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Youth teach others to protect, conserve God’s earth

Youth teach others to protect, conserve God’s earth

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Youth teach others to protect, conserve God’s earth

Oct. 18, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0754}

An e-Review Feature
By Steven Skelley**

The United Methodist Church has long been a champion of conservation and environmental responsibility, and the Florida Conference Camps and Retreat Ministries staff is working to pass those ideals on to the next generation.

This year nearly 3,600 campers from fourth through 12th grade attended summer camp at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park. Each week of the nine-week program every middle school small group learned ways to conserve and save energy in their homes, communities, schools and churches.

Members of Community United Methodist Church in Fruitland Park leave Sunday morning worship with conservations bags and tree saplings given to them by middle school youth attending camp at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp. Photo by Barbara Guenther. Photo #07-0687.

The goal was to teach campers hands-on ways to help conserve energy, according to Heather Pancoast, assistant director of the Warren Willis camp.

“We believe, as United Methodists, that we are called to protect and conserve the gift that God has given us in our planet earth,” Pancoast said. “As Christians it is our responsibility to do our part in conserving energy and also sharing with other the ways that they can help to take care of nature and our natural resources.”

The project involved the middle-schoolers gathering in small groups to assemble conservation bags. Inside each reusable canvas bag was a reusable water bottle, energy saving light bulbs, light switch plates to remind people to turn out their lights, a live oak sapling and basic information about conserving energy at home and in churches.

Pancoast and her husband, Joel, program manager at the Warren Willis camp, then partnered with Community United Methodist Church in Fruitland Park to educate its members on conservation, distributing the bags to each family.

“People at our church were very excited about having the middle-schoolers at the church service giving away hand-made conservation bags and small trees,” church member Esther Houvenair said. “We thought the whole idea was an excellent idea. It showed what youth can do and that they can make a difference. People were talking afterward about planting the trees, buying energy conserving light bulbs and other ways to make a difference.”

Pancoast hopes the campers better understand their role in protecting the future of the planet and that it is their responsibility to take care of what God has given everyone.

“It was a really neat experience for the campers, as well as the families that received the bags,” she said.

Middle school youth attending camp at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp decorated the reusable canvas conservation bags they gave members of Community United Methodist Church in Fruitland Park with messages reminding the members to be good stewards of the environment. Photo by Barbara Guenther. Photo #07-0688.

Mary Krantz, a middle school student who participated in the project, said summer camp “was probably the best week I’ve ever had.”

“I learned you can definitely make a difference,” she said. “You can take the things you learn now and keep trying to reach more people. Conservation is important. The environment is important.”

Pancoast believes the campers caught the vision. “I think that young people are a lot more aware of this problem in our world than we give them credit for,” she said. “I pray that as they get older and begin making decisions about their choices and lifestyle they will draw on some of these experiences to help them determine what kind of choices they will make.”

The United Methodist Social Principles state: “We affirm that we’re responsible for the way we use the Lord’s creation. We support social policies that promote the wise use of water, air, soil, minerals, and plants. We support the conservation of energy and oppose energy-using technologies that threaten human health. We’re concerned for the humane treatment of animals and the respectful use of space.”

In addition to learning about conservation, campers took part in such outdoor activities as sailing, the high ropes course, archery and swimming. High school students also had the option of attending a one-week Appalachian Trail hike and a wilderness week that included rock climbing, caving and hiking.


This article relates to Church and Society.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Skelley is a freelance writer based in Beverly Hills, Fla. His columns appear in the Naples Sun Times newspaper and Faith & Tennis magazine.