Impact1828, the outdoor ministries program of the North Indiana Conference congratulates First United Methodist Church of Mishawaka and Senior Pastor Larry Whitehead for their visionary planning to reach youth and children for Jesus Christ.

Impact1828 reports, that in just two years, their ministry has grown from zero to more than 90 campers. Their story is a true testament to a faith community's ability to turn vision into reality.

Mishawaka First has a powerful story to share about accomplishing such amazing growth and how it has affected their congregation as a whole.

Whitehead, shares their story: "Camping ministry has been become an incredible blessing to all aspects of the ministry of Mishawaka First UMC. In the fall of 2005 the Church Council embraced a vision for sending 50 kids to camp the next summer. God sent us 68 in 2006! We had 92 campers last year (mini, elementary, middle school and high school) and plans are underway to make an even bigger impact in 2008!"

Whitehead continues: The camping emphasis begins each year in February with 29 days of preparation and prayer involving the entire congregation. A prayer guide is distributed that includes Scripture readings, testimonials by campers, - both recent and those old enough to reminisce - camp dates and registration information, all packed in a plastic bag which is returned at the end of the 29 days with offerings for the Camp Subsidy fund.

Fifty percent of all camper registration fees are subsidized by the fund, including registration for those inviting friends to go to camp.

The pastors put a face on the importance of camp by directing a week of elementary and middle school camp, and being present at Senior High Institute. Families hear encouragement from the church to plan ahead and make room for the camp dates. Kids are challenged to invite friends to go with them. Grandparents and members are encouraged to invite as many kids as possible to register for a week of camp by April 1. A registration link is added to the church Web site's home page to simplify the process.
It doesn't end here though, after the registrations are complete, each camper is supported by a prayer partner who prays for them by name and sends a note of encouragement before and/or during their week of camp.

Whitehead added: "During the three focus weeks that our kids are at camp, a pastor visits early in the week to get a picture of each camper 'in action' and those pictures are shared with families who are invited to a prayer picnic on Wednesday evening. At those celebrations each camper is offered up in prayer and a candle is lit as a witness to the light of Christ at work in them that week.

"Why all of that? Well, as many of our congregation could tell you, 'we send our kids to camp to have the time of their lives and to discover Jesus. It's just that important!' And as the kids have come back, time after time the light in their eyes have been evidence of dozens of first-time commitments to Christ, to lives changed by a close encounter and a personal relationship with Jesus. Even some lives are committed to full time Christian service. It's just that important!"

See other churches that have risen to the challenge of reaching more youth and children for Jesus Christ at