Youth Enjoy Beach and Celebrate Beginnings at Beach Camp


By Jasmine Haynes, Web and Social Media Specialist, Mississippi Conference  

Photo right:
 Rev. Josh Swanson (back, light blue shirt) with Beach Campers. Photo courtesy of @leprechaun.on_a.mission on Instagram.

Photo below right: Conference youth and families coordinator, Mike Howington (left, black shirt and cap) helps illusionist, Todd Smith strap himself into a strait jacket. Photo courtesy of @toddsmithmagic on Instagram. 

It is almost uncanny that all the messages at the premiere of Beach Camp for youth in the Mississippi Conference, happened to be focused on beginnings. Beach Camp keynote speaker, Rev. Josh Swanson -- who is also the son of the Mississippi Conference's own, Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. -- used passages from Genesis throughout the weekend to demonstrate the importance of embracing new perspectives and starting points. Two dozen congregations were represented by more than 250 youth and their leaders from various parts of the state -- all of whom converged at the Mississippi Gulf Coast to experience relaxation, fellowship with friends and quiet time with God. Beach Camp was held July 7-9 in Biloxi.

Designed to be an engaging spiritual weekend for youth grades six through 12 and their leaders, conference youth and families coordinator, Mike Howington said the event exceeded his expectations.

"It was a great success for the very first Beach Camp. The idea that we can come together and worship with Matt King, the excitement and energy that FLAME bought was really refreshing and then the message that Josh brought home -- which is the idea of starting anew -- culminated well," said Howington.

The genesis theme also resonated with high school senior, Sabrina Pendleton.

"He [Swanson] talked about labels and told us that people labeled him because he has dred[lock]s but he wanted to be a preacher," shared Pendleton. "He also talked about Jacob and Esau and how even though Jacob left with nothing because Esau wanted him dead, he returned with a lot because he had faith in God."

Although the purpose of this retreat is rooted in spiritual growth, youth also had a blast participating in sports tournaments and what are called 'beach battle teams,' which were part of an ongoing competition throughout the weekend. Students also got to enjoy meeting new peers while exploring beach trikes and kayaking.

Although Beach Camp just concluded, Howington is already setting goals for the future.

"We plan on growing the event and making it even more exciting than this year."