Submitted by Laura Hutler, Barnum Team Leader - Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center
In mid-February, the United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries Association (UMCRM) received word that it was granted one million dollars
to distribute to United Methodist Camps & Retreat Ministries in the U.S. The goal of the gift was to enable individual sites and ministries to take one significant step in the 2022 calendar year toward long-term impact and sustainability.
The staff received word on March 24 that the Barnum Equestrian Center at Wesley Woods Camp was successful in its grant request for $36,850 to certify and train staff & partner professionals, and to create space for sessions and programs. Throughout the remainder of 2022, Staff and Partner Professionals will be trained and certified using the Natural Lifemanship Institute – Trauma informed model of Mental, Emotional and Social Health and Healing (MESH). The goal is to offer equine assisted services (Therapy, Resilience & Wellness Retreats, Rhythmic Horseback Riding Lessons, Group programs & Trauma Informed Summer Camp sessions), mentored in Christian Community, that help people heal from traumas while building healthy relationships which encourage Connected Healthy Communities.
Work has already begun with a previously trained pilot team. The team is offering individual equine assisted psychotherapy sessions and a pilot program with the Indianola school district for a Relational-MESH after school program in April and May. There is already talk of two more after-school groups in the fall school term. The demand for these services has proven to be great. This grant, and the training and certification of two more teams & the facilities it will provide, allows the Barn Team to meet the increased demand for these ministry services. This is the foundation for taking that significant step towards true sustainability for Barnum Center @ Wesley Woods.
"Over the past four years, God has stripped away all the preconceived notions of what reaching the hearts of people for Christ looks like, within a traditional horse camp program," said Laura Hutler, Barnum Team Leader. "They have been replaced with a trauma informed, connected community of staff and professionals who work in Christian Community, alongside participants, in a deeply connectional horse ministry. God is leading the way, bringing immensely positive outcomes for people and ponies, while amplifying the opportunities for sustainable ministry growth."
Each year 100 horse campers, 40 staff and over 1000 summer campers, guests and therapeutic participants are engaged in equine programs. This grant is not only a step toward sustainability for Wesley Woods, but also an opportunity to impact the relational ripple starting with one person and spreading to families and communities throughout the Iowa Conference. We are all walking together one hoofbeat at a time.