A Place Where Walls can Come Down
By Doug Jonson, Tacoma Youth for Christ
On July 29, Tacoma Youth for Christ and New Song City Central Church in Tacoma joined together again to go to Warm Beach Camp for our second annual Tacoma Urban Outreach Camp for high schoolers. This time, we also teamed up with Tacoma Rescue Mission and Peace Lutheran Church, also in Hilltop.
We brought 53 kids from Tacoma. A majority of our kids come from the Hilltop and Eastside areas of Tacoma, and from broken homes and poverty. Many have been in the juvenile detention center, and experienced homelessness, drug addiction, or some form of abuse.
Like last year, we really didn’t know what to expect for our week at Warm Beach. We had numerous kids from opposing gangs … in the same cabin. We had kids who had just gotten out of jail. We had kids who were currently living in abusive situations at home.
One of the kids in my cabin, Ahmad, had just experienced, a week before coming to camp, having his dad locked up in prison for his third strike. Ahmad is one of many kids who experiences nothing but chaos at home.
But Warm Beach Camp is a place where we can take our kids out of the city – away from the drama and the chaos – where kids can experience peace. Sometimes, it is the first time they’ve ever felt peace. It’s a place where all their walls can come down, where all the outside influences are absent, and the kids can be real and honest. It’s a place where God’s presence is felt, and where God meets with our kids in a very real way.
Our time at Warm Beach this year was no different! I don’t know the numbers, but many kids gave their lives to Christ or re-dedicated their lives to following Him. In that week, God did a powerful work of breaking down some of the hardest walls, and bringing kids face to face with their loving Savior. So many kids had the heart-revelation that God is their loving Father – even though they’ve never even met their biological father.
The entire week was a real battle, but I’ll never forget the last night as some of the toughest kids were weeping and experiencing the fullness of God’s love for the very first time.
I remember seeing Cody and David, rival gang members, hugging each other and weeping over each other, declaring themselves brothers in Christ. I remember seeing Jerel, who’s one of the most numb kids I’ve ever met, crying because he felt emotions for the very first time.
I remember hearing Allen singing this amazing, spontaneous song that eloquently shared about the redemption he was experiencing because of Jesus Christ. Just 30 minutes before that he had come clean and completely renounced a life of addiction to sex, alcohol, and drugs.
A girl named Adrian came to camp because her boyfriend had come. She was not a Christian and came from a broken home where her dad had recently walked out on the family. Good at hiding any emotion, she seemed pretty hard the first couple of days. But on Wednesday night she decided to give her life to Christ and prayed with one of the staff leaders.
The most fruit from her decision has come since being home from camp. She has started coming regularly to church at New Song, even without her boyfriend. Recently at church, she received communion and prayed out loud, thanking Jesus for dying for her.
Many of our core leaders at Sozo, our Tacoma urban youth church in Hilltop, are products of our week at Warm Beach last year. It was at Warm Beach that many of those kids gave their lives to Christ. And now, they are the peer leaders in Hilltop who are sharing their faith, evangelizing to their peers, pulling friends out of gangs, praying for people, and leading them to Christ.
On a recent Tuesday night, nearly everyone who attended camp this year was at Sozo. We praise God that what began in the lives of these kids at Warm Beach is continuing, and the most exciting stories are still to come – the stories of healing, redemption, faith and growth in the lives of these kids throughout the year as a result of the ministry that began in their lives at Warm Beach Camp.
Please pray for our kids and for the work that God is continuing to do in their lives.