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‘God’s Call’ camp explores ministry


10:00 A.M. EST Aug. 5, 2010

It is not unusual for campers and counselors alike to hear God’s call to ministry. A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry.
It is not unusual for campers and counselors alike to hear God’s call to ministry. A UMNS photo by Ronny Perry.
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The direction of Mindi Ferguson’s life was changed at a United Methodist Church camp when she was 14.

One week at camp with counselors who cared gave Ferguson — now 21 — the time and encouragement she needed to explore her call into ministry. She will graduate from Messiah College, Grantham, Pa., with a degree in youth ministry and start seminary to become an ordained elder.

The Susquehanna Annual (regional) Conference hired her as a God’s Call counselor, and this summer she is hoping to give that same experience to other young campers.

“I always knew I wanted to go into ministry, but it was at Salt ‘n Light camp that I had a group of counselors really encourage me to pursue that,” she said. “We spent a lot of time in conversation and prayer.

“Relationships form at camp that are very special, and are never forgotten. I try to encourage as many people as I can to attend camp because I know how it changed my life, and I want others to be able to experience that as well.”

Young people often receive a call to ordained ministry or have a calling confirmed by experiences in summer camp, said the Rev. Jay Jones, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church, Bloomsburg, Pa.

“I love the camping program. It is in the context of the camping program where I had my mountaintop experience,” Jones said.

An ‘incredible’ experience

Jones served as vocational counselor — the precursor to God’s Call counselor — for two years.

Young adults often hear God’s call to ministry as they serve as camp counselors. A UMNS photo by Barbara Dunlap-Berg.
Young adults often hear God’s call to ministry as they serve as camp counselors. A UMNS photo by Barbara Dunlap-Berg.
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“During that time, I met so many people who have had an impact upon my faith journey,” he said. “In addition, I was able to guide a few people in the direction they needed to head as they considered God’s call in their own lives. Many of the people I met in those two years have been lifelong friends.”

Ferguson said her experience has been incredible.

“At first, I was nervous that I wouldn't talk to any campers about God's call in their life, but then my first week at camp I talked to five campers,” she said. “God has definitely blessed my time at camp, and he is raising up passionate leaders to serve him. … I have definitely crossed paths with some of those people at camp.”

Ferguson works at junior and senior high youth camps to help campers consider where God might be leading them.

The God’s Call counselor is one of several approaches the conference takes to present youth and young adults with an opportunity to explore what God is calling them to be, Jones said.

As a result, the conference has begun to see an increase in the number of young people entering into ministry, he said.

The church has to serve as “Eli” and live with the expectation of God’s call, said Carol Diffenbaugh, chair of the enlistment and interpretation committee with the conference’s board of ordained ministry. Eli was the priest at Shiloh to whom young Samuel was apprenticed.

‘Exciting to be on the forefront’

“God’s call has never changed,” she asserted. “We, however, of the church have become distracted and have forgotten or neglected to assist those within our faith community to hear and respond to God’s call upon them. The role of the enlistment and interpretation committee is to assist individuals and our churches as we serve (as Eli) for our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

The God’s Call counselor provides college-age students with an opportunity to articulate basic understanding of God’s call to others and to continue their own journey, she added.

The conference also offers ministry internships, an annual God’s Calling weekend event in January, and scholarships and curriculum for middle-school students to help them understand the discernment process.

“It is exciting to be on the forefront as someone identifies and takes that first step of faith toward claiming the call to ministry,” Diffenbaugh said.

Ferguson is storing a lifetime of memories as she watches some of her young charges starting that journey.

She is listening closely.

“There are amazing things God is doing within them.”

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter of 18-34 content at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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