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Jun13WedIt's just one week—seven days filled with fresh air, campfires and fun—but for many children, a short time at summer camp can mean a lifetime of faith and friendship. June 13, 2012 by Kristin Fryer
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Three young people tell Salvationist about their life-changing experiences at Salvation Army camps.
Name: David Skeard
Hometown: Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L.
Camp: Twin Ponds Camp, Gander, N.L.
David Skeard was eight when he went to music camp at Twin Ponds Camp, but after his first year, he says, “I was hooked.”
Raised in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., David attends Grand Falls Citadel with his family. Before he went to camp, he did not know how to play an instrument, but the camp gave him the chance to learn the tenor horn.
David says he learned a lot in those early years—both musically and spiritually.
“When you're a little kid, going to church and other stuff at your corps, you don't learn as much as you do at camp, where you have Bible studies with your own age group,” he says. “At camp, I learned what it means to be a Christian.”
David continued to go to camp each year, but in 2009, when he was 14, he had a spiritual awakening that deepened his faith.
“After that year, I didn't want to go to camp just to please my parents,” he says. “It was me wanting to go, to do this for myself. It wasn't my parents' faith anymore.”
The next summer, David went to camp as a staff member, working in the kitchen.
“I did that to get my foot in the door, to see what it was like to be on staff,” he explains. “I enjoyed it, so I applied to be a counsellor the following year.”
Being a counsellor had long been a dream for David.
“Going to camp all those years, I knew a lot of the counsellors and I always looked up to them,” he says. “I thought it would be cool to be the person that young kids could look up to as well.”
David was a counsellor at Twin Ponds Camp last summer, working with children aged seven-12 and teens. He notes that almost all of the children he worked with were from the community and did not have a Salvation Army background.
“I built good relationships with the children,” he remembers. “There was this one kid—when he was getting on the bus to leave the camp, I went to say goodbye to him, and he looked at me and said, 'I wish you were my brother.'
“You don't know where these kids are coming from,” he continues. “Some of them have had a good childhood, others have had a difficult childhood. But we try to teach them about God and help them in their faith.”
Name: Kevin Simpson
Hometown: New Westminster, B.C.
Camp: Camp Sunrise, Gibsons, B.C.
Going to summer camp for the first time can be an intimidating experience.
“I was sort of scared,” admits Kevin Simpson, who first went to Camp Sunrise at the age of seven, “but when I started getting into it, it all changed. I loved it.”
Though not from a Christian background, Kevin attended a Salvation Army daycare.
“They closed the daycare for the week of camp because most of the workers go to camp,” says his mother, Barbara Simpson, “so sending him was the natural thing to do. I was working and I needed childcare.”
That summer, Kevin went to the holiday camp at Sunrise, where he made a lasting connection with his counsellor, Mark Touzeau.
“We became friends,” Kevin says. “I remember going on the ropes course with him and, since I was too young for the high ropes, he took me zip-lining.” Today, he is still in touch with Touzeau through Facebook, and the two meet up occasionally.
After attending holiday camp, Kevin and his mother discovered that Camp Sunrise also offered a junior music and performing arts camp.
“I played the violin and I wanted to do more music,” he says, “so my mom told me I could go to music camp as well.”
Since then, he has attended both camps every summer. His first year, he joined the band, but for the next two years he did drama. His first year in the drama group, Kevin was in a production of Jonah and the Whale.
“I was one of the sailors and I got to chuck someone off the boat!” he laughs. “That was fun.”
While he plans to go to arts camp again this summer, Kevin is not sure whether he will choose band or drama. Either way, he can't wait to go back.
“I really like camp,” says Kevin. “That's where I met God and learned about him for the first time.
“I learned about Christianity at school,” he adds, “but I was told, 'This is just another faith. There are many religions to choose from.' Now I go to a Christian school and I learn about Jesus every day.”
Kevin's experiences at Camp Sunrise have inspired him to join the staff when he is old enough. He plans to volunteer to be a counsellor at the junior camp (ages seven-12) as soon as he turns 13.
Name: Tom Morrison
Hometown: Jackson's Point, Ont.
Camp: Jackson's Point Camp, Ont.
Growing up, Tom Morrison had very little exposure to church. None of his family or friends were Christians, but he happened to live just down the street from a Salvation Army camp in Jackson's Point, Ont. He was six when he first went to the camp.
“My parents wanted to get rid of me for a week so they sent me there,” Tom jokes.
He loved the activities at camp—especially games like capture the flag—and he fondly remembers the cabin leaders acting out stories from the Bible during lesson time. “That engaged me and made the stories stick in my head,” he says.
During his fourth summer at camp, these lessons led Tom to an important decision.
“One night, after all the other kids had gone to bed, I stayed up late talking to one of the cabin leaders,” he recalls. “He read me different verses from the Bible, and he explained to me why Jesus died for us and how much he loves us. That night, I decided to commit my life to Jesus.”
Back home, Tom found little support for his faith and he fell into old routines. But he continued attending camp and in the summer of 2007, one of his cabin leaders invited him to come to his church in Richmond Hill, Ont. Tom started attending Richmond Hill Community Church regularly, and in 2008, he became a counsellor at Jackson's Point Camp.
“My first year as a counsellor was an eye-opener—the kind of commitment you need,” he says. “You come into the camp not knowing these kids at all, you spend a week getting to know them, and then they're gone. And still, while they're there, you give them everything you've got. It made me appreciate what the cabin leaders did for me growing up.”
Tom, who has been a counsellor for the past four years, says the experience has had a “huge” impact on his faith.
“Being in charge of a group of kids like that made me want to be more of a leader in my own church,” says Tom, who now attends Corps 614 in Toronto. “I'm involved with the kids' programs and some of the teens' programs at 614. All of that started with camp.”
Tom is hoping to work at Jackson's Point Camp again this summer. Knowing the impact summer camp had on his life, he believes that it is one of The Salvation Army's best ministries.
“Camping ministry brings together kids from all walks of life,” he says. “They learn about God and, for kids like me who aren't from a Christian family, it's their first exposure to Jesus. And what a way to remember that—when you're having a ridiculously fun time at camp.”