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Jul9WedHow a Salvation Army summer camp changed my life. July 9, 2014 by Major Mike Hoeft
For as long as I can remember, summer camp has been a part of my life. As a boy growing up in Regina, I fondly recall my mother taking my brother and me, armed with rubber boots, bug repellant and bathing suits, to catch the bus to The Salvation Army's Beaver Creek Camp near Saskatoon. Next stop: six glorious days of fresh air, fun and food, where we would swim, do crafts, hear Bible lessons, play games and make new friends.
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A Heart at Peace
For me, it was a safe haven, a place where life made sense when it did not always do so the rest of the year.
When I was nine, my parents separated and divorced. We lived on welfare and never had much money to do the things other kids did.
Although my mother did her best, I felt as if something was missing, something that always seemed to be found every summer among the trees, cabins and sunshine of Beaver Creek.
It was the summer of 1977. I was lying in bed at camp after the other children had gone to sleep when the spirit of God seemed to overpower me. His presence was as real as the cabin I was in. I knew then, in a way I had never known before, the reality of God. He had got a hold of my life, forgave my sins and set an often-troubled heart at peace.
Every summer when I was a teenager, I found myself back at that place of spiritual birth, working first as a counsellor and then in maintenance. It was the place where my spiritual growth developed most strongly and where the baggage of the rest of the year melted away in the light of the Prairie sun.
It was therefore no surprise that when God called me to serve full time in The Salvation Army in 1988, my wife and I first served as program directors at Beaver Creek before going to training college. It seemed fitting that I start my spiritual career at the place where my spiritual life began.
For the past 23 years, my wife and I have served as Salvation Army pastors, and while my wife and I have been stationed near and far, for all but two of those years my feet have always carried me back to Beaver Creek Camp. During that time, I have seen lives changed, forgiveness found, relationships formed and grace experienced. Not just for others, but in my own life as I continue to experience the blessing of God each time I drive through the gates.
In an age of computers, cellphones, gaming consoles and other distractions, I pray that the children of this generation will continue to be able to discover the joys, wonders and glories of God's creation ... at summer camp.
(Reprinted from The Melfort Journal, May 28, 2013)