As students and faculty gather for National Music Camp this August, Salvationist asked four people what the experience means to them.

Rebecca Minaker, Listowel Corps, Ont.

I've always viewed National Music Camp as a “mountaintop” experience, a time of rejuvenation. The timing at the end of summer makes it a great spiritual jumpstart to the year—a reminder of who we are before returning to school or work. It's also a fantastic way to build relationships and a network of spiritual support. You discover you're not alone; there are many who have the same struggles and questions.

I can remember times in my life when I questioned my faith so deliberately and thoroughly that I thought I could—and would—walk away. But the relationships I made through camp, with people who were immersed in the same spiritual “culture,” changed my life. National laid the foundation for spiritual support throughout the year and in the years to come—a precious gift when you live in a geographic area that can't provide such support.

The commitments I made at National have shaped who I have become, and I know I'm not alone. There are countless individuals who have made life-changing decisions because of music camp.

The leadership at National is world-class and I was able to learn from some of the best musicians the Army has to offer. Much of my own leadership style is a direct reflection of them. I saw so many phenomenal leaders, invested not only in the Army and the music but in the kids, genuinely caring about their well-being and speaking truth and hope into their lives.

National has been priceless and irreplaceable in my own life, and I believe it's an important way to disciple youth in the faith, particularly in The Salvation Army.

Colin Williams, Heritage Park Temple, Winnipeg

My family moved from Edmonton to Winnipeg between my Grade 11 and 12 years. I had a rough time fitting in at my new school, and became depressed and introverted. I left my parents' home, believing they weren't important to my life. Although I still attended church, I had no real relationship with God.

I went to my first National Music Camp a year later with little-to-no expectations of strengthening my relationship with God. But throughout the week, I experienced grace in a life-changing way. I realized God had the power to forgive and that I still had time to change my life. The friends I made demonstrated the love of Christ. This love helped me repair the broken bonds with my parents, as well as understand the importance of a strong relationship with the Lord.

I am now the deputy bandmaster at my corps, and frequently use memories of National to lead the band through more meaningful fellowship. I will always value the high level of musical ability at National and its impact on my spiritual life. I perform on a weekly basis as a university trumpet player, but I will never forget the feeling of sitting in Scarborough Citadel and witnessing a concert in which 400 people were performing with the same purpose: to worship the Lord.

Heidi Adams, 614 Corps, Vancouver

The Salvation Army - - Grace Notes - Heidi-Adams “I am a self-professed National Music Camp junkie,” says Heidi Adams (centre). “I always leave National with a renewed sense of purpose”

At 26, I am a self-professed National Music Camp junkie. That week at the end of August is the highlight of my year. Through high school, four years of university and four years of youth ministry, National has been a spiritual haven. When I risked either jumping ship or falling into a “Sunday only” faith, the amazing teachers, inspiring faculty and other campers showed me that a life dedicated to Jesus is possible. It's the place where, year after year, I pledge myself to a life of more holiness. It's a place for affirmation. It's a place to witness.

Over the years, it has become a family. Struggling through my first time as a hired youth worker, I turned to one of my counsellors who mentored me through some difficult situations. Now, as one of the senior campers (the age range is from 16 to 30, and I plan on attending up to my 30th birthday!), I make an effort to embrace the younger campers. Many of them are wavering in their faith and one week of close Christian community, where questions are welcome, can be the rescue line.

Growing up, my most disciplined streaks of Bible study and prayer were the months following National. The friends I've made have become a support network that sustains me through the entire year and helps me step up and be an example in my corps. I always leave National with a renewed sense of purpose.

John Lam, London Citadel, Ont.

The Salvation Army - - Grace Notes - John-Lam “While the music is what brought us together,” says John Lam, leader of the Canadian Staff Band, “it fostered a community of faith”

National Music Camp is the reason I am still a Christian. When my own church had few programs for young people, I started attending a Salvation Army corps and never left. I agreed to go to National on a whim when someone told me it was a great place to jam and perhaps meet girls. I didn't know what was about to hit me. Not only did I discover a place that confirmed my growing passion for music, but it also opened my eyes to so many difference facets of the Army as a church. That week, the theme and music spoke to me—especially the words to Thomas Rive's brass band piece, I Know a Fount—and I accepted Christ into my life.

In the following years, I was always involved with the Army, but not always walking with Christ. School, military service, career and relationships all took their turn at pulling me from the path. At a key point, my corps band happened to play the piece of music that had been so important to me, and I felt God's hand on my life. I recommitted to Christian service, accepting the role of bandmaster at my corps and becoming a faculty member at National.

As a leader, I find that National serves as a spiritual oasis before the hectic activity of the academic/corps season starts again. It also reminds me that the church is all about relationships, with God and people. Period. There is no gimmick or silver-bullet program that we should be looking for. If Christ is at the centre, these relationships will grow, and many will last a lifetime.

The friends I made in my years at National have been there for me every step of the way, year after year, in times of stagnation and growth, despair and joy. While the music is what brought us together, it fostered a community of faith as we shared our lives and grew in the Word. If someone falls from the path and turns away, someone else will be there to challenge and help restore them. Our faith is deepened by our commitment to each other. All because of the common holy ground of that one-week experience called camp.

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