Short-Term Missions in Your Own Backyard

Sarah Klazinga


In the current coronavirus climate we find ourselves living in, where gatherings are still limited, and hand sanitizer, masks, and social distancing are all strongly encouraged, many churches have had to cancel their VBS and summer camps. But not all! Some churches have been able to get creative to work around this summer's limitations.

New Hope OPC, in Bridgeton, New Jersey is hosting a Virtual Art Camp this week. Camp Coordinator Tracey Taylor writes, "For several years now, New Hope has run an art camp each summer for children in our community. To our joy, this camp has turned out to be a wonderful way to connect with new families and to address key themes of the Gospel—creation, fall, redemption, and restoration—using art as a vehicle for delight, reflection, and glory to God.

This year began with big plans that became a little more tentative in March and April and then were set aside completely in May—when it became clear to us that an in-person camp at our 75-child capacity would be impossible. Unwilling to lose contact with these kids and their families—who were no doubt struggling in many ways with the fallout from the virus—we came up with another plan. We decided to pack a “love box” for each child that would include, among other little fun surprises, some art supplies for a couple of art projects. Once families picked up their boxes (packed and distributed according to CDC guidelines), we would host several Zoom sessions for two different activities: 1) a read-aloud and discussion of C.S. Lewis’s book, The Magician’s Nephew (one of the six Chronicles of Narnia) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons in July; and 2) online art class instruction, some of which would use the art supplies in their boxes. Throughout this “camp,” we would encourage children to send us pictures of their completed art projects, which we would then feature on our web site in an end-of-camp slideshow.

As of Tuesday, we’ve given away almost all of the boxes, and we had our first Zoom meeting on Wednesday. We are excited about the opportunity to interact with kids over three weeks and also about the warm response we’ve received from parents. They seem to really understand this as a gesture of love. One mom wrote, “Thank you so much for doing this! You guys are such a blessing to our community! We would love to participate. “ Another said, “Wow! What a fabulous idea! You guys do so much to reach out to the community. My kids will be thrilled!” Please pray for us as we navigate this new territory and make the most of this unique opportunity.

This is just one story of how one church is overcoming the obstacles of 2020. Go to our website, www.opcstm.org to read what other churches have been doing this summer.

I hope these stories of improvising, adapting, and overcoming encourage you to think outside the box this summer. What might God do with our efforts, despite the limitations of 2020, for eternity?

This article originally appeared in the STORM Report, a monthly e-publication of the Committee on Short-Term Missions and Disaster Response. If you are not receiving the STORM Report and would like to get monthly updates on short-term missions and disaster response efforts in the OPC, please go to: OPC Short-Term Missions website.


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