Over eighty youth from Dadeville UMC, Dothan FUMC, Destin UMC, Greenville FUMC and Woodland UMC gathered at Blue Lake Camp for the Oakwood Experience. The Oakwood Experience began over 30 years ago in the AWF Conference with several churches in Florida and has grown into twelve churches that participate at one of the two week-long sessions. It is a network of youth groups who experience Christ together and grow closer to one another.
Several youth who once participated in the experience are now youth directors at Alabama-West Florida Conference churches. Rev. Jack Allen (Montgomery FUMC) , Whit Heath (Dothan FUMC), Jesse Guffin (Woodland UMC) and Robbie Amends (Dadeville UMC) know how important an experience like this is as they were once camp attendees. Allen, associate minister and youth director at Montgomery FUMC, has seen the program come full circle. It was at Oakwood where he first felt a call to the ministry.
Matt Hull is the current dean and is the youth director at Trinity UMC in Ft. Walton, FL. It was his vision to expand this life-changing experience into the Alabama churches of the conference. "I've seen such incredible things happen at this camp over the past several years, we were very excited to have a whole new group of students experience this type of camp. It was such an honor and a blessing to watch former students and colleagues of ours stand up and lead their kids in this incredible, Christ-filled week of camp," said Hull.
Campers are assigned a color group and participate in games, classes, worship and recreational activities. Guest speakers and worship bands lead the group in nightly worship. Each youth director at the camp teaches classes relevant to the group. At the conclusion of the week, the group receives communion and a color winner is announced for the year.
Greenville FUMC Youth Director, Matt Langford, said, "We were able to do a wonderful thing for these students because of the connection. It took all these youth directors from all these churches coming together and with the help of Christ, we were able to make a difference in the lives of these students. They had great fun as well as had a opportunity to encounter Christ!"