Left Justified: Summertime, and livin' is easy

I hope all of you have a chance to enjoy the lovely summer weather. Isn’t that what living in wintertime Rockford is all about—waiting for the thaw? All the winter cold weather makes the sunshine so much more enjoyable.

This summer, Rockford Urban Ministries (whom I work for) is hosting work camps for church groups from around the U.S. Eleven churches have signed up so far. They will arrive from Grove, Okla.; Dublin, Ohio; Minneapolis, Minn.; Overland Park, Kan.; as well as from five northern Illinois cities, and will each spend a week here, though thankfully not all at the same time.

These church groups averaging 15 to 25 people (mainly high schoolers) will stay in a church and work on urban ministry projects here in the Rockford area. The projects include rehabbing a Victorian house on Kishwaukee Street for Rockford New Hope, helping the Hunger Connection sort food, replanting prairies for the Natural Land Institute, to putting a new roof on the Capron, Ill., food pantry. We have more work crews than we have work, so any suggestions to keep them busy are welcome (call RUM at 815-964-7111).

This summer, Rockford Urban Ministries is also celebrating its 43rd anniversary with our annual dinner, this year hosted by Christ United Methodist Church at Highcrest and North Alpine. It will be the usual church dinner, but we will have an exceptional speaker: the new mayor, Lawrence J. Morrissey. I have asked him to challenge the churches to do more; there will also be time for questions and discussion.

Usually 100 people show up for dinner, but please know that you are welcome to the free program. (Dinner costs $20 per person, and you can reserve by calling RUM.) The dinner starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 23. The program, which is free and open to the public, should start around 7 p.m.

What will you be doing on your summer vacation? Might I suggest that you donate your time for a work camp-style experience? You don’t have to stay in Rockford to work on urban ministries; there are many other cities where your time and energy are welcome and will be put to good use. At a work camp, one can see the sights but also help the community. If you’re looking to travel overseas, there are many mission groups that tour foreign countries on work and educational excursions.

A group called Cultural Exchange from San Francisco sends people around the world. The traveler gets to experience a different culture, do some good work, educate oneself, and do the “tourist thing” in a setting that is less intrusive. I know many of us would rather lie on a beach sipping margaritas, but there might be a few who would rather work with the Sierra Club in restoring those beaches as well as mountain trails, forests, deserts, etc. The Audubon Society will take bird watchers anywhere in the world.

If you are still wondering “what to do on your summer vacation,” then ask your church if there are mission programs. Most denominations are more than willing to send you on a mission trip to see where your hard-earned donations are going (of course, there are churches that put all their mission money into parking lots).

But if you’re going to be like me and hang around Rockford for the summer, let’s make Rockford a better place! There’s many clean-up projects hosted by neighborhood associations, and the county is restoring prairies throughout the area (call Natural Land Institute at 815-964-6666), and Habitat for Humanity is constructing houses just east of Seventh Street.

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and we don’t want to be idle this summer. Enjoy the wonderful weather because winter is only six months away

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the June 8-14, 2005, issue

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