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Camps can transform children

Children join in cooperative game at the Union Gospel Mission camp.

Photo courtesy of UGM Camp

Ryan Brown, youth outreach director with Union Gospel Mission (UGM) hopes the UGM Camp at Tshimakian near Ford will turn around lives of children from ages eight to 11, as UGM helped turn his life around. He also hopes to inspire young leaders who want to serve the poor.

This is his third summer overseeing the camp.  His predecessor, Dennis Roach, who served 14 years, established how the camp functions.

The camp started 20 years ago but shifted 10 years ago to be a nine-week program with eight Spokane churches bringing about 70 unchurched children from their neighborhoods and 30 adult and youth staff from their churches.

“Church members help lead the camp and go back with the kids to the neighborhoods,” Ryan said.

The camp’s 18 staff include behavioral specialists as well as low ropes leaders and lifeguards.

“Often at camp, youth meet counselors who mentor them and then they part,” he said.  “Our counselors go back and continue to relate with the children and their families.”

Grace Christian connects with the Logan neighborhood; Faith Bible with Garland/Emerson; Liferoads with East Central and Logan; Valley Assembly with the Spokane Valley; South Hill Bible with Grant Elementary; Christ the Redeemer with West Central; Coeur d’Alene Assembly of God with Coeur d’Alene, and Sandpoint Assembly of God with Sandpoint.

“The churches work with schools to reach children who are struggling,” he said.  “Along with mentoring children after school or at lunch, they invite children and their families to church events.

“Parents may feel nervous, but after their children have had good camp experiences, some become involved with the church,” said Ryan.

Fishing at the UGM camp.

At the five-day, four-night camps, there are two chapel services a day, plus canoeing, fishing, biking, trail hiking, low ropes, crafts and archery, new activities for some.

“We also share Gospel values through team building,” said Ryan, who connects with the churches all year.

Pastors say families find jobs, access resources, reconcile relationships and join churches.

“My focus is to transform children, families and neighborhoods. As we reach 500 kids, we are involved with 500 families, said Ryan, who sees progress in returning campers.

Growing up in Southern California, he was in trouble at the age of eight and into drugs at 12. At 26, he had three children with two women and was addicted to meth.  His children did not know him.

From family in Deer Park, his mother knew of UGM in Spokane and sent him to the men’s shelter, where he accepted Jesus, got off drugs and gained custody of his 10 year-old son.

While attending Glad Tidings Assembly of God, he met his wife and reconnected with his two children in California.

They moved to Portland where he was assistant youth leader at a Four Square church from 1999 to 2014 until he returned to the UGM camp and youth program in Spokane.

For information, call 535-8510 x 166 or email 

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