For four weeks starting in late June, the North Fork Baptist and West Elk Family churches offered free God and Nature Day Camps at locations in Crawford, Paonia and Hotchkiss.
The annual five-day camps were held from 1-4 p.m. daily from June 29 through the end of July. Each week, youth volunteers from churches in Texas, Arizona and Nevada made the outreach mission trip to the North Fork area, leading between 15-30 children through a series of daily activities, including singing and dancing, games, puppet shows, and daily craft sessions related to Bible stories. For example, said 19-year-old Avery, a college student and group leader from Houston Northwest Church, a sister church to the West Elk church, one story, as told through a puppet show, focused on the parable of the return of the Prodigal Son. Following the presentation, kids made boomerangs to signify how the son went away, then returned.
While in the area, the volunteers made side trips to the Grand Mesa, Colorado National Monument and other attractions, and took daily morning prayer walks. Avery said that on this particular day they hiked P-Hill in Paonia. "It was such a cool view," said Avery, adding that she'd like to return again next year. "It's been amazing" having kids accept Christ and talking about the Gospel.
The last two summers the camp has been held at Willow Heights Park in Hotchkiss, but this summer they expanded to Crawford and Paonia, said Lee Byram, pastor of the West Elk Family Church in Hotchkiss. Camps were held simultaneously in each of the three communities. Byram said organizers hope to expand the camp next summer to include a sports camp.
Thanks to the efforts of state Rep. Millie Hamner, House District 61, Colorado State University plans to re-open the Rogers Mesa research site.
The facility was taken out of operation in 2011, due to budget cuts throughout the CSU system.