Though the calendar says there is another month of summer, for a lot of us, summer is OVER. What is your favorite part of summer?
We could all have a different answer to that question or perhaps many good answers. And for those strange people who enjoy cold weather, they might answer nothing. I am one of those that loves summer. So, I have many answers. I love getting to sleep in if I choose to. I love not having to make sure school uniforms are washed every week. I love getting to grill out and eat fresh fruit like watermelon on a regular basis. Summer means baseball, and now for my family softball season. Summer is also a time to spend time with family, and if you are fortunate enough, maybe even some type of vacation. This year, we went to Arizona in August! Talk about hot!!
It is always odd to me, when people talk about a relaxing summer! I don’t even remember when I had a relaxing summer. But that reason is why I love summer so much. Sure, I get to enjoy sleeping in or taking naps when I get tired (is that a sign of getting older?). I get to coach softball, and when my beloved Cubs are on a national telecast, I get to watch them play. I get to grill and do other summer activities. But while I get to experience all the cool things, most of my time and energy each summer is planning and preparing for the All-Star Sports Camp. It is amazing how one week requires so much planning and energy!
Can I be honest? Each summer, I experience a spiritual tug-of-war. One of my spiritual gifts is faith and I know that God cannot fail, and so He won’t allow us to fail with the sports camp. Well, He would if we weren’t honoring Him through our efforts. But sometimes I go through periods of doubt or frustration. I catch myself thinking, what if we don’t have enough volunteers? What if we also have a lot of kids come? This summer the tug-of-war seemed worse than previous years. We had key people back out right before camp, and even though we offered several orientations throughout the summer, the week before camp, we only had about 30 who had been through an orientation. I was struggling to hold on to faith. Sometimes, it seems like a lot of people have good suggestions and advice, but when it comes to actually executing those ideas, preparing for camps, and finding enough volunteers, it seems like it is all left to me. I honestly, began to ask myself, how much longer I was willing to keep doing this. Was the curtain beginning to lower on All-Star Sports Camp? But then comes my favorite part of summer.
My favorite part of summer is seeing God move at the All-Star Sports Camp. As some of you may remember, every year I feel God has a lesson for me to learn. My lesson for this year is how Awesome God is.
Think about how often we hear the word awesome used in our lives or conversation. Some can say that a certain food or restaurant is awesome. “This steak is AWESOME.” We can use it to describe someone’s outfit. “That outfit would make you look AWESOME.” You can use it to describe entertainment. “Did you see that catch the baseball player made? It was AWESOME.” In a way, when we use the word so often, it loses its significance and in a way, it’s exact meaning. I looked up awesome in an online dictionary. The dictionary defines it in several ways. The first definition is causing or inducing awe, inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear. Can food, an outfit, or some entertainment bring a feeling of reverence? No, not really. We can admire those things, but they don’t bring a sense of fear (fear in a Biblical sense).
I want to share some instances from camp this year, where we felt the movement of the Lord. Most of the experiences dealt with worship at camp. Every year, we select songs we want to do during our worship times. We normally select about 8 songs that we consider upbeat, 4 slow sings, and 4 songs for prayer time. We then rotate songs throughout the week. This summer was different, and we did not get our praise team together until a week and a half before camp. We only met that one time, and we only met for about an hour. We selected our songs, and I even let them pick what songs we would use on Monday. The songs not used on Monday, are used on Tuesday. Tuesday’s theme was Unashamed Love, and I was the speaker that day. The scripture was from John 15:12 which says, “My command is this: love each other as I have loved you”. I shared some characteristics of God’s love with the campers, and then shared with them you can’t share God’s love until you have God’s love. I gave a chance to respond to the message, and over 12 campers stood up. Later that day, I just was in awe how all the songs we “chose” for that day was used by God. It seemed the whole service was directed at God’s love and goodness.
Other examples also deal with worship. One of the songs we have sung for many years is a song by Charles Jenkins, called “Awesome”. We sang that song again this year, and I think it was the favorite song. Most of our kids were new this year, and by Wednesday they were singing “Awesome” and the other songs with energy and enthusiasm. The puppets did a great job this year, and all of our speakers did a great job. I think this year’s worship was the best worship experience we have had in a few years. One of our other themes was Unashamed worship, and the speaker that day, got up and did a break dance to Gospel music. Needless to say, the campers enjoyed that tremendously.
There are other examples of how AWESOME this camp was. We had several new volunteers, and many of them quickly caught the vision for what we are trying to accomplish. Some have already begun thinking how they can get more volunteers for next year. One of youth volunteers (and former camper) likes to make videos, and has even offered to help me make videos for next year’s camp with the songs and motions we use with them. Another AWESOME thing is being able to connect with some of the new families. God brought us many new friends to camp.
I am not going to do a lot of “teaching” about the awesomeness of God. I am going to provide you with a list of scriptures that you can read and meditate on to understand the AWESOMENESS (is that even a word?) better. If I had to choose one scripture that reveals how AWESOME God is, it would be Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”. Even when we don’t realize it or understand God is working for us and through us, He is. I know God did a lot more this summer than I expected or answered. I can’t wait until next summer, to see what He does next summer!!
Here is the list of scriptures for you to study and meditate
Our God is truly AWESOME. He loves us more than we deserve and more than we will fully understand.
I hope you enjoy the rest of this newsletter!!
All-Star Sports Camp
As you have already read, All-Star Sports Camp 2017 was quite an awesome experience. I want to share some numbers with you from camp as well as share two letters (1 from a volunteer and parent and the other from the parents of 3 campers.
Here is the report from camp:
- We had a total of 184 children at camp, and those campers represent 106 families.
- 107 kids were brand new to sports camp. That brings the total number of individual students since 2004 to 2,256, and 812 of those campers have attended multiple years.
- 64 campers did not list a church home on their registration form
For the first time, we also asked about gender on the registration forms, we had 91 girls and 93 boys.
In addition to the campers, we had close to 80 volunteers, which came from many different churches and different backgrounds.
Here is the first letter that I want to share. It is a little long, but too good to cut anything out. The writer came to camp to help out, with very little knowledge of what would happen. Due to people backing out, she had to help lead the baseball program this year. She did a great job.
To Whom It May concern,
Hello, my name is Legina Gonzales and I would really like to share my experience at the All-Star Sports Camp that Living Abundantly Ministries held this summer.
I am a mother of 4, 3 of my children Luna age 8, Johnnie 10, and Zavier 12 still reside at home with me.
I was asked by Cullen Manny if I would be interested in sending my kids to the All-Star Sports camp that his ministry holds every year. He told me all about it while he was coaching my girls, and I thought it would be a wonderful idea for my kids. Cullen also asked If I would be interested in volunteering, I of course said yes, I love children! Little did I know what I was saying yes too!!!
You see we have been here for only one year here in Lubbock, TX. We have had to take a leap of faith in God and trust he would take care of us in our new life and journey to better ourselves and our children. We know very few people here in Lubbock, but they are the very best people God put in our lives. My children have learned to find themselves in Christ and in themselves.
Well, l we went to the camp and we were all nervous but nonetheless excited. We pulled up and we saw so many children excited and happy. I quickly began to register myself and my kids and off we go.
I oversaw the children and Baseball. It did not take long to warm up and jump right in. Everyone was so wonderful and welcoming to my children and me.
After playing for a while one of the other leaders calls out, “Devotional Time!”. I look around and wonder to myself, “what is this?”
Well we gathered all the kids around, gave them snack and water as the one of the other leaders starts to explain the theme for our camp and what it means to be “UNASHAMED”. I am taken a little back and surprised, PLEASANTLY SURPRISED! I have never been a part of anything that includes Christianity outside of my church setting. As you know a lot of times people must beware of religion and including God in things because they don’t agree, WELL NOT HERE!!!! They ladies were discussing, quoting, teaching and interacting with the children about our being UNASHAMED OF THEIR LOVE FOR GOD! It was awesome.
After everyone finished up we headed inside for worship and If I am being completely honest I had no idea what was going to take place or entail. Again, curious and EXCITED at the same time.
We enter this big auditorium and there is a setup of lights, screens, tables, microphones, music, puppets, etc.……….and as I walk in, look on stage there is Cullen calling out for each group asking who is “UNASHAMED”! I must admit I was so happy because it was very hot and I am completely out of shape and running with a bunch of kids wasn’t very easy, and the AC cooled me and the children just in time. But It would not take long to realize it wasn’t the AC that made me feel better. It was where I was standing. It was who I was standing with, it was who I was standing for.
I have been a Catholic (which I love) all my life. But we all know It doesn’t consist of energetic praising and shouting your conviction for Love for Christ. I just stood there looking around seeing all the children singing and dancing. They knew all the words!!!! I thought to myself, joyfully, “What is this? What is happening?” There were volunteers standing in front of the stage signing and singing and leading with Cullen. There were other group leaders singing and participating with all their hearts. They provided a large screen with the words so everyone could learn and participate together and no one was left behind. Everyone was so HAPPY!!!!!!
But, but the best part was looking over and seeing the joy on my children’s face as they smiled over at me singing, signing, and dancing!!!!! All the children’s faces. Wow!!!!! I have never been a part of such energy and love!!!!
Every single day, EVERDAY, my children would shout, “Thank you mommy for bringing us to this program, but also being a part of it!” EVERYDAY! My 12-year-old joined us volunteering on Wednesday and I just could not wait to see or hear is reaction. Safe to say He absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to return. He has had some heath issues and but he was not going to let that keep him from returning to help and praise!!!! I don’t know a lot of 12-year old’s who cannot wait to help and Worship God instead of playing video games.
Breakfast and Lunch were provided for the children. I have worked as a playground supervisor in my hometown and I know the importance of providing food for some these children. I am completely aware that these meals are also the only meal some the children will receive through the day.
At the end of the week the children received gifts with “UNASHAMED” reminder on it. Backpack, pencils, bracelets, etc.………. this was wonderful!!!!!!!
A hotdog cookout was held on the Friday evening. All the parents of the children were invited to eat, praise and see what it was we were doing with kids all week. It was awesome. Children ran up to me hugging me telling me how much they were going to miss me. I miss them. It was bittersweet day! Nonetheless sweet and joyous.
I was happy to be able to take my kids to be a part of something so wonderful. Lubbock doesn’t provide a lot of “affordable” options for kids in the summer. Where I come from Summer is all about children and free or very affordable entertainment. It has been financially tough moving here, now on one income, since now I am now a full-time student, not working and providing things to keep my children busy. Also knowing very few people.
I would have never imaged the day I said yes to this program how “full” my kids and I would feel. I had to thank God for putting Cullen in our lives along with wonderful program. Nothing is coincidence. He is a great softball coach to my kids and now I can add teacher and friend to that list.
The only thing I could ask for Is the honor to be asked back again next year, to help and have my children attend.
Thank You Cullen!
Thank you for time and Listening to my family’s experience with this most wonderful program!!!
Legina A. Gonzales
The second letter is from parents, whose 3 boys attended camp.
Dear Mr. Manny and All Star Sports Camp Staff:
We are truly blessed that our three sons, Gabriel, Matthew and John, attended the All-Stars Sports Camp from July 17- 21.
From the first day they attended, our first impression was that it was extremely organized and safe! All the staff seemed very comfortable working with young children and we could tell that they have a heart for reaching the young generation for Christ.
Our boys told us they had a ton of fun and also that they learned more about Jesus through worship. You and your staff’s Christian leadership at the camp made a positive impact on them and I’m sure hundreds of other children. And it has certainly blessed our Christian growth and faith as well!
We look forward to next summer’s camp and may God continue to bless you richly in the calling of your ministry!
Rudy and April Luna
Gabriel, Matthew and John
The other thing I wanted to share with you is my favorite moment from camp. Not only was it my favorite moment, but another AWESOME experience from our times of worship.
One of youth volunteers, Isys, graduated from Monterey High School in the spring. Before graduation, Isys felt led to enlist in the United States Navy. At our camp, we have a few veterans. The veterans at camp represent the Air Force, Army, and Marines. On the last day of camp, I felt God leading me to have us pray over Isys before we left. I don’t know if anyone else would admit it or not, but I shed a few tears, and I know the moment was touching to some of the campers as well.
So, what is Next?
Even though this camp is an awesome experience, we realize that there a few areas we need to work on and improve upon. Please pray for wisdom as we work on these areas. Also, if you or anyone you know can help in these areas please let us know.
- Reaching the targeted neighborhoods. As I looked back over the camp data, there were very few campers from the zip code of OL Slaton Middle School, and probably those were on the other side of Ave. Q. The first year, we had campers from the OL neighborhood, but the last two years that have changed. Also, the number of campers not from another summer program has been down for two years. We must figure out how to connect with these neighborhoods and get the word out to the families in these neighborhoods. Some possible ideas include connecting to the PTAs at the neighborhood schools as well as doing some prayer walking at some point so that we can get the word out more effectively.
- We also need to work on camp marketing and publicity. Sometimes we get so busy, that the camp flyer does not get done in time, and we don’t put flyers out until the summer. This should be done earlier. We also need to find ways to get camp information into some of the community newspapers as well as other media sources. We also need to have ways of promoting the camp at community events throughout the year, as well as handing out information periodically at the local grocery stores and libraries.
- We need more volunteers. Ideally, we would like to have close to 100 volunteers at camp. Obviously if we target the neighborhoods better and get the word out, we will have more campers, so we will need more volunteers. It would be great to have 1 or 2 people help coordinate volunteer recruitment and outreach.
- Increasing the 1.37%. 5 days out of the year comes to 1.37%. We have to be willing to make our impact on the campers and their families more than just one week out of the year. I know we are all busy with other commitments, but honestly, if we are content on just one week out of the year, we probably shouldn’t be having camp. This is an area we need to work on tremendously. One of the things is to work with some of the local churches to help get children not plugged into a church, to connect with a church who will help them grow in the faith. I have other ideas, but it takes more than just me and a few others to make it happen.
All-Star Sports Camp 2018
We have not finalized the theme for next year’s camp yet, but we are planning on having the camp from July 23-27 back at OL Slaton Middle School.
Honoring those who made All-Star Sports Camp possible.
We would like to thank the following for their investment of money, time, or both. It takes many to make the camp happen: ABC Bank, Harleigh Aguirre-Golightly, Aldersgate Church, Ella Ashley, Nathan Ashley, Eddie Avery, Janie Bailey, Charla Barger, Joyce Bartlett, Tess Bliss, Tony Bliss, Tye Brantley, Jaden Bullington, Caylene Caddell, Donajean Caffey, Ty Caffey, Abbie Calderon, Amanda Castner, Esterrita Castro, Cindy Clark, Brent Coffey, Chuck Colbert, Lyndi Criswell, Bailey Delavan, DG Marketing LLC, Durango’s Mexican Restaurant, Kyle Elliott, Monea Embers, Curtis & Shayla Erickson, Lupita Felan, First Bank & Trust, Anita Flores, Yamilett Gallegos, Kyla Garrett, Madison Gilmore, Jaime Gonzales, Legina Gonzales, Marisol Gonzalez, Pedie, Guerra, Genye Guinn, Tristina Gutierrez, Dave Hagberg, Zhadai Hancock-Redwine, Ava Hannon, Don & Sue Hargis, Erin Hayes, Jazz Hereford, Michelym Hereford, Madysen Herrera, Linda Hiracheta, Lamicha Hogan, Gary Horton, Keyondra Horton, Terry & Sheri Hurst, David Jackson, Shari Jackson, Xixi Jia, Jimmy John, Keedra Johnson, JW Data, LLC, Gabby Kirkwood, Sharon Kirkwood, Milton Lee, Lighthouse Fundraising, Jon Lowe, Glenn & Barbara Lust, Erek & Sara Mackey, Al Manny, Nancy Manny, Aramis Manriquez, Erma Manriquez, Ethan Manriquez, Sarah Manrqiuez, Brooxie Martinez, Martha McClenan, Craig & Ann McDonald, Breanna McGaha-Osby, Marisol Medina, Lyandri Mireles, Ray Mojica, Mark Monette, Esther Moses, Joyce Munsch, EV & Jeanie Murphy, Chris Osby, Savannah Pannell, Chloe Perales, Noah Posada, Eli Pruitt, Jasmine Puente, Nathan Puente, Tom Rask, Braydon Raven, Della Rios, Zoey Rodriguez, Honestie Salazar, Gleen Samuels, Ronald Sanders, Aryanah Session, Keeiona Shed, Jordan Simmons, Kem Smith, Judy Smyer Eddie Sosa, Southwest Brands, LLC, Darrion Taylor, Tom Tebo, Emily Thompson, Angie Tijerina, Joseph Torres, Sharon Trusty, Robert & Catherine Tuggle, Mary Turner, Jaclyn Vasquez, Isys Villegas, Bill Waller, Colleen Waller, Walty’s Equipment Inc., Josiah Whiting, Melanie Whiting, Mark & Suzette Williams, Mikea Williams, David Wilson, Fred Wilson, Tabatha Wilson, Roger Wolcott, Paula Womack, Wound Care Center, Bill Wrench, Jamardrick York, Destoney Young, Natalia Young