Who am I? How do I define myself? How does being created by a loving God impact my identity? The kids at Hodiamont Identity Camp will be tackling these questions, under the guidance of Cyril Loum, a vicar at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in St. Louis. At the end of the first week of Identity Camp, Vicar Loum led children of all ages in games, while the program coordinator (and his mother), Hannah Loum, led them through a conversation about the different aspects of identity.
Though not a long distance from St. Timothy by car, the community of apartments known locally as “Hodiamont” feels a world away. Home to many refugees, it’s also the location of many violent crimes, including a steady string of homicides. No parent wants their children to call such a dangerous environment home, but without the means to move, they are left making the best of an unimaginable situation.
The team decided to start this camp, because with school out for the summer, many of the children needed more structure and a safe place to go. School provides much needed security and supervision, something that can be a challenge for parents and the community during the long summer months. Identity Camp offers a sanctuary for families surrounded by the dangers of modern poverty.
Plus One Grant Helps St. Timothy Shine a Light in a Dark Place
Identity Camp runs three times a week, Wednesday and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sunday evenings 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Festivities started in mid-June and will run through the middle of August. Keeping approximately 50 kids hydrated, fed, entertained and ministered to for the whole summer is quite the undertaking.
The Missouri District provided a Plus One grant in order to cover the costs of art supplies, food, items like bubbles for outdoor games, tables, wrist bands and leadership team building and celebration. Congregations participating in Plus One are eligible to apply for grants to assist them in their chosen project.
A Focus on Identity to Help Children Navigate a Complex World
Mrs. Loum focused on the theme of identity, because many of the children in the apartment complex where the camp is held are new to America. Embracing our identity as a follower of Christ can sometimes feel at odd with other parts of identity that seem “cool,” but do not ultimately reflect their true identity in God. This also helps the camp’s focus on Christ-centered relationships.
As an incredibly diverse spot in town, the apartments along Hodiamont hosts many different ethnicities, which can be both a challenge and an opportunity for the community. The programming of Identity Camp includes Gospel messages, lessons, discussions and the chance for kids to tell each other about their culture.
A Safe Haven for Kids of All Ages
Throughout the program, older children were given the opportunity to help lead games and make sure the younger children were having fun and participating. The dynamic between the children reflects some of the larger goals of Identity Camp:
- Provide a safe and healthy space for children and teens of all backgrounds to get to learn about their identity that is found in Jesus Christ.
- Teach and encourage children to develop Christ-centered relationships with each other.
- Encourage leadership, responsibility, and healthy communication skills.
A Grateful Community Embraces and Supports Identity Camp
At first, the parents were open to the camp, but as time went on, Vicar Loum noticed a shift in how they were thinking about it. Instead of place to send their children, the parents started to see Identity Camp as a community resource, one they felt compelled to nurture and take ownership in, so all the children in the neighborhood could take part. Many parents have started to become involved and volunteer to help the camp run smoothly. As word of Identity Camp has spread, other organizations and churches have asked to become involved as well.
The kids look forward to Identity Camp all year long. Vicar Loum says, “The kids’ response has been with huge excitement and anticipation of having something to do during the summer. In fact, even during Sunday school they want to know about our summer program. Also, the summer program has allowed us to reach out to some children that do not attend our Sunday school.”
The Missouri District is excited to award a mission grant to Hodiamont ministry for this very special summer program. Would you like to be a partner in ministry through prayer and financial gifts? Donate here or call Leah at (314) 590-6211. God’s blessings!