We just finished up six weeks of our very first UPN Summer Camp. So much joy was experienced on a daily basis at Camp Rise, and God showed up in beautiful ways as we served 37 students from seven different elementary schools representing six different countries. So much joy was felt and shared every single day of camp, and we are so grateful for our students, StreetLeaders, interns, staff, and volunteers, who all contributed in unique ways to make this first ever summer camp an amazing experience for all of us.
Our theme scripture passage for Camp was Isaiah 61 verses 1 and 3.
We talked about what exactly God's glory is, and how we rise together when His glory rises on us. So much growth occurred over the course of the summer in all of us as we learned together.
Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing some reflections written by some of the UPN family. Today we start with one from Ashley, our Camp Rise Director.
RISE. All summer we talked about that word. We explored the word by conducting science experiments to make things rise. We looked at pictures of the sun and brainstormed all the things we could think of that rise: bread, people from a nap, balloons in the air, and so on. But when I reflect on the summer, there's two things that were missing from that list: our students and our StreetLeaders. Yet, that's exactly what they too did - RISE.
To put this in context, I've worked in education for over a decade now teaching immigrants and refugees. I've seen students struggle academically, socially, and emotionally despite our education systems best efforts to support them. I've seen students - in all their incredible strengths - get overlooked and not given chances to rise.
Camp Rise was different. Our StreetLeaders, all who are refugees themselves, found a place where they could develop their leadership, social, and relational skills - thriving as they performed skits, led lessons, and worked with students in small groups. Their very role and presence is what makes UrbanPromise so unique, and watching them grow in confidence and love was truly the greatest joy for me this summer.
Our students grew too - in writing, in learning how to self-regulate emotions, and in love for the community around them. I saw students, who were at first hesitant and even resistant to participate in week 1, rise up with the biggest smiles on their faces by the end, sharing how much they loved camp!
Our students, refugees who have fled from their lives left in ashes, will be lifted by our God who sits enthroned in glory and who stoops down to turn ashes into beauty and raise the poor from dust. (Psalm 113)
Camp Rise was truly a place where our students and our StreetLeaders found a place to rise and to experience the very compassion, grace, kindness, and love of God we learned about all summer. It wasn't just a camp, it was a community. And working with our UPN students in a program and ministry with a heart to empower others was truly an honor.