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Jul5FriCamp is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship. July 5, 2019 by Lt-Colonel Lynn Armstrong
The first Salvation Army camp I attended as a child was Camp Sunrise, nestled among the trees in Gibsons, B.C., on the Sunshine Coast. Just getting there on a ferry was an adventure for a nine-year-old! It was a week filled with fun and new experiences—making friends, swimming, campfires, songs, kind leaders and learning more about Jesus.
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Over the years, I’ve attended many more Army camps, sometimes as a camper, sometimes as staff, but I have always come away changed. For young and old alike, camping ministry can play a significant part in spiritual formation.
Since the first Salvation Army camp for children was held in Oakville, Ont., in August 1902, The Salvation Army has run camping programs from coast to coast in Canada, and in Bermuda. In 2018, there were 8,928 campers, 2,513 leaders, and 1,008 decisions made for Christ.
Today, our camping ministry includes a vast array of programs for a wide range of ages—from adventure, sports and holiday camps to a focus on music and gospel arts; from moms and tots to seniors; from men’s and women’s ministries to family camps. We also offer hospitality for spiritual retreats and conferences.
Camping ministry is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship. Discipleship is one of our territorial strategic priorities, and camping ministry intentionally provides opportunities for children, youth and young adults to grow in their faith, engage in service and ministry and develop leadership skills.
Most of the children who attend our camps come through the doors of our Salvation Army corps and community and family services. It is imperative that we establish a strong network of care that fosters relationships with the children and their home context. One of the ways this happens is when youth workers accompany children to camp, and our corps follow up with them and their families on the return home.
Our ministry to children and youth is rooted in strong theological truths. Children are welcome participants and even examples in the kingdom of God. Their importance is seen throughout Jesus’ own ministry as he called them to himself and reminded the grownups standing around that “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-3).
Not only are children to be evangelized and taught by the faith community about the good news and love of God (see Deuteronomy 6), but they themselves are used by God to advance his mission. Young Samuel ministered before the Lord and delivered the message of the Lord to a priest (see 1 Samuel 3). A young slave girl shared the good news of hope with her master, a captain of the army of Syria. It led him on a path of healing and to an eventual proclamation of faith: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15). After a long day of teaching the crowds, it was a young boy who partnered in mission with Jesus, offering his lunch of five loaves and two fish, which Jesus blessed and miraculously multiplied to feed a hungry crowd (see Matthew 14:13-21).
In The Salvation Army, we recognize our sacred responsibility to children. Their nurture, provision and protection are fundamental, given that children are among the most vulnerable in society. They lack both power and resources and many are touched by poverty, neglect, abuse and injustice.
Camping ministry is a place where children learn about and experience the love of God, and discover more about themselves and others. This investment in young lives fosters self-esteem, fellowship and friendship. It is also a place where our youth receive training in ministry and mission.
It is a place for friendships to grow and families to bond; a space for reflection, rest and renewal. Come and experience all that Salvation Army camping ministries has to offer you and your family this summer.
Lt-Colonel Lynn Armstrong is the secretary for program in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.
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