THORNVILLE — The Grace Lutheran Church in Thornville hosted its annual Vacation Bible School beginning this week for children from other church groups as well as non-denominational. The church camp has been going on for more than 30 years and is partnered with other churches in Perry County.
“The churches are smaller in our area,” Camp Director Beth Raab stated. “It’s a great way for our community churches to get together and work together.”
The theme of this year’s camp was to send the message that God is good even in times of stress and turmoil. The church has a wall filled with statements and notes about how and when they feel the love of the Lord. Campers and volunteers leave post-it notes that covers the bulletin board.
“When life is unfair, when it’s sad, when it changes, when it’s scary and even when life is good, God is still good,” Raab said.
The camp is a five day experience for the approximately 160 campers. The camp began on June 24 and runs through June 28 from 8:30 a.m. to noon for those days. The camp finalizes with a program held at the Grace Lutheran Church which will begin at 7 p.m., followed by pool party.
The ages of the campers range from age four to children entering sixth grade, noted Raab. There are also youth assistants that volunteer at the camp and they range from seventh grade up into high school and college. There are close to 40 youth assistants and over 100 volunteers in total.
The camp is organized and run by a five churches within the Perry County area. They are Trinity United Church of Christ, Grace Lutheran Church, Jacksontown United Methodist Church, Thornville United Methodist Church and South Shore Ministries. All of the churches associated with the camp donate for the funding of the camp. The amount each church donates is unspecified since each church is different in terms of size.
There are also officials from partnering churches that help and guide the camp. Those individuals are Pastor Jeremy Shank of Thornville Methodist Church, Pastor Orrey McFarland of Grace Lutheran, Pastor Doug Lynn of South Shore Ministries and Pastor Lee Crader of Southshore Ministries.
Thornville United Methodist Church also hosts its own Bible camp that the younger age groups go to. However, due to recent weather patterns, the Grace Lutheran Bible camp decided to hold all the age groups.
The goal of the camp is to let the youth understand the importance of the Lord and how he is always there even in times of despair. Perry County is no stranger to strife with some parts of the county being impoverished. Churches like Grace Lutheran and others host these camps in order to remind children that someone is always there to support them.
“They can turn to (God) rather than turn to something else,” Raab stated.
Every year, Grace Lutheran Church has a mission outreach program. The typical outreach program raises funds for organizations in the nation as well as worldwide. This year, The church is raising funds for both national and international organizations.
Grace Lutheran is currently raising funds for Compassion International which is a humanitarian organization whose main goal is to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. The humanitarian organization has a Child Sponsor Program detailed on its website at compassion.com.
The program offers children medical checkups and healthcare, health and hygiene training, Christian training through local churches, mentoring and vocational programs, food and supplements to protect against malnutrition, recreation activities, protection from crime and violence and access to special services such as surgeries and disaster relief.
The organization also gives educational assistance which includes textbooks, school uniforms, tutoring, post-secondary courses, lab supplies and literacy as well as financial training for caregivers. In 2018, Compassion International raised close to $900 million for child development programs.
Grace Lutheran also has a local mission aimed to assist local high school students. The church is collecting personal care items for students that are in need.
“There are a lot of kids that do not have what they need at the high school level,” Raab said. “They need it.”