddie Heinrich—told her about Summer on the Run, the NCC’s traveling day camp program for kids, which was going on that week at the Stockton Mayfair church. She immediately filled out a registration form for Billy and took another one with her. The next day, Billy and his cousin went down the slide, tried all sorts of other fun activities, and learned something about Jesus.