St. John's holds Barnabas Connection camp

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2011

By Laura L. Porter
For The Salisbury Post
Barnabas is an unusual name, and the first time I remember hearing it was related to a vampire on a campy drama. At least until last year, that was my primary association.
That was before I started working at Rowan County Youth Services Bureau and the Times Two Mentoring Program, which wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the Rowan County United Way supporting our agency annually. It was such a memorable week for me, in fact, that the theme song written by Lesley and Jimmy Alston still plays in my head: “This day is all mine….”
Of course, now I know that Barnabas was much more than just a vampire, in fact he was one of the first teachers in the Christian faith, and that his name means “son of encouragement.” Encouragement is exactly what the young men and women who attend the week-long camp at St. John’s Lutheran Church received.
Leslie Hudson-Tolles gave them a challenging yet rewarding art project: print blocks. The first day began with collective ideas, books being passed around; it was a flurry of enthusiasm to learn something new. One of the exciting parts for me is my unique position. Not only did I get to participate in the artwork, but I was able to help the young men and women as they started with one design idea on paper, moved to a Styrofoam plate, inked it and then printed on a sheet of paper. And we hadn’t even been given the rubber and knives to begin creating our print block yet!
There were results, though – successes for everyone, encouragement.
The mornings began with devotionals and games to get things started. One game involved a large ball of red yarn to demonstrate how connected we all are. Another one tested our memories of each other’s names as we got to know them. Of course, all the hard work prepared everyone for the delicious lunches Shirley Ritchie and Joyce Caddell worked on for us.
Being the Barnabas Connection – which I want to interpret as the “encouragement connection” — there was more than just art and food. Lesley and Jimmy Alston shared their musical talents with the young people. They learned a dance routine to a song, just like last year. This one was new and forwarded the theme “united we all can stand,” further emphasizing how we were connected, how this week creates new relationships and solidifies old ones.
When asked what she liked most about the camp, Lesley Alston paused for a moment. “Everything. The camaraderie of the students with the volunteers, the motivation that they have when whatever’s put before them, they’ll do it. And I also think it’s just the students and staff connecting as one.”
Angel said that her most rewarding experience in Times Two was “the first time I came to this camp last year.”
Why? “Because then I met you and decided I was going to go to group the whole year and then come back next year.”
The collective love and encouragement displayed by the volunteers as they helped the students through their project moved me. Last year was only a glimpse of what people can do when they volunteer their time. This year, the picture became even bigger, especially seeing so many return volunteers.
Faith has never failed to amaze me. People come together to celebrate it en masse and share it with others, and then redistribute the gifts they’ve received in return. Through the strength of faith and the power of encouragement, those who volunteered with our youth truly made a difference in their lives by being there, by teaching, by listening. For the week, everyone there should’ve been called Barnabas. I think we might have had some trouble talking to the right person, though!
“It was both a lesson for me learning some of the new problems that today’s youth face that didn’t exist when I was young and a chance to help modern youth see that there are more choices than they may have realized,” Doni Pulley, Sensei from the Academy of Kempo Karate, said.
Thank you to the volunteers who encouraged our youth and took the time to get to know them. Thank you to St. John’s Lutheran Church, its members and staff who assisted with making the Barnabas Connection happen. See you again next year, right?
For more information about the Times Two Mentoring Program and how you can make a difference in a young man or woman’s life, please contact me at 704-633-5636, ex. 104 and ask for Laura Porter or you can email me at
Anyone can be a Barnabas in these students’ lives!