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Aug18WedThanks to our Salvation Army camping ministry, thousands of young children have learned about God's love for them August 18, 2010 by Colonel Gwenyth Redhead
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
This summer, I spent three weeks at The Salvation Army's Beaver Creek Camp in Saskatchewan. The title of this blog comes from the buttons given to the children who attended the music camp held while I was there, but the statement holds true for all the children who attend Salvation Army camps—as well as for those who work with them.
I'm grateful for those people who make the camping experience possible for the children, whether it's volunteers at the music camps or employed Christians (either youthful or young in heart) who see spending a summer at camp as counsellors, maintenance workers or cooks as an open door of opportunity to interact with children from a wide range of backgrounds. They seek to show the campers that there is a God who loves them by the facets of love that they demonstrate, such as patience, kindness and, yes, self control—especially when dealing with the difficult behaviour of some of the children.
During the music camp, I led a drama elective with students of ages that ranged from eight to 18. It was a great learning experience for me. Because of the wide range of understanding of what the word “drama” meant, we worked with a simple, yet effective, concept that I had previously seen performed effectively in another context. The play was entitled “The Body of Christ,” based on Paul's illustration in 1 Corinthians 12: 12 -27. The script was minimal and allowed for a measure of improvisation by those involved, and sought to convey with a good measure of humour that every person in the Church is important and has a valuable contribution to make. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the accompanying photograph of the conclusion of the play says it all!
In seeking to impress on the students the need for them to perform to the best of their ability in order to get the message across to their peers, I was very mindful of the circumstances to which some of the children would be returning. I knew they would find it very difficult to remain faithful to commitments to Christ made at camp. Because of my interaction with them at meal times, and on other occasions during the week, I had been graphically reminded of the enormous challenges some of them would face in returning to their home circumstances, as several of the children did not come from Christian homes.
I was reminded of this again when sitting in on one of the Bible sessions of one of the adventure camps that followed. The children, aged seven to 12, were invited to write on a piece of paper what troubled them. I was privy to some of the things that the children wrote since they asked me to help with their spelling, and my heart ached as I became aware of some of the things that concerned them—heavy loads for such small shoulders to be bearing.
All of which brings me back to the title.
Day after day, I saw the love with which all the camp staff and volunteers sought to help the children to see just how valuable they were by affirming specific qualities that each one of them possessed, and thus building up their self-esteem. I also saw how they helped the children to see that small as some of them were, each one was special to God, and each one could be used by God to make a difference in the homes and schools to which they would eventually return.
I couldn't help but think that in doing so, they were following the example of Jesus himself, either consciously or unconsciously.
I have returned home reflecting on the enormous value Jesus placed on children when, in a day and culture when children were not often affirmed, and in a situation when even Jesus' followers did not “get it” and wanted to shoo them away (Mark 9: 13-16), Jesus said: “Don't ever get between these children and me. These children are at the very centre of life in the Kingdom … Then gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.”
I have learned much from my time with the children and those who work so lovingly with them, and with a renewed awareness that who I am really does make a difference, too.
What meaning does the phrase “Who I am makes a difference” hold for you? For the rest of summer, perhaps it can mean that you will commit to pray for all involved in Christian camping ministries?
Colonel Gwenyth Redhead is a retired Salvation Army officer. She and her husband, Robert, have held a wide variety of appointments in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. However, her passion has always been to encourage others in creative responses to God through writing of scripts, stories, articles and lyrics (mostly to Robert's music). She has two daughters, Joanne and Corinne, and rejoices that they, too, use the creativity God has given them in ministry.