My Facebook memories have been making me a little wistful the past couple of weeks.
From 1993 until last year, with only a few short gaps, I spent at least one week, and sometimes two, each summer at Mountain T.O.P.’s Adults In Ministry (AIM) program.
At their peak, the summer AIM weeks could have nearly 100 people in attendance. But over the years, the market has shifted. AIM is still a healthy and vibrant program — in the form of long weekend events (Thursday night through Sunday morning), most of which are home repair-only.
But home repair was never my passion at AIM. During the summer AIM weeks, I would either be a volunteer for Summer Plus or Kaleidoscope, which are enrichment programs for teenagers and children, respectively, from Mountain T.O.P.’s service area. I would teach creative writing at Summer Plus, or I would just be a helper at Kaleidoscope, assisting workshop leaders as needed.
The attendance at the summer AIM weeks had been declining, steadily, for years. For the past several years, I expected the summer AIM weeks to be cancelled. Last fall, I found out that the AIM weeks weren’t on the schedule for the summer of 2019, and that the Kaleidoscope, Summer Plus and Quest programs were being moved to Mountain T.O.P.’s Youth Summer Ministry (YSM), which brings in teenage volunteers from across the eastern U.S. (Quest, which I’ve never done, is an adventure-based day camp for teenagers from the service area.)
My heart broke, just a little bit. I’d had so many good experiences at those week-long camps, made so many friends, seen God in so many ways. I knew that ending them was the right decision — the camp week I attended last year had only a handful of volunteers, not nearly enough to justify the expense of running the camp. But it was still a very sad day for me.
Last fall, believing that there would be no week-long AIM in 2019, I agreed to spend a week with the youth from my church this summer, as a chaperone at Youth 2019, a big United Methodist conference in Kansas City. That trip will take place next month, and I’m absolutely looking forward to it.
After I’d already committed to Youth 2019, I found out that Mountain T.O.P. was making provisions for adults, like my friend Jean Nulle, who had a passion for Summer Plus or Kaleidoscope and who wanted to still participate. It’s not a traditional AIM week, but if you could put a small group together from your church you could come, stay in camp, and be adult volunteers in Summer Plus (or Kaleidoscope, or Quest, depending on which week you wanted to attend). I don’t know a lot about the specifics; I’ll be anxious to find out from one of this summer’s participants exactly how it works. In the evenings, after the service area campers have been sent home, are the adult volunteers on their own, or are they treated like a part of the YSM camp?
Anyway, this week on Facebook I am seeing both memories of my past AIM trips and a few posts from or about friends who are in camp this week under the new model (most of them are too busy to post, I’m sure). I was needed for the Youth 2019 trip, and have no regrets about that, but a little part of me wishes I was sitting in Bradford Cabin or Willems cabin, playing Mexican Train dominoes or “Screw The Dealer” with my Mountain T.O.P. friends.