Our annual Ecclesia Student Summer Camp will be from Monday, July 24 - Friday, July 28. This will be an awesome opportunity to get away for a week and build new relationships, encounter God, and serve our city. We will cap off the week with a fun day at Typhoon Texas!
If you would like to donate funds for our summer camp, you can do so by clicking on the link below.
Thursday - July 27
Ecclesia Students thrived this Thursday!
First, we went up to Ecclesia for a great presentation from the Senior Program &
Operations Manager at PAIR Houston, Lauren West. She shared more about our resettled refugee brothers and sisters, specifically focusing on what their life looks like after resettlement. Our students got to watch this video and engage in the challenges of what it might look like to have to rebuild your life in a completely new place.
After Lauren spoke, students packed sack lunches for PAIR. On Friday, sixty elementary-age, resettled students in PAIR's mentoring program will be eating those lunches during their field trip to the Children's Museum. We are so grateful for our students to get to partner with such amazing organizations in such simple and accessible ways.
Once we had knocked out that project, we played some kickball at the church followed by an epic dance-off. Then we made our own lunches and loaded up the vans to go out to the Houston Food Bank for an afternoon shift. Our students were a part of sorting over 17,800 lbs of donations that contributed towards 14,600 meals! They worked so hard and even connected with new friends! A few students and leaders even ended up connecting with a resettled refugee who was serving as a part of a college project. It was such a beautiful moment at the closing of a full week focused on learning to come alongside our brothers and sisters in honoring and dignifying ways. The woman was so impressed by our students that she wanted more information about our community at Ecclesia even though she had never been to a church before. What a gift for our students to see how the work and study we did this week is truly meaningful and transformative.
From the food bank, we headed back to the housing site for dinner. Students may or may not have been ambushed with water balloons by some of their small group leaders shortly thereafter. We closed out the night with plenty of shout-outs and words of affirmation at our debrief session followed by some Steel City Pops. It was an amazing evening.
There are a few things to be praying for on our last day together. Pray that our students would get to enjoy spending time with all of their new friends at Typhoon Texas tomorrow. Pray also for our final debrief tomorrow morning -- that students would be present and invest the time and energy to reflect on all that God has done in and through them this week. Pray also for our leaders as they continue to pour into our students. Pray that all of us would continue to be present and available to join into all that God is already doing in our city.
We are so grateful to have shared this remarkable week with your student. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Wednesday - July 26
We have so many Wednesday wins to share!
This morning, our students heard from Cindy Wu, a freelance writer based in Houston who has been researching and writing about refugees in Houston for the last 8 years. She led an interactive discussion about refugee and IDP statistics and then helped to connect this narrative with refugee stories in scripture like Leviticus 19:33-34 and even the story of Jesus. Our students got to discuss and pray together in their small groups about all of the information Cindy taught. Each table also got to pray for a specific country and people group with significant refugee populations.
Cindy also brought two friends from Iraq with her. Maryam (10th grade) and Kharam (8th grade) are both teenage resettled refugees from Mosul and shared about their lives in Iraq as well as their move and new life here in Houston. Our students got to hear from their own peers about how to come alongside our brothers and sisters well and then prayed together for our city.
After a great morning session, we shared a delicious Thai feast catered by Paper Co. Cafe! From the church, we headed out to the LINC office which is less than a mile from Ecclesia. LINC has been hosting our students this week for camp at one of their many Houston mission churches. Students took turns praying for the city on the rooftop of their office and praying for each other as we continue learning and coming alongside our brothers and sisters this week. After this beautiful session, we got to hear Mark Junkans' heart for Houston and the vision behind LINC. You may have seen him and his family before at Ecclesia on a Sunday morning sometime.
From LINC, we headed out to the Water Wall in the Galleria for some time outside after a full morning of learning. Even though this was free time, several of our students connected with other children and families at the park, sharing stories together. It was incredible to get to see what God is doing already in our students' lives and how He is already using their unique gifts to love their community!
Next we went back to the Los Arcos Apartments for the community night party we helped advertise for on Tuesday evening. Normally, this is a gathering of 80-100 residents and people usually leave early. Tonight though there were nearly 200 residents and so many people stuck around to keep hanging out with our group. Our students got to be right in the middle of beautiful community that had been cultivated for months by FAM at Westbury United Methodist Church. We also got to hear from Rev. Hannah Terry who has provided incredible leadership and so graciously welcomed us into her community. Because of her team's work and even more so God's faithfulness, our students were able to join right in with what He was already doing in and among His children. And the water balloon fight was also a massive success which didn't hurt either.
During debrief around Buffalo Bayou, each student shared the name of a new friend they met at the party and even what they had learned about each other. They also got to dialogue about all the things they have seen and heard this week with their small group leaders, who have been so very flexible, patient, and compassionate. Every day, we have watched our students grow closer to each other and their leaders. Please continue to pray for these conversations. Pray that our committed leaders would be refreshed and ready to dive even deeper into the story of God's Kingdom and how our stories find their purpose in it.
Pray also for the work we will do tomorrow with PAIR and the Houston Food Bank. Pray for our final debrief time, that students would feel safe enough to be vulnerable with each other and that their conversations would be filled with His Truth. Pray that we would honor our brothers and sisters, that we would celebrate their bravery and courage, and connect deeply in our shared humanity. Pray that our students would continue to be loving and kind to one another and to every person they meet. Pray that we would honor God with our every word and action.
We are so excited for our last full work day together! Looking forward to all of the stories we will get to share!
Tuesday - July 25
What an incredible Tuesday! Ecclesia Students worked so hard all day long!
First, we woke up pretty early in the morning, and headed out to Plant It Forward to help disassemble an old farm. Our students worked in the sun from 9am-11am knocking out a four-hour project in half the time. We are so proud of the work they did alongside hardworking, resettled brothers and sisters in Houston.
From the farm, we headed out to IEDA to learn more about the services and programs they offer in our city including free English as a Second Language classes for new Houstonians. Students got to sit in on a Level 1 ESL class with adult students from every continent! Timothy Mukule then took time to share his story with us. He talked about his own resettlement in Houston from a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2004. He now leads ESL classes for hundreds of resettled residents here in Houston!
Next, we headed out for lunch (finally) at the delicious Dandelion Cafe! The owner, Sarah, catered a special meal for our large group and then stopped to share the incredible story of her restaurant with us. To honor her late parents, she used the life insurance money to build a beautiful space where people from all backgrounds can share good food and coffee together as they seek to build a better community. This is one of the main reasons we went to her cafe. Sarah has continually opened her doors to organizations committed to loving and serving the marginalized in our city, including several of the groups we are serving alongside this week.
After lunch, we headed out to the Los Arcos Apartments on the southwest side of Houston. There we partnered with Fondren Apartment Ministries which is a ministry of Westbury United Methodist Church. Every Wednesday, FAM puts on a community party for the complex of 500 apartment homes, and this week we will get to be a part of the fun by leading the large group games! As a part of preparing for this, Ecclesia Students went door-to-door this evening with their small group leaders inviting new friends to join us for pizza and games in the courtyard. Every student was gracious and honoring, and I could not be more proud of each of them. Please pray for us tomorrow as we spend time with so many of our new friends and hopefully host our brothers and sisters well in their new city!
After a long day, we finally headed back to the housing site for dinner and some much needed showers. The last part of our evening was an amazing session led by Russell Minick on what the gospel is and how really engaging in this story can change everything. After an interactive lesson on Crown, Heart, World, students broke into small groups for some great debriefing of a VERY full day. God was truly faithful in providing multiple venues for our students to come alongside our brothers and sisters in honoring and dignifying ways.
Besides tomorrow night's party at Los Arcos Apartments, there are several things to be praying for. We will be hearing from Cindy Wu, a free-lance writer based in Houston who has been working on a crowd-sourced book called Houston Refugee Voices. She will not only be sharing her research with us, but she is also bringing along two guests as well. These two teenage resettled refugees originally from Iraq will be sharing their stories of bravery and courage as they build a new life in Houston. Pray for our students as they begin to engage in this narrative. Pray that they would continue to honor and respect all of our new friends and their beautiful stories.
Excited to share all that God is doing in and through our students this week!
Monday - July 24
Day 1 of camp was a success! Thanks for sharing your students with us! Here are some highlights from today.
After checking in and signing the last of the paperwork, (sorry for so many things to sign this year), our students got know their teams and split up middle school and high school for some large group games.
In the evening, Julie Aftab shared her incredible story with us. Our students listened intently and respectfully the whole time. It was a powerful start to this week.
After spending some time in small groups discussing our session, we headed out to the housing site, Our Redeemer "Resort". Students spent time in their small groups and then got to hang out in the gym until lights out.
Tomorrow morning we will be serving at Plant it Forward. Please pray for our students as they come alongside resettled refugee brothers and sisters in our city. We will then go to IEDA followed by lunch at Dandelion Cafe. Pray that we would work hard, listen well, and be ready to see and experience all that God is doing in our city. Pray also for the later half of the day when we will do some apartment outreach at Los Arcos with FAM and then dive into a session with Russell Minick on Crown, Heart, World.
Looking forward to sharing so many more stories about our amazing students tomorrow!