Summer OFF 2014 took place over 5 weeks, in three Providence parks with the help of eleven churches from across RI. Summer OFF Intern, Emily Zulker, has provided a detailed summary of what God is doing in Providence and beyond through this years’ Summer OFF. For more information on Summer OFF or how to get involved next year, contact The Philip Center
Over the past six years, God has grown Summer OFF hugely! He took what began as one family with a few crafts in Dexter park and has grown it into a ministry that now includes three Providence parks and eleven churches. In these past five weeks of Summer OFF, God has continued that growth in incredible ways.
This summer in Dexter Park, teams from Godspeed Fellowship, New Covenant Christian Fellowship (with Crossway Church) and Living Hope Christian Church/Exeter Chapel (a combination team) came to the park, each for one week. Throughout the summer, the number of kids fluctuated from twenty-five on a small day to 130 on a big day. Kids crowded around tables and blankets to get their faces or fingernails painted. Others painted with water color. Still more played games in the field. Each day the whole group paused to listen to the Bible story. Face paint became so popular that the week 2 leaders created a number system to organize the kids waiting to have their faces painted. It was like a line at the deli! In between everything the team members shared the gospel one-one-one with countless children, and many adults.
On day 2 of Summer OFF, the Godspeed team arrived to find the park set up with a stage and a bunch of tents. Soon the park came alive with events and organizations promoting the free lunches served in city parks, and healthy living in general. Mayor Angel Taveras spoke, as well as others, and fun activities took place all day. The Godspeed team was able to set up crafts and face paint, and the stations were even busier than usual. Another day, Y on the Move set up a bounce house. Yet another day, Salt+Light, an outreach drama group that partners with churches, came to do a performance! Throughout the first two weeks, the teams promoted VBS at Faith and Hope Baptist Church around the corner, and about 14 kids from Dexter Park attended VBS during week three. Living Hope Christian Church and Exeter Chapel finished off the summer on August 1.
The Future of Summer OFF – Kid’s Club and Church Plant
Over the past six years, Summer OFF workers have seen door after door wide open to the gospel. And they’ve also seen many needs. Most of the kids we serve come from broken, poor families. Often, an older brother or sister will be caring for several younger siblings as well as nephews and nieces. These kids welcome the fun and loving atmosphere of Summer OFF and are almost always open to hearing the gospel.
With this in mind, The Philip Center staff wants to start a Kid’s Club that would run once a week through the whole school year, right at Dexter Park. In fact, the curriculum is set and we are forming a group of volunteers. We still need a director and a place to meet. Beyond a Kid’s Club, we see the need for a church plant at Dexter Park. It’s so clear that these kids need the spiritual and physical care that only a church can provide. One of the goals of Summer OFF and motivations for starting Kid’s Club is to create a core group of people who can be part of a church plant a few years down the road.
Summer OFF Outside the US
Summer OFF also had a visitor from South Carolina during week one! Richard Moore is currently raising support to go to Germany. He will be working with Janz Team and LEAP Network, and hopes to transplant the Summer OFF idea to Germany in 2015. We’ve also had interest from a ministry in France that may like to start Summer OFF there.
Christian Life Church, Cranston Christian Fellowship, and Christian Hill Community Church/Heritage Christian Fellowship each ran Summer OFF in beautiful Riverside Park. They flexed their schedule around a blow-up waterside that’s at the park every afternoon, and have built relationships with the workers who run it. The hardworking teams have come up with creative ways to attract kids to a more secluded location. The Christian Life team put on a Christmas in July skit and the Cranston Christian Fellowship team brought a snow-cone machine! One of the leaders of the Christian Hill/Heritage Christian team, Taylor, is a police officer who’s beat is the Riverside Park area. He’s familiar with the kids and made great connections with them. One day, he even got police cars to come and give a demonstration for the kids, who were totally enthralled. The Riverside teams this year discovered that the best emphasis for this park is on building relationships and consistently sharing the gospel with the same kids, caregivers, and park workers each day. Riverside Park saw the number of kids grow from about 30 to 85 over the summer.
Jennifer Rivera Park
Jennifer Rivera Park is a new location for Summer OFF. Just around the corner from Jennifer Rivera Park is F
aith and Hope Baptist Church. Faith and Hope ran a VBS the week after the Summer OFF program in this park, so Summer OFF there was both ministry and advertising for VBS. Partnering with Grace Harbor Church, a team from Concord Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN came to serve in Jennifer Rivera! They treated their week in Providence as a full-time missions trip, doing ministry in the park during the day and other outreach activities in the evenings. Similarly to the Riverside teams, this team emphasized building relationships and had a really great week.
Partnership with Churches
Summer OFF is also hoping to partner with the Village Church in Dallas, TX. This year, old friends — the Huddlestons (members of the Village Church) — came to serve with Summer OFF during week 3, and we look forward to more opportunities to serve with the Village Church in the future.
It was a thrilling summer full of ministry training, outreach and laying a foundation for a new church. Praise God for all he’s doing in Providence!