By Erin Dye
Eleven themed weeks. Ten memory verses. Forty-two youth. More than 275 hours of activities. What do these numbers represent? They are merely an outline of all that occurred during Adriel’s summer program! Many people have shared in these precious summer months at Adriel over the years and know the value of time spent under these circumstances.
Our youth have lives unlike the average person their age, and one of the times this becomes clear is during the summer. While other youth are enjoying time off from school, vacationing with their families, and spending their days as they choose, our Adriel youth are at a residential treatment facility. We still remain a residential treatment facility, but one thing we can do is fill our youth’s days with fun, expose them to new experiences, and help them feel valued for who they are.
Summer program consisted of three of the five weekdays filled with themed activities and an off campus outing as an incentive for participation and good behaviors. The other two days our youth kept in a school routine and worked towards needed educational credits with Title 1 teachers. If we could keep youth engaged in a variety of activities from playing Pictionary to shooting water balloons, youth could keep out of the trouble that boredom stirs and therefore could continue to participate in their therapeutic treatment program that is the foundation of their placement at Adriel.
While some of the activities were clearly focused on a biblical message for the week and each week had a themed Bible verse to memorize, it was clear God was present at all our activities. When a youth felt accomplished at learning how to swing a wiffle bat at age 13, and when youth invited a new youth to join in a card game, and when a youth traveling off campus and could take in the beautiful sights of rural farmland, God was glorified.
Summer program created great community opportunities as well. One of the highlights from the summer was a farm tour at a local Mennonite church member’s home. The majority of our youth got to attend and learn about the milking process, pet baby cows, take a hay ride, and hold a chicken. As many of our youth come from an urban area or haven’t had any farm connections, this was a great first experience! A handful of youth left proclaiming they wanted to be a farmer one day.
Another great community experience was enjoying a pizza party from the outdoor pizza oven at Bethel Mennonite Church. Youth made their own pizza, shared a dinner table with the volunteers, and learned the benefits of making their own food fresh. Then they kicked soccer balls and played on the playground side by side with Bethel youth.
Although we may not have explicitly pointed out every time that when you have good sportsmanship, you’re loving your neighbor as yourself, or when you’re trying your hardest to complete an obstacle course you’re using the gifts that God has given you, we trust the working of the Spirit and the healing Christ offers our brokenness. We feel blessed for the opportunity and grateful for the Lord’s strength and guidance throughout this season!