By Kamelia Ani
MT. MISERY – “Camp truly changed my life” is a thought echoed by many who attend Next Generation Ministries’ summer camp at the Pinelands Center in New Jersey. The newly rejuvenated camp kicked off this summer for middle and high school students, offering a variety of creative outdoor activities, with spiritual growth and leadership development at the heart of each program. Campers chose specialty activities from football to dance, swimming to art and made enduring friends in daily competitions like dodge ball, messy games, adventure relays and more. The Next Gen camp experience has allowed campers to dive deeper in relationship with God and others through worship, Bible study and discipleship under the guidance of mentoring counselors.
Paul Orellana, 15, of St. Paul Centenary UMC in Newark, said that camp is way of connecting with his peers and making lifelong friendships.
“What I liked about the camp was the way we all connected to each other, even though we were all strangers; we were best friends by the second day,” he said. “I learned to be more outgoing. I usually am not the one to start talking to someone else but I learned that it’s a good way to make friends. The camp changed my way of seeing my life personally. Going home was where it impacted the most, because I changed the way I acted a little more. I found that I was a little bit nicer to people and I was starting to make more friends by talking to people I didn’t know. It has made my life way better because I got to meet all the people I did at camp, and formed close bonds.”
Liseth Rodriguez, 17, from FUMC Dover said camp is “like a family.”
“I just loved camp and looked forward to it. I loved how everyone is a family when we’re there,” she said. “We always look forward to seeing each other and even when new people come they’re always brought into our little family. It’s great to know that there are kids that have the same faith as you and that’s what builds the friendship in a unique way. It’s nice that everyone gets so close to God because of the nature and beauty that we see in creation at camp.”
Rodriguez said she noticed changes in others that have gone to camp for the first time and believes that it has taught her new things; motivating her to face the years ahead.
“I learned what my purpose in life was, not necessarily in ministry but how I can help others without having to do it under the title of ministry but to still know that I’m doing God’s will,” she stated. “I feel like I’m called to be a helping hand and a voice for those that are voiceless or cannot be heard.”
GNJ’s Next Gen Ministries is cultivating and mobilizing new generations of enthusiastic disciples of Jesus Christ that connect, engage and lead in their congregations and communities to transform the world. Rodriguez and Orellana are just two examples that have come forward to share their testimonies.