By Julie Lorenz and Laurie Trujillo
Northern California Conference summer ministries looked very different this year, but the Holy Spirit continued to use them to touch hearts and impact lives.
Summer on the Run
Beginning in the summer of 2018, the Summer on the Run team has taken its mobile day camp program to a number of churches and Redwood Camp Meeting, but this year they faced a whole new challenge. “Our mission was to provide the best camp experience we could from a distance and to broadcast the fun, energy, and excitement that we would bring in person,” said team member Samuel D’Autruche, Pacific Union College senior.
The group created 15 videos and released three per week on their Facebook page and YouTube channel, “Summer on the Run.” The videos feature the best parts of day camp—music, crafts, nature, skits, and spiritual lessons. Each episode has a theme such as bullying, anxiety, or equality. By early August, the Summer on the Run videos had been viewed more than 1,300 times.
Youth Director Eddie Heinrich and the team created the videos over the course of six weeks while they sheltered in place together at Chico Oaks Adventist School and the Chico church. The group included nine high school and college students, as well as Heinrich’s wife, Tammy; Lodi Academy chaplain and Bible teacher Janeen Little; and several family members.
Although they didn’t have previous experience producing videos, the team quickly learned new skills as they wrote scripts, built sets, filmed, and edited. “When they realized we couldn’t do the ministry we’d been planning, they wouldn’t give up,” said Heinrich. “You couldn’t ask for a better group of young people.”
Redwood Camp Meeting
While they missed gathering under the trees by the Eel River, many longtime Redwood campers received a blessing from virtual Redwood Camp Meeting.
The 44 videos on the YouTube channel, “Redwood Area Campmeeting,” were viewed 4,000 times during the first weekend they were posted. “The videos gave people a way to feel that they were still part of the Redwood family,” said Harry Salvini, Redwood Area Camp director. “People were so grateful for the connection. We received emotional calls, emails, and messages on Facebook.”
Arcata McKinleyville church member Betty Newman summed up the feelings of many. “We missed everything about camp meeting, but we surely appreciated the virtual camp meeting!” she wrote.
Created specifically for Redwood, the videos include sermons from Faith For Today Speaker/Director Roy Ice, NCC President Marc Woodson, Pacific Union Conference President Ricardo Graham, Pacific Union College church Senior Pastor Chanda Nunes, Oakland Spanish church Pastor Luis Manrique (in Spanish), and a number of others.
Other highlights include a cooking demonstration, music from the Pacific Union College worship team, nature talks, kids’ programs, and more. “We were blown away by the response as almost every division and speaker we asked created a video,” said Salvini.
He and Montell Snyder, head of Redwood communications, each worked for more than 100 hours to edit and post the videos. “Although we had moments of frustration, it was a lot of fun,” said Salvini.
Check out the new Redwood Camp Meeting website: redwoodareacamp.com.
Although Leoni Meadows was unable to host summer camp, staff members served the nearby community, made the camp more beautiful, and developed projects for the future.
Since May, Leoni has distributed 500 loaves of homemade bread, 200 homemade sweet rolls, and many boxes of fresh produce to the community of Grizzly Flats. The Leoni garden grew 1,000 squash plants and 2,700 feet of corn, which provided a huge crop to give away.
Financed by recent donations, staff members worked to get the property ready for future conferences, retreats, and camps. They repainted the barn, built new concrete steps at the craft building, restored the stairwell on the Meadow View Inn, and reassembled the horse pens at the barn. They built and installed seating for 400 at the Morrisonville venue, so campers won’t need to sit on hay bales. As part of a wildfire mitigation plan, staff mowed the meadow and cleared 100 acres of dead trees and brush. In addition, the camp re-erected the 85-foot Baltic Peak fire tower. Originally built in 1931, the tower now stands on a hill above the Leoni House and offers incredible views of the camp property.
Although some family groups stayed in the cabins and campground this summer, Leoni has been a much quieter place than usual. Staff members are eager for the day when they can once again help guests have life-changing experiences. “We are lonesome up here,” said Executive Director Craig Heinrich. “This fall or next spring we look forward to getting back to business.”
Leoni’s business is transforming lives for Christ. “I attended Leoni Meadows summer camp, and it completely changed my life,” a teenager wrote in an NCC scholarship application. “I walked away with an amazing experience and a long-awaited personal encounter with Jesus. I decided to give my life to the Lord and was baptized.”
Vacation Bible School
Thanks to dedicated members of the Oroville church, 140 children in their community enjoyed Vacation Bible School at home. Volunteers packed supplies into VBS bags, each containing five days of Bible lessons, craft materials, games, snacks, prizes, activity sheets, and more. The contents were tailored for separate age groups, and each older child received a Bible.
Parents picked up the VBS bags during several drive-through events. “Most cars had kids sitting in the back seat waving and telling us how they wished we could have VBS this year and thanking us for the bags,” said Kathy Spiva, one of the leaders.
Families watched the song service and opening exercises on a YouTube video prepared by the church.
Each year, about 95 percent of the children who attend the church’s VBS come from the surrounding community. “I really feel that the Lord blessed our efforts and gave us a way to stay in contact with our VBS family here in our city,” said Spiva. “It just proves to us that God can use us even in ways that are different from our normal way. He still wants us to get the message out to all His children.”