California Pastor Says Yes to God-Sized Dream
By Julie Campbell
Before the summer of this year, Pastor Aaron Talbot had only dreamed of hosting a youth camp for kids in his area. Now, after hosting not one, but two six-week camps with a total of fifty campers, Talbot is quick to give God the credit.
“God is behind the inception, maintenance, and development of the camp,” he explained. “It was by his providence that I and a few others within our community were able to first dream, then plan, then actually make the camp into what it is now.”
Developed through a partnership with Tulare First Church of God, Fathering the Fatherless of Tulare County, and Aztec Basketball Academy, Y.E.S. (Youth Educational Sports) Camp is an educational and sports camp that targets youths ages twelve to eighteen in the Tulare County area. Campers come from all areas of socio-economic status, genders, cultural identities, and backgrounds.
“The goal of Y.E.S. Camp is to help students experience different skills that will benefit them as they grow into young adults and members of our community,” said Talbot. “Some of the skills students are learning at Y.E.S. Camp include career awareness, sports and fitness, personal banking, automotive maintenance, study skills, mental health awareness, cooking, and other essential life skills.”
Camp classes were taught by mentors who donated their time to help develop young people in the community. Mentors come from all backgrounds and include teachers, school administrators, pastors, youth/high school coaches, mental health professionals, local business leaders, and employees from the Tulare County Office of Education.
The four-hour camp sessions were filled with a variety of activities from basketball games and life skills classes to pep talks and snacks. At the end of the evening, a local speaker encouraged the campers and often included biblical teaching and insight.
“Many of the teens coming onto campus know almost nothing of the gospel, and so we see this as God giving us grace and opportunity to tell others of him through word and deed, all the while on the church’s campus,” Talbot said, adding that his church has been incredibly supportive of the camp.
Talbot said he has received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback from parents whose children participated in the two summer day camps.
“The parents are generally surprised at the level of education and care that are devoted to the teens,” he said.
The God-given success at the inaugural Y.E.S. camps has been an encouragement to dream even bigger and try some new things in the future.
“We’ll most likely run the camp three times a year with possibilities of an offsite camp at an actual camp as a potential fourth camp,” said Talbot. “We are experimenting with holding the camp in a few other towns this fall/early winter.”
Julie Campbell is an editor at Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and a freelance journalist. A former city girl from Chicago, she enjoys country life with her husband, Russ, on a five-acre apple orchard in Madison County, Indiana. She is a blessed mom of three wonderful young adult children and one very spoiled white boxer.