Into the Woods - Salvation Army Canada

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    Into the Woods

    Building faith and friendship at summer camp. July 10, 2015 by Major Kathie Chiu
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    The suitcase and backpack were sitting by the door.

    “Do you have everything on the list?” I asked.

    “Yup.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Yup.”

    “Then let's get going. We have a ferry to catch.”

    A few kilometres later, I heard, “Mom, I forgot my bathing suit!” Back we went.

    The annual pilgrimage to camps across the country is a rite of passage that every child deserves to experience. For us, it's music camp. Our twin daughters, Sheena and Sarah, always had each other. But Derek was going to be on his own, a ferry ride away. There would be no midnight trips to pick him up if something went wrong. What if he gets sick? What if he gets scared? I won't be able to get to him, I remember fretting. But I kept my fears to myself and decided to trust God and the adults who would be supervising the camp. I said goodbye and he walked off with his friends.

    I loved camp at Jackson's Point in Ontario. I remember sleeping on the top bunk in a cabin full of giggly girls, digging pits and jumping off the wooden pier into the waters of Lake Simcoe.

    As much fun as it is, camp is also an excellent place for kids to develop invaluable life skills. Studies show that kids who go to camp increase their emotional intelligence. Here are some of the benefits of camp for kids:

    • They learn to get along with others. When a group of kids is cooped up in a small cabin, there's bound to be some friction. It's different than school, where you go home at the end of the day. At camp, you share bunk beds and have to sleep in the same room.

    • They learn to face challenges and overcome them. From climbing walls to learning to paddle a canoe, there is a lot to learn. These activities give kids the opportunity to try things outside their comfort zone.

    • They learn leadership skills by helping younger campers. Many camps, including The Salvation Army's, have leader-in-training programs as well.


    One of the most important aspects of any Salvation Army camp is the spiritual content. There is chapel every day where kids hear stories and sing songs that teach them about the love of God. For many kids who attend our holiday camps, it may be the first time they hear about Jesus, and experience God's love lived out in his people. As a corps officer, I receive a list of kids who made a decision to follow Jesus while at camp every year, and it makes me realize the impact of camping ministries.

    “Did you have a good time?” I asked Derek after camp.

    “Yup. I went out in a canoe in the ocean! I climbed all the way to the top of the wall! And I got to go swimming every day!”

    The smells that waft out of the suitcases when they unpack each summer are overpowering. Underneath the top layer of dirty clothes is usually a layer of clean, perfectly rolled up items of clothing that never saw the light of day.

    All five of our kids went through this rite of passage and, in turn, volunteered and worked at Camp Sunrise here in British Columbia. They have great memories and strong friendships from their summers at camp. But the most important relationship that was strengthened each summer was the one between my children and God.

    Major Kathie Chiu is the corps officer at Richmond Community Church, B.C.

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