stories and photos submitted by Pr. Derek Hoven, Conference Dean and pastor at Salem, Orlando.
On February 15th and 16th four Heart of Florida Conference congregations shared a youth lock-in for conference middle and high school students. Kids from St. John (Winter Park), St. Stephen (Longwood), and Salem (Orlando) joined with those from Spirit of Joy at their campus on the east side of Orlando.
Thirty kids and their adult leaders shared a Friday evening of games and worship. Saturday morning the kids shared time with a teacher from Killarney Elementary School in Winter Park. Twenty-five percent of the student body at Killarney is homeless and the entire student body is on free and reduced lunch. The group was able to hear about the sorts of situations these homeless families live in, the stress of homelessness, and the interventions the school has developed to make the school a safe and supportive environment. This conversation was surprising for the kids. One student, Isabella, shared that she learned that “we should always help people in need.”
For the rest of the morning the kids participated in two service projects. A donation of 600 pairs of sandals was sorted and packaged by size. They will be given to Killarney for sharing with their homeless families. The congregations also collected food, water, and toiletries with the help of a Thrivent Action Team. These items were packed into 155 gallon size zip-lock bags and taken back to the congregations for individuals to take and share with the homeless people they encounter. After the project Kallyn reflected that “it feels good to know that we are doing something to help people who don’t have what we take for granted.”
This lock-in grew out of ongoing cooperation between the congregations who have been sharing trips to summer camp and confirmation gatherings for several years.