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Our weekly newsletter filled with news, updates, and inspiring stories of how God is working in the Bay Area.

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If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last…

Luke 6:48-49 MSG

No matter what we’re going through today, Jesus promises that if we have the courage to keep putting his words into practice, we will stand strong in the end.

We were reminded of this truth as we heard about Monica and Lewis Williamson helping their youngest daughter, Norah, get baptized last Sunday! Monica has heroically battled through personal health challenges in her own life that could have led her to stop holding to God’s Word in bitterness. Instead, she and Lewis have fought to be faithful to God and continue to serve him through the storms of life. They have now helped both of their daughters develop a personal walk with God.

It was inspiring to hear Norah share at her baptism about how excited she is to have a purpose, and how much she wants to help other people with anxiety and learning disabilities. She is already leading in love by initiating deep conversations with her family and friends. She can’t wait to have impact with the teens this summer and at our upcoming Y-Camp!

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32 NIV

Norah’s story is a great reminder to all of us that God has great plans for our lives, regardless of the great challenges we sometimes face. The key is having the courage to keep holding to the truth of God’s teachings. As we do, we’ll find the freedom to be real about our challenges and limitations, and God will strengthen us from the inside out.

Getting ready for “This Is Why: Y-Camp 2023”
We are so excited for our Y-Camps next week because we love seeing God move in the hearts of teenagers like Norah!

For those who are sending their teens and middle schoolers to camp next week, we wanted to share a few things parents can do this weekend to prepare their camper for a great camp experience.

1. Focus on your friendships and faith
Every year, campers share that the most memorable part of camp for them was the relationships they built. As parents, one of the best ways we can help prepare our middle schooler or teen for a spiritual camp experience is to model for them how to build relationships!

Spend time talking with other parents whose kids have gone to camp before. Ask lots of questions about what helped them prepare their students for camp. If you can, connect briefly with your camper’s counselor before camp too, even just to express gratitude for them and to tell them you’ll be praying for a great time.

Remember to work on your own faith too so that your kids see your faith and not any fears you might have about their camp experience or their relationship with God.

2. Have connecting conversations
The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

Proverbs 20:5 NIV

We all have thoughts, feelings, sins, and desires in our hearts that take some “drawing out” to bring to the surface, and our middle schoolers and teens are no different. Making special time at home to practice listening to their hearts and emotions prepares them for small group settings at camp when they will have time to talk with their peers about what is going on inside.

It can be a challenge to draw out our kids’ hearts because they often communicate that they really don’t want to tell us anything of depth. Regardless of what our kids might say, we can provide low-pressure opportunities for them to talk (taking walks, going for drives) and communicate that we want to listen to them when they do talk.

Sometimes, our middle schoolers and teens are disinterested in God or appear disinterested. If this is the case in your home, you can still draw them out by asking them questions about what they think and what they are looking forward to:

What thoughts do you have about God?
Which friends are you looking forward to hanging out with?
What would you like to get out of camp this year?
What are different activities you might be interested in?
3. Set your camper up for success
The campers that have the best time at camp are those whose parents set them up for success physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Some campers who have special needs may do better not staying the night at camp and only coming for day trips. Other campers may need their parents to be nearby during the camp. We also provide one-on-one “sidekicks” for middle schoolers or teens who might need extra support during camp. Parents can talk through this with their camper so he or she knows that there is someone looking out for them if they need a little extra help during the camp.

As a parent, you can set your camper up for success by talking them through a game plan that will allow them to communicate their needs, their thresholds, and their limits to their counselor. Also, you can communicate their needs to camp staff ahead of time so they can keep an eye out for them.

We are looking forward to an incredible week of friendships and memories!

Until next time,

Sam and Tenea Manuel

East Bay Lead Ministers

Written by

Sam Manuel

Sam is a former outside linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. Since retiring from the NFL, Sam has worked in the ministry serving communities in the Bay Area.