“I believe dreams are a way God speaks to our very hearts. It is a way that He is able to express His heart about the things that matter most to Him. Why else would we hold on to dreams so tightly? Why would a newly-wed couple move to the other side of the world within six months of being married to start a children’s camp overseas? Only a dream could be the driving force for such things.”—Kay Landis, author of Carrying a Dream
This year, for the first time in their lives, over a thousand unwanted and unloved Filipino street children were encouraged to dream, to hope, and to put their faith in a better tomorrow, thanks to one couple who followed their Kingdom dream sixteen years ago.
Back in 1998, Kay and Jesse Landis found themselves planning both their wedding and their dream of ministry together. Their dream took the form of starting the first international site of Camp Sonshine in Iloilo City, Philippines.
Camp Sonshine is a day camp out of Immanuel’s Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. The camp was started by David Black, a college student who dreamed of doing something worthwhile for the children of Montgomery County. Over the years, Camp Sonshinehas served thousands of children and has brought hundreds of college-aged student workers together to partake in the world of summer camp. For eight weeks children and counselors experience a summer of unforgettable memories through field trips, crafts, games, sports, water sports, theme days, songs, dances, and relationships. This is the camp that the Landises fell in love with and fell in love at.
When asked why Iloili City and why the Philippines, the Landises acknowledge that God orchestrated it. Jesse’s dream to minister in Asia, Kay’s family contacts, and a church asking for children’s ministry workers, made an easy choice for the enthusiastic couple. With a two year commitment to the new venture, the two headed out to start the first international Camp Sonshine in the summer of 2000.
No one could have prepared the couple for what they were about to experience. Supplied mainly with a small tape player and several devoted workers, the Landises taught and played with approximately 100 Filipino street children. Children who would leave camp to go “work,” who spent their free time trying to earn a living on the street.They were the children of the urban poor. Too poor to attend school, they instead washed cars, opened and closed taxi doors, and sold cigarettes, candy, clothes—and sometimes themselves.
The Landis’s compassion immediately connected with the needs of Iloili City’s children, and consequently their two year commitment in the Philippines turned into a life-long journey of children’s’ ministry around the world. The dream, which had started as a summer day camp, grew into the first fully functional center specifically for the street children in Iloilo called the Camp Sonshine Center Foundation. Now, it is host to several year round initiatives, including a feeding program, an after-school program, and a weekly youth and young-adult bible study.
The start of Camp Sonshine Philippines sparked a new set of dreamers. Today counselors from all over the world who first work at Camp Sonshine Maryland hear and see what so many in the past only dreamed: that ministry like that seen at the U.S.Camp Sonshine could be done in other countries. Soon after that first summer in the Philippines, other dreamers started day camps in Chile, Guatemala, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Kenya, England and Australia. Today Camp Sonshine International partners with faith-based organizations in 10 countries around the world. Plus, the vision of the Camp Sonshine Center as a year-round respite for street children continues to spread amongst the leaders of these campsites.
As for the Landises, they are still heavily involved with Camp Sonshine International. Living stateside, the two work as Program Directors for Camp Sonshine International’s camp curriculum and serve as lead liaisons between the U.S. and international camp staffs. They travel yearly to the Camp Sonshine Center to help train and consult the year-round staff in their ministry projects. The Landises truly believe that reaching the children of the world will change the world.
As the Camp Sonshine Center continues to minister to the street children of Iloilo, it symbolizes a beacon of hope for those with similar dreams for their countries. The Camp Sonshine Center is an example of a “wish come true.”
As for you, do you love playing with children, consider yourself a creative go-getter, and have a desire to travel overseas? If so, you are a perfect candidate to go on one of our overseas missions trips, where we take the Camp Sonshine program to children in need. Join us in bringing hope, love, and God’s purpose to a child today and apply for a trip this year to one of our overseas locations!
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