Students Experience Urban Ministry in San Francisco

July 11, 2013

By Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr., director of communications 

"I hope that I don't forget there are people in need and I need to love my neighbor, even if I don't like them," said Tadashi Headley a high school senior from Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church (UMC) about his experience at Urban Camp.
In its first year, Urban Camp combines social justice, service work, and mission work for a camping experience in the heart of the city. Fifteen high school youth gathered at Waller Center, an urban retreat and community gathering place, in the heart of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.
Kelly Newell, California-Nevada Conference's director of young people's ministry and camping, says, "San Francisco is our library, but we're trying to give them experiences and conversations that they can then carry home in their faith walk around compassion and social justice." The students ranged in age from incoming high school freshman to high school graduates about to enter college. Newell hope the urban campers learned to "look at life, and look at God's world, through the eyes of others."
During the four-day experience, campers created hygiene kits for the homeless, worshipped at Glide UMC and assisted in preparation of one of the church's lunch meals served to the homeless, participated in a care for creation project at the Presidio helping to protect plans, explored the history of the city through a mural scavenger hunt, participated in an activity in Haight-Ashbury, explored the root causes of poverty by learning about public policy, had a historic tour of the Tenderloin beginning in City Hall, served a meal at an HIV/AIDS ministry in a Lutheran church, and participated in Bible Study. 
"Our hope is that they don't consider this an experience where they just did something for poor people…but, consider their faith journey in terms of walking humbly with God, and seeking mercy and justice for all of God's people wherever they live," said Newell. "Youth are seeking to do…opportunities to serve and make a difference."
Headley says, "I've learned to be more inclusive and to love my neighbor more."