Four years ago, Erika Hartmann loaded up a van and, with her children
and another family, traveled from Illinois to Oklahoma to attend the
Oklahoma Districts second Single Parent Family Camp. It was a
long trip made longer by car problems that forced them to alternately
drive and push the overheating van.
The camp for single-parent
families, which attracts nearly 300 people, runs during one weekend
once a year.
But Hartmann says it was worth the struggle. "Once I got there, God
broke a lot of things in my life," she says. "I found that my strength
was in Him, and I became content with who I am."
Since then, convinced of the camps value, Hartmann has taken
other families with her to the camp each year.
Gary and Debbie Pratt, singles pastors at First A/G in Lawton, Okla.,
coordinate the camp for the Oklahoma District, for which they are also
singles ministry coordinators.
The camp, which attracts nearly 300 people, runs for a weekend once
a year. Families from all over the Midwest attend, often with financial
assistance from their churches. The camp is designed to give single-parent
families a weekend away from the pressures of life, but more importantly
an opportunity for them to receive ministry.
"We see that for many of our single parents and their children, their
self-worth has been shattered," Gary Pratt says. "Theyre struggling
as parents and as individuals. We want them to feel good about who they
are when they leave."
When families arrive at the camp, the young children, teens and adults
go to separate dorm facilities and attend church services tailored to
meet their needs. Adults attend workshops on parenting skills, finances,
and other practical topics while youth sessions follow a similar format.
Parents and their children later team up for activities that encourage
teamwork and cooperation. "In many cases, theres a struggle going
on in these families," Pratt says. "Many families who attend the camp
dont feel like a family. The parents dont feel like parents
and many of the kids have been forced into situations where theyve
grown up quickly." One of the elements of the camp is to instill a sense
of family back into the family.
During a Communion service, which is a mainstay of the camp, Robert
Mullen found himself praying aloud with his two sons, ages 11 and 12,
for the first time.
Five years ago, Mullen believed his family was on the verge of collapse.
He had divorced three years earlier, and was trying to balance his responsibilities
as a police officer with the needs of his children.
Mullen was referred to the Pratts ministry and attended the first
Single Parent Family Camp though he had not yet become a Christian.
"The weekend was the most intense spiritual weekend that I have ever
had," he says. "It was the icebreaker for me to get hold of my life
and be led to the Lord, and bring my kids with me."
Pratt says a change takes place in the parents and children during
the camp. "By the last day, they know who they are in Christ," he says.
"They feel better about who they are as parents and their self-worth
has been raised."