This summer YOKE relaunched a program that had been a favorite for many years – YOKE Summer Adventures! During the month of June, YOKE took 230 middle school kids, 35 Future Folk (high school leadership development program) and 80 YOKE Folk on a series of 4 day trips. Our kids got to go bowling, rafting, swimming, hiking, rock climbing and paddle boarding – many for the first time. The trips were organized with 2 goals in mind: they helped introduce kids and leaders to fun activities that they normally would not have the opportunity to participate in and they provided opportunities for our volunteer mentors to spend time with our YOKE kids.

Measured against these goals, the Summer Adventures were a tremendous success. In fact, they exceeded our expectations. The community that our leaders and kids experienced and the relationships that they built blew us away. This YOKE experience wasn’t limited to a single school – it was one big group of kids and leaders that sharing experiences together. Kids from all 5 counties hung out with each other, made new friends and had fun together. Lisa James, a new team leader in Blount Count said that Summer Adventures “was a fun way to connect with God, nature, YOKE kids and other leaders.” Lisa referred to the group as her new “community.”

Summer Adventures also attracted a number of students who were completely new to YOKE. Haley Gent, a YOKE Folk at West Valley Middle school, saw this as an opportunity “to keep connected with our kids and also reach out to new kids, who may not have time for YOKE during the school year.” Now that these kids are a part of the larger YOKE community, our YOKE Folk are able to stay connected with them even when they cannot come to club on a regular basis.

Our YOKE Folk also enjoyed the format, which allowed more of them to be involved. Each Tuesday, after more than 12 hours with the kids, the YOKE Folk went to dinner together. They enjoyed being in community and sharing life with each other even after being on exhausting trips all day long.

After four different adventures, hours on the bus, multiple verses of “Going on a Lion Hunt,” and countless meals together, this theme of “community” is at the forefront of our minds. Through all that we do, from camps and mission trips to clubs and kid time, we have learned that every kid (and leader) needs to know 2 things: that they are accepted and that they are loved. The community that we experienced this summer demonstrates that the culture at YOKE is one of acceptance and love – even when you’re exhausted, smelly and sun burned. And for many of the kids that we serve, acceptance and love is a new adventure, too.

For all the pictures from our Summer Adventures, visit the YOKE Facebook page