This summer the congregation of First Presbyterian Church has begun a summer enrichment program for children living in motels in our home of Spartanburg, SC. For the past two weeks, over twenty children, ages 4-15, have come to the church weekday mornings for educational programming in art, math, reading, writing, computers, drama, and music; field trips to the Chapman Cultural Center, Barnet Park, First Tee, and Pine St. Elementary; recreation and exercise; and home-cooked meals for breakfast and lunch provided by innumerable church members and Jane Mullins, our Director of Hospitality. The C.A.S.T. camp (C.A.S.T. stands for Care, Accept, Share,Teach) is designed to help these children retain skills they have learned in school through the summer months. The camp is organized around the theme of being a good neighbor, with activities focused on the Bible stories of the Good Samaritan, the creation of human beings in the image of God, and Jesus feeding the 5,000. The camp originated from the care of Dr. Gloria Close, a guidance counselor in Spartanburg School District 7, for children living in area motels, and is coordinated by Penny Wright, a dynamic missions leader throughout our community. Penny and Gloria are both ordained elders at First Presbyterian.
On Wednesday the children went to the Chapman Cultural Center for a dance class led by arts educator Susan Woodham. Like many of us some wanted to sit on the sidelines instead of try a new dance, but Susan’s resolute and unforceful persistence drew almost everyone onto the floor over the course of an hour, kids and adult chaperones alike.
When dance was over the camp went across the street to Barnet Park to play in the fountain, throw football, and eat a picnic. I stood at the entrance to the park by the fountain, the last link in the human chain ensuring the kids stayed in the park and did not run out into the street. These kids can run.
I watched the twenty-four children in our care, and probably another ten or fifteen children from other families, play in the fountain at Barnet Park. And I saw this:
South Asian, West African,
North European, Latin American,
come from all over,
baptized and laughing
in a big fountain
built by a leader who says:
“We are all God’s children.”
–Project for Community Transformation