Summer OFF 2014: Two Weeks In
Report from our intern
Over the past six years, God has taken what began as one family with one table and a few crafts in Dexter park and grown it into a ministry that, this year, encompasses three Providence parks and eleven churches. In the first two weeks of Summer OFF 2014, God has continued that growth in incredible ways. As the summer intern, I’ve gotten to see God at work through all of it and I’d love to share that with you!
So far this summer in Dexter Park, a team from Godspeed Fellowship and a combined team from New Covenant Christian Fellowship and Crossway Church served for a week each. On the first day, the Godspeed team played sports, face painted, and did crafts with about 40 kids. By the middle of week 2, that number grew to 130! Face paint became so popular that the week 2 leaders created a number system to organize the kids waiting to have their faces painted. On day 2 of Summer OFF, the Godspeed team arrived to find the park set up with a stage and a bunch of tents. Soon the park came alive with events and organizations promoting the free lunches served in city parks, and healthy living in general. Mayor Angel Taveras spoke, as well as others, and fun activities took place all day. Pat Patriot and a Patriots player even came to hang out with the kids! The Godspeed team was still able to set up crafts and face paint, and the stations were even busier than usual. Another day, Y on the Move set up a bounce house. Yet another day, Salt+Light, an outreach drama group that partners with churches, came to do a performance!
Beyond Summer OFF - Kid's Club and Church Plant
Over the past six years, Summer OFF workers have seen door after door wide open to the gospel, and many needs. Most of the kids we serve come from broken, poor families. Often, an older brother or sister will be caring for several younger siblings as well as nephews and nieces. These kids welcome the fun and loving atmosphere of Summer OFF and are usually open to hearing the gospel.
With this in mind, The Philip Center staff wants to start a Kid’s Club that would run once a week through the whole school year, right at Dexter Park. In fact, the curriculum is set and a we’re forming a group of volunteers. A definite location and a director are needs still to be met.
Even beyond a Kid’s Club, we see the need for a church plant at Dexter Park. It’s so clear that these kids need the spiritual and physical care that only a church can provide. One of the goals of Summer OFF and motivations for starting Kid’s Club is to create a core group of people who can be part of a church plant a few years down the road.
Summer OFF Outside the US
Summer OFF also had a visitor from South Carolina this past week! Richard Moore is currently raising support to go to Germany. He will be working with Janz Team, and hopes to transplant the Summer OFF idea in Germany this fall. We've had interest from a ministry in France that may like to Start Summer OFF there as well.
The past two weeks, Christian Life Church and Cranston Christian Fellowship ran Summer OFF in Riverside Park. They flexed their schedule around a blow-up waterside that’s at the park every afternoon, and have built relationships with the workers who run it. The hardworking teams have come up with creative ways to attract kids to a more secluded location. The Christian Life team put on a Christmas in July skit and the Cranston Christian Fellowship team bought a snow-cone machine! They’ve discovered that the best emphasis for this park is on building relationships and consistently sharing the gospel with the same kids, caregivers, and park workers each day.
Jennifer Rivera Park
Jennifer Rivera Park is a new location for Summer OFF. Just around the corner from Jennifer Rivera Park is Faith and Hope Baptist Church. Faith and Hope will run a VBS program this coming week, so Summer OFF in that park was both ministry and advertising for VBS. Partnering with Grace Harbor Church, a team from Concord Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee came to serve in Jennifer Rivera! They treated their week in Providence as a full-time missions trip, doing ministry in the park during the day and other outreach activities in the evenings. Similar to Riverside, this team emphasized building relationships and had a really great week.
Partnership with More Churches
Summer OFF is also hoping to partner with a church in Dallas, Texas. This year, old friends the Huddlestons (members of that church in Dallas) are coming to serve with Summer OFF during week 3, and we look forward to more opportunities to serve with their church in the future.
Praise God for all he’s doing in Providence this summer!
Emma, for The Philip Center Staff