With the blessing of his Eminence, Archbishop Peter, several parishes of DCMA united efforts to organize the first summer camp for youth 11–18 year-old, for those in the southern half of our diocese. It was mainly set up to bring together teens from ROCOR parishes, but opened to everyone interested in learning about Orthodoxy. 36 campers attended, 22 boys and 14 girls, along with 12 adult volunteers. About a third of kids received full or partial scholarships which allowed them to join the camp, for some of them, this was their first camping experience of any kind. Among those 36 campers, there were also several children from families who just moved to the United States and haven’t joined any parish yet and it was really important for them to be able to send their kids to the camp. Thanks to financial support of St. John Kochurov Society and Diocesan Youth Committee, the camp was able to operate and offer those scholarships.
The DCMA St. Jonah Summer Camp took place at the established camp facility “Camp Copass” in Denton, Texas. The centralized location allowed families from the Dallas area, Houston, Austin, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas to bring their children to the camp. While the camp facility provided tasty meals and beautiful grounds, all the activities were led by Diocese priests, Fr. Nicholas, Fr. Seraphim and Fr. David Carder and volunteers from DCMA parishes. Teens and their families really appreciated the fact that three priests were constantly staying at the camp leading morning and evening prayers, Law of God sessions, Akathists, and providing spiritual guidance, as well as just playing games and sports with them, and having conversations by the campfire. The great variety of camp sports, like gaga ball, soccer, mini-golf, volleyball helped build the team spirit and friendships. Crafts inspired bursts of creativity and laughter. Many campers really enjoy their time at water activities like canoes and paddle boats and have a good memory of overcoming their fear at the rope course. Volunteers noticed how campers were encouraging and supporting each other in different ways, by helping with daily routine tasks or translating for each other when needed.
The one question volunteers and parents were hearing over and over at the farewell of the camp session was “Can we do it again?” This joy of finding new friendships with their Orthodox peers from other parishes and thus, feeling of belonging to the bigger Church, is priceless. Thanks to all clergy, volunteers and all the people who made donations for the camp, for making it possible. Glory to God.