While many people use their vacation time to visit other countries, spend time with family, or catch up on sleep, Claude Finger, senior custodial supervisor for Facilities Services, uses a part of his vacation time to take kids on a summer camping trip to learn about God, their history, and most importantly, each other. Claude Finger, along with six other counselors who include his wife and children, have been taking children to camp in Williamsburg, Va., for the past 27 years to let kids experience life outside of the city. I sat down with Finger to learn more about the camping, the significance of its location, and why he feels this program is important.
Tell me about your summer program.
The summer camp is a week-long trip where we take children out of the city, and they get to experience aspects of life they normally wouldn’t. During that week, they sleep in cabins and get three meals a day. The kids go fishing, hiking, milk cows, and experience other nature activities. We also teach them biblical concepts. In addition to these activities, we also take the kids to visit Jamestown to learn about their history. Most times we only stay the one week, but sometimes we’ll stay two, and the kids love it. They get to see life from a different lens.
Who started the program and why?
Elder Solomon Michaux, one of the Gospel Spreading Church’s founders developed the program in the 1930s, and it has been a part of the church ever since. He did it because he wanted the children to get a different perspective. He believed having theory was good, but it’s better to see how things actually work. He believed children learned more when they can be hands on.
Why did you get involved?
I got involved because I like to see young people learn and develop, and I love being a part of that. I’ll contribute whatever I can, even if it’s only a small part to watch them develop into decent human beings.
What is the significance taking the kids to Jamestown, Va.?
Every year, we take the children to Jamestown near the James River where the church owns 1,000 acres of land purchased by Elder Solomon Michaux. It was important for him to own that particular piece of land because the James River is a historic area for all black people in North America. The James River was where Africans were brought in to become slaves. Owning that land was important for Elder Michaux because it allowed him and others who would go there after him to know where they came from and how our history influences our mindsets today. When you know where you come from, you can better determine where you want to go.
How many kids does your program take to camping each year?
We usually take between 60 to 70 kids camping every year, and they don’t just come from our church. A lot of the kids come from all over the neighborhood and different churches. Some people sign their kids up after seeing the trip advertised on our Facebook page because they’re looking for a safe and peaceful learning environment where their child can go and enjoy things they normally wouldn’t get a chance to in their neighborhood.
Why is this program important to you?
This program is important because it’s important to invest in the children and give the children purpose. It’s important that children see God in tangible ways like nature. When they see that, they realize just how small mankind is and how much bigger God is, even than their religion. They learn to respect other people’s social environments, and that is important to me.
Are you going camping again next year?
I’m going to go camping every year as long as the Most High God wakes me up and gives me breath.