Investing in Leaders at Camp La Vida in Spite of COVID-19

Elena Pittman says Camp La Vida has been a part of the fabric of her faith since she was a little girl. She grew up attending the camp in the summers then served as a junior staffer for the past two years.

The summer of 2020 would’ve been her first year to be on staff at the South Carolina WMU camp, but then COVID-19 happened, and the plan as she knew it was wiped away.

“I love camp, and I’m such a people person, so that was hard,” Elena said.

But Laurie Register, executive-director treasurer of South Carolina WMU, said she didn’t want to give up on giving Elena and others a way to be involved and to grow personally and disciple others.

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“We wanted to still be able to offer something because we didn’t want to lose momentum with our campers, and we also wanted to keep our commitment to these college-age girls who had committed their summer to us,” Laurie said.

So with money provided by the WMU Foundation’s Second Century Fund, Laurie offered her camp staffers an alternative—an eight-week deep-dive into leadership and discipleship. Pam Smith, South Carolina WMU’s leadership development specialist, walked the group of summer staffers through the Gospel of Mark in an intentional leadership discipleship process. They met as a group by Zoom twice a week and had materials to walk through on their own.

Each one also met weekly with her assigned mentor, a member of the South Carolina WMU staff.

Elena said it surprised her how close they all got over Zoom. “It drew us together as a camp staff,” she said.

At the end of the eight weeks, she and others also helped develop some online programming for campers to participate in a virtual Camp La Vida. These included virtual Bible study groups, recorded camp songs, and videos the campers could watch and use to participate on their own at home, such as a virtual hike and a lesson in how to fish. Then at the end of the summer, the camp staff was able to get together for a socially distanced in-person retreat.

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Laurie said she was grateful for the way the Second Century Fund offered a chance to invest in the young women and also provide continuity in camp staff, which would provide a good foundation for next year’s camp.

The Second Century Fund has been helping to provide women’s leadership training domestically and internationally ever since the first four grants were given at WMU’s Centennial Celebration in Richmond, Virginia, in 1988.

“Each summer, our camping season not only gives us the opportunity to provide missions discipleship in an outdoor setting for our campers but also allows for the development of young women leaders,” Laurie said. “It is exciting to discover each staffers’ gifts and to develop their potential. In this unusual year, the Second Century Fund allowed us to provide in-depth discipleship we would not have otherwise been able to do.”

You can visit wmufoundation.com/second-century-fund for more information or to give a one-time or monthly gift to support women’s leadership development.

Written by Grace Thornton.

Zachariah Seanor

Director of Mission Advancement