As a staff member with the Blaze program at Jackson’s Point Camp, Ont., Thursday evenings are my favourite time of the week. That’s when Kanga Foote, the Bible director, asks campers if they want to accept Christ into their lives—and many of them reply with an emphatic “Yes!”
I grew up in a family with deep roots in The Salvation Army. Ever since I attended music camp at Jackson’s Point, I knew I wanted to work there, but I didn’t know as what. Then I did the Timothy discipleship and leadership program, and got connected to Blaze. This was my third summer as a staff member at the adventure camp.
There are no easy jobs at camp. They all have long hours and leave you craving bedtime. But the reason I work here, and the reason a lot of my co-workers are here, is for those Thursday night campfires. All of the long days and all of the behavioural issues we deal with are worth it when we hear the “yes” of campers becoming part of God’s family.
After they reply to Kanga, she sends them into their cabin groups to ask questions and learn more about the commitment they’ve made.
One difficulty with leading children to Christ is how to phrase it. At Blaze, the campers range in age from six to nine. Using big words and metaphors—like saying God is coming to “live in their hearts”—can confuse and even scare them.
For a camper to understand this decision, I find it works best to use simple language, and relate a relationship with God to their own life. Being “part of God’s family” or having God as your “best friend” resonates with the campers, because they know what that means.
One Thursday, a cabin leader helped a camper understand Jesus’ sacrifice by talking about superheroes, explaining that sometimes superheroes will sacrifice themselves to save people, just like Jesus did for us. Captain Josh Downer, divisional youth secretary in the Ontario Great Lakes Division, smiled when he heard this comparison.
I don’t join in with a cabin group. Instead I either pray over the campers in a group with other staff, or alone. And I wait. I wait for the campers to finish their discussions, and to rush over and tell us that they’ve become part of God’s family. We give them high fives, congratulating them on their decision, and then send them over to a banner to sign their names.
This was Claire’s* second year at camp. She likes it, because of the chance she gets to play with friends. Her favourite part of camp is swimming, and being able to jump into the water. She became part of God’s family last year. She said she loves God because he gave Jesus to die for our sins.
Hearing campers repeat lessons they’ve learned in Bible and campfire devotions is amazing. One of my favourite parts of Bible this summer was when Kanga taught about God loving us. She told the campers and staff to look to one side, and tell that person that God loves them. Then she said to turn to the other side and repeat the message. Lastly, she asked us to close our eyes and say, “God loves me.” That’s what I hope the campers take with them when they leave camp.
*Not her real name.
David Lynch attends The Salvation Army’s Yorkminster Citadel in Toronto.