By DeDe Bull Reilly
I have been praying for a space and place where little people WITH their big people could stay and serve in developmentally appropriate ways, not too far away, overnight, and inexpensive so the whole family could attend.
Those prayers were answered in July as McEachern UMC families participated in our Family Mission Trip.
During 11 a.m. worship, a returning Youth Mission Team from Key West gave their testimony, and the Family Mission Trip Team was honored with a prayerful send-off. After a sandwich lunch immediately following worship, we loaded up and headed out to Buckhead, Georgia.
North Georgia has a gem in Camp Collinswood. It’s a property on Lake Oconee built specifically to be universally accessible. The property is flat, located off a major interstate highway, with family-friendly cabins. It’s perfect for a 24-hour family mission trip.
We partnered with another United Methodist church that does handy-work regularly at the camp. They brought an amazing cook, we brought lawn debris bags, lots of kid-sized work gloves, magic erasers, and both churches brought tools and work plans to carry out throughout the camp.
We were tasked with building an ADA compliant Gaga Ball pit with a sun-protective sail and replacing termite-eaten wooden benches around the lakeside fire pit. We were also tasked with trimming bushes, magic-erasing light switches and doors at the cabins, cleaning lakeside restrooms and life jacket storage areas, landscape clean-up, and pressure washing the lakeside walkways and gazebo. Two eager 10-year-old boys made good use of cabin brooms on cobweb duty.
Our families did it all. The adults included the children in every task.
The camp is used by multiple special-needs clubs and groups during the week and over the weekends in the summer, so our arrival on a Sunday after church and staying through Monday afternoon fit Collinswood's schedule and ours.
Before each meal we heard a short message based on Psalm 34:3, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together,” by a dad at dinner, a mom at breakfast, and a student at lunch. With $400 support from our church missions committee, we were able to charge families $30 per person with a $100 family max to cover t-shirts, supplies, food, and lodging. Each cabin can house 25 individuals with 5 per family in each "room" off the main gathering area which includes a kitchenette.
The youngest was 5 years old and the oldest was 84.
After all the work was done and just an hour or so before departure we spent some time in the lake for some holy play and lots of laughter. The camp has paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and plenty of life jackets.
We’ve already scheduled the family mission trip for next year. Lots of projects can still be completed by littles and bigs together at Camp Collinswood. We can’t wait!
DeDe Bull Reilly serves as Director of Ministry With Children at McEachern UMC in Powder Springs and consultant to the NGUMC Center for Congregational Excellence. This post originally appeared on her blog at https://dede-bull-reilly.com/2022/08/30/a-family-mission-trip/.