The Words of the Morris Family

Ocean Challenge for Youth

Marilyn Morris
March 1986

We showed them God's love. We gave them our time and our effort. This was a visible sacrifice to them. So they could see God's love and feel God's love'

Rev. John Jones is a man who truly loves his work. His work is with the young people in his own Baptist church in Virginia, as well as the youth in the correctional facilities of that state. Last summer I was privileged to design and direct with him an Ocean Challenge program for teenagers from seven different churches in the Richmond, Virginia, area.

Early in the spring of 1985 Rev. Jones attended a CAUSA seminar in Washington DC. While at the conference he met an IOWC brother who had worked with Ocean Church members in Norfolk, Virginia. The two of them talked late into the night, sharing their mutual concerns for the future of American youth.

At that time, Rev. Jones had been outlining a program of his own, called "Team Work;' that would get youth involved in making their own decisions in life. Team Work was designed for young people who wanted to learn economic responsibility as well as leadership skills.

Rev. Jones' program focuses on three character-building areas: 1) Motivation -- instilling desire in young people to improve their situation in life; 2) Management -- giving them a chance to work in group activities and improve their social skills; 3) Mastering Tasks -- helping them to learn new skills to give them self-confidence and self-motivation. In using the three "M's:' a circular pattern is soon set up so that a person is continually challenged to push himself, to work on his needs in a cooperative way with others, and to discover new talents and abilities within himself. This creates a spiraling upward effect and can genuinely turn a young person around.

There are other practical aspects to the Team Work format. The young people are organized into support groups in which they work together to raise funds for their daily needs as well as for educational ventures. Occasional "fun" trips provide education and inspiration and help them structure their time well. Each team decides how it will spend its funds under the guidance of an adult counselor.

A plan to come to Gloucester

Rev. Jones had difficulty finding other youth programs that shared similar goals. What Rev. Jones was looking for was an action- adventure program that would provide the young people with strong incentive to challenge their limitations. When he heard about Ocean Church in Norfolk, he was hopeful enough to come and see for himself. In May 1985 I invited Rev. Jones to meet with Gerhard Peemoeller, who had fished with Father for ten years and is now the overall advisor for Ocean Church fishing projects. We spent the day together on the Sea Hope. I never witnessed a more excited person than this energetic and compassionate minister.

Right away a plan to come to Gloucester, Mass., was made. The next step was to outline an actual Ocean Challenge workshop. Karen Smith, the director of education for Ocean Church, came from New York to meet with us and plan the workshop strategy. After that, we left Rev. Jones with a videotape called "Ocean Challenge" and gave him free rein to speak to the parents and youth of any church in his area. We all agreed that the best part of the program would be its ecumenical appeal; young people from many different churches in Richmond could get to know one another.

Three months later ten teenagers and two counselors arrived in Gloucester just in time for our fourth annual Ocean Day. They stayed with the members of Ocean Church for seven days, from August 10 to 17. During that week, Rev. Jones and I wanted to pack in as much as the kids could handle. They absorbed everything and then some. In fact, they were just as lively when they left as when they arrived. Rev. Jones and I were both thoroughly exhausted.

Every day we all woke up at 3:30 a.m. and were at the docks ready to head out to sea by 4:00 a.m. An hour later we were dropping our anchors at Stellwagen Bank, where the best tuna fishing grounds are located. After nine hours of fishing, we were back at the marina by 3:00 p.m. Then the boats were cleaned and prepared for the next day. In the late afternoon we organized group sessions in which we taught navigation, tying knots, using the compass, and other marine-related topics. There were also many things to see in the town of Gloucester, so two of the afternoons were devoted to sight-seeing.

Every night after dinner there was an inspirational meeting, usually led by Rev. Jones. Here we all talked together about what it means to live a Christian life. There were always many little problems that occurred each day. Sometimes some of the boys would be jealous of the girls because they had caught a tuna and the boys hadn't. At other times there were minor arguments among the girls or boys, but these were all discussed openly and the whole team had to come to an agreement on the best solution.

New-found pride and respect

The kids were divided into pairs, and each set of "buddies" had the same captain and the same boat for the whole week. This brought a dramatic result. By the end of the week they had developed quite a bit of genuine loyalty for their captain and a certain amount of pride in their new-found abilities on the boat.

The captains were directly responsible each day to teach them everything about boat handling, navigation on the open sea, and fishing techniques. When the kids came back with bluefish or tuna, the look of pride and joy on their faces could not be compared to anything else we have seen at the Gloucester marina for quite some time. We were truly witnessing Father's words become substantial in the flesh; we were watching Father's dream unfold.

All of the youth were black and from various backgrounds, from poor to middle-class to rich. Their greatest impression of the week was the fact that they were just accepted for who they were. In Ocean Church there are white members, black members, Oriental members, South American members, and members you can't really place. 

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