"These Are My People"
Jack Shitama, Pecometh Camp & Retreat Center, Maryland


Jack was a Camp & Retreat Center Director for several years before he really got involved with UMCRM. Before that, he wasn't sure there was anyone who truly "got me," who understood the work he did and his values, goals, and challenges. The Association became a critical and invaluable resource. Being connected to other leaders who Jack calls "my people" has really kept him going through the years. Without them, he might not have stayed in this ministry for 23 years. 

It was the Execs Summit, which started around 2012, that became an important connecting point for Jack, and he has made it a priority to meet with that group annually. He worked with peers as they formed the idea of a member association. The Annual Conference Execs who related to camping realized that the denominational structure of The United Methodist Church was not going to plan for and secure the future of our Camp & Retreat Ministries. If we were going to collectively survive and thrive, we would need to collaborate to make that happen. Jack has found the 7 Foundations of Camp & Retreat Ministry inspiring from their development at those early Execs Summits. The Foundations helped define our shared values and guide our decision making as we clarified our collective identity. Those principles continue to guide the ministry Jack serves at Pecometh Camp & Retreat Center (MD). 

While serving on the National Camp & Retreat Committee (NCRC), which became the UMCRM Association Board of Directors, Jack was a part of the team that brought S’more Mail, UMCRM's Thursday e-news, into being. A decade later, that continues to be a valuable resource for him. He says, “it is a weekly reminder that we are not alone in Camp & Retreat Ministry.” 

While the National Gathering is an energizing opportunity to learn and network, Jack points out that a week every other year is not enough to sustain his ministry. It has been the in-between times, working on projects with colleagues, seeking and providing support during difficult situations, the Community Conversations especially during COVID, and the relationships formed through Intentional Leadership Groups, that have provided opportunities for intimate friendships. Because the Association provided the space, platforms, and invitations to connect, he feels better equipped as a leader and has felt supported in the work. 

Today, Jack says, “I am excited about what the UMCRM Association has become and its potential for continuing to “resource, advocate, inspire, and network” our leaders into the future. As a threshold organization in a time of institutional uncertainty, we have an opportunity to serve the church in forward-thinking and faithful ways. Thank you to those who have already committed to supporting the Association with your organizational and individual giving. As the grant funding for our Association Director tapers off in the next couple of years, it will be up to us as members to ensure the sustainability of this vital community resource. Leaders like me are depending on it.”