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‘Creation Vacations’ offer respite in tough times

Alejandra Aguilar enjoys a “Creation Vacation” with her daughters,
Maria, 12, and Jazmin, 5. UMNS photos by Tim Griffis.

By Kelly Martini*
August 5, 2009 | ROCKAWAY BEACH, Ore. (UMNS)

Everyone needs time to play.

That is especially true for people on tight budgets in these tough economic times, say United Methodists in the Oregon-Idaho Annual (regional) Conference.

“Creation Vacations”—a ministry of camps and retreat centers of the conference—provides opportunities for families to get away from the pressures of living paycheck to paycheck.

The free getaway—offered to low-income families in the two states – is a gift of oft-needed time together in a peaceful environment.

Alejandra Aguilar, one vacationer, says that this year, job opportunities have been scarce. Family respites or special treats with his children are rare because of a lack of money.

A volunteer helps Jazmin Aguilar, 5,
take flight on the “Big Swing” at Camp
Magruder on the Oregon Coast.

“Before this past year, I could count on having three jobs and there was enough that I could take my girls out to eat two or three times a month,” she explains. “Now I can only count on having one job, so it’s definitely more difficult.”

Fewer job opportunities translate into less time with family and more stress to pay critical bills—food, rent, electricity.

Time away can make this stress seem more bearable, says the single mother of two daughters.

“It’s always been difficult, but lately it’s become more difficult to take them on an outing,” she notes, listing what seems like a never-ending “to do” list.

“I work a lot. Then, Saturday and Sunday I am cleaning and I am going to the grocery story and picking up things and doing errands.”

Time together

Three days of vacation give this family time together without the financial burdens. The family of three can “enjoy nature” and focus on each other without distractions.

“When we’re here, we’re able to get away from the technological toys, the Nintendo and other video games and it really helps them to appreciate nature and appreciate what’s growing around them,” Aguilar says. She thanks “God above all for the opportunity that we have… and for the church that has allowed us to be here.”

The Rev. Kevin Witt, the conference’s former camp and retreat ministries director, says that when these vacationers step away from their environments, they have an opportunity to value and enjoy each other in a new way.

“It’s a time of peace. It’s a time of joy,” he adds. “The children get to see their parents in a different light because they’re having fun together. They’re really enjoying each other’s company and there’s a connection there that occurs.”

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Witt believes that being in the midst of the grandeur of nature also enables the families to experience God in a different way.

“The natural world is a way to connect more deeply with God. It’s part of a faith journey,” he says. Visitors experience God near the ocean, away from urban settings, and away from work.

The families leave with strengthened relationships, a feeling of community, and deepened spiritual practices, Witt says. It is a renewal that continues for the summer and beyond.

*Martini is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.

News media contact: Lilla Marigza, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5131 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Camp Magruder: Creation Vacation

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