Saturday, June 30, 2007

SONshine Summer shines on

Summer SONshine comes to St. Christopher parish in Moreno Valley once every year during the last week of June. It never wanes and it never loses its intensity. It warms every single corner of the community and it never fails to light up faces with SONforce brilliant smiles. The camp colors this year were especially hot, orange and blue. 100 orange shirts marching to bible story sessions, splitting into smaller goups to sit before a royal-blue clad leader to hear the word of God. Put 100 orange shirts in the Moreno Valley sunshine and surround them with about 80 royal-blue shirts and you have a sight that you will never forget. Put a smile on all the wearers of the shirts and your soul will never stop resonating with the Grace of God that you felt at that moment.

SONshine Summer Bible Camp at St. Christopher is advertised as being for children between grades one and six. In the three years that the event has taken place, the reality of the presence of God reaches out far beyond the "campers." On the first day alone we put 10 last minute volunteers to work. By the third day, we put in an order for 25 more royal-blue T-shirts to signify the growth of the volunteer staff. We had 85 volunteers for 100 campers. Nearly 1 to 1 ratio of management to labor! But wait, it's not really management after all, it's more like accompaniment. Parents, young and old alike following the SONforce Agents around from station to station, enjoying the learning that was happening. But hey, those blue shirts do make an impact and the behavior of the campers stays quiet with all those "big people" around.

You have to see it to believe it. This year we had a child with special needs. Every day we had one of our blue shirted leaders be this child's special friend. Now we are not experts, we're just ordinary folks. With the Grace of God though, our accompaniment worked and God taught us all something through this experience.

During the first hour of the first day, 12 new people who did not really know one another formed a team in the kitchen in time to feed the campers breakfast a mere one hour and a half into the program. If you don't believe in God before you see the way these people can gel, I will guarantee you that you will after you witness this group get into gear. One of them even had her two year old daughter in the stroller by the door during the entire camp. So there!

The baby sitting team this year was a mom with five of her own at the camp and two others who were so pregnant that they are perhaps now no longer pregnant.

Every day we feed 200 people breakfast and another breakfast sized "snack" midway through the morning. Frankly, we can't afford this. St. Christopher parishioners know that. We get all kinds of donations so that neither the children nor the adults lose their energy through the morning. People come to be fed spiritually through the study of the Bible...they go away remembering the camp for the delicious food that is served.

This entire effort is a community event. Large parts of large families participate in creating the success of the camp. People come through the campus and they say, "How's the camp?" We say, "Look at the smiles." The whole parish is stimulated and rewarded by the event. This is not simple children evangelization. This is the community of disciples of Jesus on a mission. This is St. Christopher parish on a five day Sermon on the Mount. If you missed it, mark your calendar. The first organizational meeting is scheduled for October 15, 2007 in preparation for the opening of the next SONshine Summer camp on June 23, 2008.
Paul Dion, STL
Theology Editor

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