link to Gifts of Hope website

Planting Seeds at Mountainview

A Salvation Army summer camp in British Columbia gives kids confidence

July 26, 2012 by Andrew Hudson


On Superhero Supper day, the kids at Mountainview summer camp in Houston, B.C., are loudly lining up for lunch wearing beach-towel capes.

The girls’ and boys’ lines wriggle and bunch, quickly losing shape as one more camper runs up or shows off a superhero pose.

“C’mon Bears, you can do it!” shouts camp director Erica Azak, clapping to cheer them on.

The four cabins—Bears, Ravens, Wolves and Eagles—finally form two lines and file in for lunch, singing and a talent show.

Today’s lunch is hot dogs and fries. But tomorrow night, Formal Dinner day, Amy “Foxy” Fox and her sister, Bethany “Chef B” Whalen, will serve roast chicken and focaccia bread.

Outside, Erica Azak takes me for a tour of the Salvation Army camp that she and her husband, Damian, have co-directed for the last year. Erica first came from Newfoundland and Labrador
as a camp counsellor in 2002. For Damian, a former camper, it’s his 11th year.

Focusing on God and Good
We walk down to Valley Lake, which Erica says is full of leeches but great for canoes, and stop at a small lookout where kids can go for some quiet time.

Most kids who come to Mountainview have their camp fees covered by The Salvation Army or by Aboriginal band councils. During the year, few of them get to enjoy the kind of organized play they find here: archery, Bible study, crafts and canoeing.

“I learned much more at camp than I did getting a psychology or an education degree,” Erica says.

Damian and Erica Azak flank camp counsellor Michael Brinkley

At the course where kids walk tight-rope style on a thick rope slung between trees, she explains how she connects the rope walk to everyday life.

“If you keep your eye on one spot, like that tree over there, it’s easier,” she motions, balancing on the rope. “We tell the kids to focus on God and the good things we’ve talked about.”

Testing the Waters
Like Erica, camp counsellor Dorcas Muigai trained as a teacher before she came to Mountainview. She studied early childhood education in her hometown, Nairobi, Kenya, where she plans to teach elementary school.

Getting to Houston from Nairobi was a wild trip, she says.

After hearing about the camp from a friend, Dorcas flew eight hours from Nairobi to London, England, and then 15 more hours to Vancouver before taking a Greyhound bus to Prince George, B.C., and getting a three-hour ride to the camp just north of Houston.

She was jetlagged, she says, and her first day, May 23, was also her first chance to have a snowball fight. Until then, the coldest weather she’d experienced in Kenya was 10 C.

Today, Dorcas sits at a sunny picnic table where the kids are getting leopard spots, birds and butterflies painted on their faces.

Though it’s her first year in Houston, this is Dorcas’ second summer at a Christian camp. She was quite young when she herself became a Christian, and is eager to pass on that positive experience.
Mountainview is the first place where Dorcas has met children who have very challenging home lives. When the kids arrive, she notes they often take a few days to test the waters. She remembers how closed-off one girl was at first. Now that girl is opening up and talking.

“That’s the greatest satisfaction for most of the staff,” says Dorcas. “We pray that just one camp will plant a seed in their lives.”

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