Note: This testimony was shared by Hope L. at the Youth Dinner and Talent Show Fundraiser (Nov. 2022).

I have gone to summer camps since I was about eight years old, and I’ve gone to a lot of really good ones. But Soul in the City really has stood out as a great learning experience and I would like to shed some light on my time there, this past summer.

A week or two before school started last summer, I woke up at what felt like four in the mourning and with my luggage walked the tiring trek to Mr. Dan’s house. An exhausting three houses. Us five youth and Mr. Dan piled into his van, and drove 45 minutes to a far away place, called DeLand. St. Barnabas Episcopal Church to be exact. We unloaded our stuff and walked into the gym. Where the boys stayed for the week while the girls were in a large classroom, it’s a middle school.

Now throughout the week we ate delicious food in the gym, like seriously it was the best camp food I ever had. But that’s not what’s important. Almost as soon as we got there, we were separated into random groups and went to different places around DeLand for the next couple hours. My group went to a place called My Father’s Closet. People donate clothes and lots of random items and they sell them for good prices to people in need. We helped organize a massive bookshelf in the back of the building.

Now throughout the week I went to a number of different places with lots of different people and I surprisingly enjoyed helping others just as much as I have enjoyed any of the other camps I’ve been to. Now I would like to focus on three main things that impacted me over the week. Now toward the middle of the week I volunteered to go to a place on the church’s campus called Episcopal Counseling of DeLand. At least that’s what it said it was called on google maps last night. Now I know that people help counsel other people through trauma and hard times, but what I didn’t know was that they also counsel kids, I don’t mean like teenagers and preteens who can comprehend and understand things. I mean little kids who have no idea what’s going on but know it’s not good. See, when we got there the guy who was overseeing us, he led us upstairs to a small attic space and for the next hour or so we worked on cleaning it out. It was full of toys. Little kid toys there was some cool stuff up their ancient Legos and a pretend work bench, some of the stuff fell apart as you picked it up. And he explained that this is where they council kids who have gone through trauma. And I’d never realized that kids younger than my brother need counseling, kids shouldn’t have to go through trauma like that, and I realized that I know kids that need help, and that’s not right. And I was really glad that I could help give them a space for counseling. And this really impacted me, I realized I got it really good I’ve had a stable life completely healthy with awesome parents in a marvelous environment. I mean like I’ve always known this, but I really comprehended it for the first time and that means a lot.

Another thing I would like to touch on is devotion. Every night we would have devotions where a band would play moving songs and one of the many youth leaders from around central Florida would speak. And I felt like a got to know some of the leaders in this way, you know everyone has a different way of speaking and I don’t mean like if you southern or western. I mean like the way you speak about God and your life and the way you can effect people in a simple hastily put together teaching. I mean like when Jesus was walking around Jerusalem and Galilee and everything I’m sure he didn’t sit down forever and look at it like a world tour. He just came up with it on the spot he spoke the truth from the heart even if he had a couple notes. I mean like you can say something and keep going but someone might hold on to that for the rest of their life you might still be having an impact on people years after the last time you’ve seen them. And as a youth going to your group every week and listening not only to Mr. Dan but also to all my peers it makes an impact that I might not notice at first, but I realize later. And Devotions every night was really awesome.

And last, I really enjoyed getting to know my fellow youth of central Florida. I got to know the people in my own youth group better. And everyone else and though going to the YMCA to take cold showers every day, and volunteering at different places all day in the summer heat may not sound like a blast it was and I really enjoyed it and can’t wait for next year.

Now that’s just a look at what EYC is, but the youth of St. Edwards are blessed to have you guys supporting us and coming out here to eat and have fun. So, thank you. And thank you Mr. Dan for coming over here all the way from Sarasota to be an awesome Youth Pastor.