I took my youth group to Mountaintop in Tennessee for their first time. One of the youth suggested it so we packed up and headed to the camp, south of Nashville. But when we arrived, the group sat and didn’t want to get out of the van. Stunned, they stared at the run down cabins. Venturing out, they discovered the restrooms were flooded and there was only one electrical outlet in the whole camp. How would the girls use all their hair dryers?
But they did get settled in and began work to clear brush, clean and paint the cabins, and then do carpentry projects on the homes in this poverty stricken area. By the end of the week, they wanted to be sure that we were coming back the next year. We did, with double the numbers of youth!
After four years, several of us had the dream of starting such a camp in Arkansas, so in 1990 “Ozark Mission Project” had its initial camp in Imboden, Arkansas. In 2010 they celebrated twenty years of being in service to the poor with four sites, each holding four camps each summer. The main outcome of these camps was not the work they did but rather the impact on the youth themselves. Many came from middle and upper class families with no idea that people had to live like this. One evening, one of my football players sat down next to me with tears in his eyes, saying: “If I had known, I would have come sooner.”
One of the things the youth enjoyed most was visiting with the families and learning about their way of life. So when I took a group to the Sierra Project on a Native American Reservation they were disappointed that the families were reserved and stayed inside while the youth worked. Then, one evening they were amazed when the chief rode into the camp on a white horse in full dress. He addressed the group simply saying “I want to thank you for my people”. Then, he turned around and rode out.
The youth learned a valuable lesson.
The areas in Tennessee, Arkansas and the Reservation may not have changed so much, but the youth certainly did.
– Mary Beck
The main outcome of these camps was not the work they did but rather the impact on the youth themselves
Mary Bullock Beck, daughter of a Presbyterian minister graduated Austin College and married Bill Beck who served on staff of Heifer Project, International for fifty years. She served as Christian Education Director in Centenary UMC, and Youth Director at Lakewood UMC, North Little Rock. It was there that she founded the ‘Ozark Mission Project for Senior High Youth’. She studied to become a Deacon- a lay minister in specialized service -and later was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister, serving at Ormond Beach, Florida and at Modesto California. She and Bill entered Pilgrim Place in 2012.