By Julie Nortune
I am a planner. I love getting a new calendar at the beginning of each year. It hangs proudly on my bulletin board for the family to see. My husband makes fun of me because he thinks I need to use a digital calendar. But there is something in me that loves to plan and map out our year, marking up the calendar with graduations, weddings, vacations, camps, work trips, and ministry opportunities. It gives me a sense of purpose and joy to imagine how the year will unfold. The year 2020 was going to be the best year yet! I had skillfully planned my calendar with all the events that were going to take place.
As swiftly as I turned the calendar from February to March, that is how quickly my plans for the rest of the year would change. Or should I say, “be erased”? As joyful as I was to write in my calendar, my spirit was grieved every time I needed to erase something I had planned, such as our Easter outreach with 13,000 Easter eggs to hunt for or our missions trip where we were going to build two houses. I had to erase business trips, regional conference, and a trip to Israel with a group of pastors. Like most of you, I had to erase weddings, graduations, and vacations. But I have to say the one event I could not bring myself to erase was our Summerfest Kids Camp in July.
Our Summerfest Camp is an outreach to the families in our community. Last year we had more than 600 first through sixth graders in our week-long, full-day, free camp. The camp is a blessing to the families in our area and enables us to share about and demonstrate the love of Jesus to them all. At the end of April, we had to make the hard decision that we would not host the camp on our church campus. I had to make a choice: Am I going to erase this week or let God help us script a different plan for the week, keeping the mission and the message the same but utilizing a different method of delivery? And that is what we decided to do, literally deliver 250 boxes of fun to every child’s home, with each box carrying the love and hope of Jesus. Summerfest “To Go” was the answer! Since kids and families couldn’t come to us, we would take Summerfest to them.
I am grateful for a creative and adventurous team willing to step up and step out! We decided to take a journey around the world and a journey through the Bible from Genesis to Jesus. Summerfest To Go boxes had everything included for an entire week of fun for students to do at home. Each day students would open a new “goodie” bag filled with fun and games. We utilized our green screen and produced 20 videos to go along with each day’s bag of fun. The videos were Worship and Word, Crafts, Snack and Story Time, and a different elective for each day. The electives included drama, art, games, dance, and science. The students were able to watch the videos on our website any time of the day that would accommodate their schedules. We included “Table Talk” cards for the dinner table to encourage families to have Christ- centered conversations. There were also “Family Fun Night” activities for families to do together in the evening. The prayer this year was to reach the entire family, not just the children.
Our year may look different than I expected, but I am so thankful that we allowed God to re-write our calendar this summer. The responses we received were positively overwhelming. Here are just a few testimonies from the week:
This has been a really hard time for my son. He was so excited each day to open the bag and see what amazing experiences were inside. As we unpacked each day and watched the videos, I was moved to see how much work, commitment, and love had been poured out to show our kids the love of Christ. We have always been blessed by Summerfest, but the way that you all were able to adapt and serve our kids during this time brings tears of joy to our hearts.”
I honestly had no idea what this packet of fun would entail when I registered the girls back in June. My husband got laid off on July 1, which was a huge blow to our family. Needless to say, it’s been a stressful and overwhelming couple of weeks. Having these fun things to do last week definitely helped put a different kind of tone within our household and it was truly appreciated. ”
Every morning my children jumped out of bed at the seven-o-clock hour and rushed down the stairs to open their bag for the day and see what God had in store for them. It was like Christmas in summer.”
About the Author
Julie Nortune serves alongside her husband, Michael, lead pastor of Life Church in Concord, California, a church the couple planted in 2007. Julie also oversees Open Bible’s Pacific Region Women’s Network. The Nortunes have six children (including a set of quadruplets) and two sons-in-law. The Nortune “party of ten” is scattered throughout the States in Alabama, Oklahoma, Arizona, and California. Julie’s biggest joy is to see others become who God has created them to be.