Campfires, Canoes and COVID-19 - Salvation Army Canada

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    Campfires, Canoes and COVID-19

    Keeping the benefits of camping ministries alive while camp is cancelled this season. July 3, 2020 by Major Terence Hale and Chris Noel
    Filed Under:
    Feature, COVID-19
    (Above) Camp Starrigan staff take a break from the busyness of camp life

    It’s undeniable that camp changes the lives of campers and staff alike. Camp is a place to stretch yourself. Camp is a place to make lifelong friendships. Camp is a safe place to be yourself. Camp is a place that makes leaders. Camp is a place to live in Christian community.
    Camp is a place to feel included, maybe for the first time. Camp is a place to have a transformative encounter with Jesus.

    The benefit and impact of Salvation Army summer camping ministries are not easily measured, but there are five foundational things we believe camp offers.

    A safe environment for children and youth. Camping ministry creates a place of safety and refuge for many children who do not experience security at home or in their community. At camp, young people can enter a safe place and feel the freedom to simply be kids and enjoy the fellowship of God’s creation.

    A sense of community. In a society that is nearly infinitely connected yet desperately lonely, camp is an opportunity to connect with others on a foundational level. Camp is them birthplace of life-changing, lifelong relationships—just ask any former camp staff member who is regretting not being able to be at camp this summer.

    A medium for connecting with God. Camp offers our most fruitful ground for evangelism and introducing others to a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. We’ve seen first-hand how God transforms lives at camp.

    Leadership development. Being a camper, and more directly working on camp staff, transforms your life mentally, emotionally and spiritually. At camp young people grow into the men and women God has designed them to be. Ask around, and you will find more people than you may expect whose lives and leadership were impacted by a camp experience.

    A practical and direct means through which we serve and are a transforming influence in the communities of our territory. We provide a summer experience to children and youth that would not be possible for many. In doing so we are being the compassionate hands of
    Jesus at work in our neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

    Due to COVID-19, camps are not able to operate this season. We invite you not to despair the loss of a camping season, but to dream. How can you carry on these five elements of camp—safety, community, evangelism, leadership development and service? Can you think about just one way you can help fulfil one of these elements of camp, and then ask the Spirit to help you follow through?

    Pray for our camps. Please join us in praying for the campers who would have come through our camps this summer— that they would still have that safe space, still stretch and grow, and still meet Jesus. Join us in praying for the staff who would have been at camp—that they would find other ways to join in ministry, continue to develop their leadership skills and still grow as Christ followers. And join us in a prayer of submission to the Holy Spirit, asking, “God, how do you want to carry on the spirit and impact of camp through me this summer?”

    What follows are reflections from representative camp staff members and divisional youth secretaries on their camp experiences and how they are keeping the spirit of camp alive this summer. Because this is God’s work and not ours, and God’s time and not ours, we are believing for even greater things, and are trusting that this summer will be more impactful than those before it, even though we cannot do things the way we have done them in the past.

    Major Terence Hale, territorial youth secretary, and Chris Noel, administrative assistant/camping standards specialist, are part of the Canada Bermuda Youth team at territorial headquarters.

    A New Perspective  
    by Captains Juan Chirinos and Indira Albert, divisional youth secretaries, Quebec Division

    Group photo of staff from Camp Lac L'Achigan in front of a lake with a fire pit in front.Cpts Juan Chirinos and Indira Albert (front, left) with staff from Camp Lac L'Achigan
    When we reflect on the ministry that takes place at Camp Lac L’Achigan in the Quebec Division, we clearly remember our arrival in the summer of 2017. The beauty of nature was all around us, but what we couldn’t see then was the impact this place would make on our lives. As divisional youth secretaries, camp ministry gives us a great opportunity to not only speak into the lives of campers, but the staff as well. As we have shared in daily devotionals, coached, mentored and built meaningful relationships with young people, we have seen consistent spiritual growth every summer. Some have shared that this is where their real journey with God began.

    Thursday night chapel is always the most meaningful time of the week, when children are invited to accept Christ. And when the service ends, staff gather to pray for every decision made. God’s overwhelming love and the movement of the Holy Spirit are so real!

    While COVID-19 has brought about the closure of camps this summer, we are excited about the new possibilities the Lord is bringing to us. We are adapting with new perspectives and strategies in ministry, because ultimately, who or what can stop the mission? Online Bible studies, devotional videos tailored for young people, spiritual training and coaching are making an impact, not only on those who would attend camp, but on all who access the resources. God is opening broader avenues of ministry and he is allowing us to reach new audiences.

    We praise God for the team of young leaders who are part of the divisional youth committee here in Quebec. Together, we are reimagining and innovating how to spread the gospel in ways that are relevant and effective.


    Out of the Comfort Zone 
    by Rachel Lee, St. John’s Temple, Newfoundland and Labrador Division

    Music camp has always been my favourite week of the year. As soon as the final program ended, I counted down the days until I could go back. When I became older and found out that I could live at camp for the whole summer as a staff member, I jumped at the chance. For the past five summers, I’ve had the privilege of working at Camp Starrigan and at Twin Ponds Camp in the Newfoundland and Labrador Division, first as a cabin counsellor, then as head counsellor, and last year, as the program director.

    I have so many funny memories from my years at camp. No where else would I get proposed to by a six-year-old camper, perform my Olympic figure skating routine and voluntarily smash a raw egg over my head all on the same night!

    Camp is truly my favourite place on earth, and it has helped make me who I am. It was at camp that I first understood God’s love for me and asked him into my heart, first led someone to him in prayer and regularly saw campers give their burdens to him. It was at camp that God showed me his unlimited provision and faithfulness, and that I saw first-hand his unconditional love and ability to bring light to even the darkest situations. Camp has taught me the importance of being joyful and having a positive attitude and has given me the courage to share God’s love with confidence. I’ve learned that having an authentic faith and a personal relationship with Jesus is more important than having your faith look as others think it should.

    Although camp is not going ahead this year the way it normally would, I want to carry on the spirit of camp right where I am. I will reach out to people for those deep, friendship-building chats that seem to always happen while staring at the stars or the top bunk above you. I will continue to break out of my comfort zone and do things that scare me. I will intentionally and passionately share how God’s love and grace is extended to
    everyone, no matter what. I will dance often, belly laugh loudly, eat a second dessert whenever possible, and keep on smiling, rain or shine, knowing I am abundantly blessed.


    My Mission Field
    by Misha Pavey, Richmond Hill Community Church, Ontario Division

    Misha Pavey stands in front of a white cross, holding a notebook, with lake in background"Camp has been the place where I found and became me," says Misha Pavey
    Growing up attending divisional camps as a faculty kid and camper, I never imagined that I would spend years working at camp. I’ve been on the summer staff of Ontario Camping Ministries since 2013, when I was a part of the Timothy 2 leaders-in-training program at Jackson’s Point Camp. That summer changed my life and ignited the love and passion I have for camp.

    I’ve served in a variety of roles at Jackson’s Point and Newport Adventure camps, including as a cabin leader, Timothy 2 leader, Bible co-ordinator, assistant program co-ordinator and co-ordinator of the Timothy program. I’ve been challenged, encouraged and strengthened as I cared for the kids in my cabin, led a group of teenagers into Algonquin Park for an out-trip and learned the life-changing power of sharing the gospel message. Camp has been the place where I found and became me.

    One of my best memories is from the first summer I would spend at Newport, as the Bible co-ordinator. Although I was ecstatic and believed it was my calling to lead Bible, I was terrified of the unknown. During our final staff orientation worship time, I sat at the back of the auditorium filled with fear and some regret for having accepted the position. As a friend prayed with me, I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering to my heart, “Newport is your mission field, and you aren’t always sent where you want to go.” God, knowing my fear, did not give me an out but rather affirmed me in what I was called to do.

    That message whispered to me then is my encouragement this summer to all who feel the loss of camp. Right where you are—whatever corps, town, city, division—is your mission field, and you aren’t always sent (or allowed to be sent) where you want to go. What opportunities can you create to replace the regular rhythm of going away to camp? Who can you teach cornet lessons to even though it won’t be followed by canteen?What parents around you might need you to entertain their kids for an hour or two? And most importantly, who needs to hear the gospel? The Holy Spirit has reminded me lately that he just needs our hearts and willingness to serve. It is my hope that we will all find the opportunities God is prompting and leading us to this summer.


    A Second Home
    by Caitlin West, The Willows, Langley, British Columbia Division

    Group photo of campers at Camp Sunrise"My memories of Camp Sunrise are as clear as a picture," says Caitlin West (front, second from right)
    I can’t easily recall things from my childhood, such as birthday parties, favourite TV shows or big vacations, but my memories of Camp Sunrise in the British Columbia Division are as clear as a picture.

    My connection to the camp goes back to when it was founded in 1925, when my great-grandfather was the divisional youth secretary. When my family moved back to Canada from England and settled in Surrey, B.C., in 1997, my parents became instantly involved at Sunrise. I remember watching the “big kids” march around camp, led by the bass drum, for morning flag raising when my parents helped lead junior music camp, and listening for the bell to ring out throughout the day to announce when the next activity or meal was to start. I looked forward to music camp, my favourite week of the summer, and I don’t ever remember feeling homesick while at camp because it was a second home to me. Before I was even old enough to realize it, it became the place where I felt the love of God stronger than at any other place in the world.

    My dream to work at Camp Sunrise was planted when the energy, life and love of my camp leaders combined with their love for Christ to make a lasting impact on me. The staff who pushed me on the swings, sang songs with me and led me to Jesus are the ones I try to reflect in my life. From talking to campers as their cabin leader about the love of Jesus, to spending my summer up in the trees as the ropes course co-ordinator, to planning wacky campfires as the recreation director, to my current role as program director working out of divisional headquarters, I’ve been living my dream for the past eight years.

    Not being able to physically attend camp for the first time in my life will be a very strange and sad experience, but I am filled with the knowledge and hope that the God we serve is so much more than a physical place. I believe he will continue to move and work in the hearts of the children and adults who would have come through our campground this summer. I am confident that God will use this time away to ignite a passion for him in ways that we can’t even imagine.


    Heaven on Earth
    by Majors Carson and Teresa Decker, divisional youth secretaries, Maritime Division

    Major Carson Decker and Cody Russell"Silly shenanigans" are part of the fun at Scotian Glen Camp, says Mjr Carson Decker (left), shown here with Cody Russell
    Campfires, Bible time, swimming, field games, fireworks, the buzz around the meal table, staff worship nights and latenight conversations are just a few of our favourite camp things. 

    This summer marks seven years for us as divisional youth leaders, first in the British Columbia Division and now in the Maritime Division. While this appointment provides numerous blessings, camping ministry is the highlight. Seeing a camper have a “wow” moment from trying the climbing tower or canoeing for the first time, watching campers and staff form friendships, witnessing a camper say “yes” to Jesus, and observing staff grow and mature in their faith and leadership are moments forever etched in our memories. Camp is a place of acceptance, understanding, laughter and transformation. We are privileged and blessed to share in this amazing ministry. Sure, days are long, and sleep is often in short supply, but it’s worth it to see the impact it has on the lives of others.

    We have experienced the value of teamwork, the power of influence and the strength of community. It has been a pleasure to mentor and encourage our staff, to offer support and guidance, to help them develop to their full potential for the kingdom and empower them to lead. Our lives are richer, and our own leadership strengthened as a result of this unique ministry.

    Like all camps across the territory, Scotian Glen Camp will remain closed this year, but we have not given up on camping! We are exploring virtual options, camp in a box and DIY ideas to offer our camp family. Maintaining a connection with our campers and staff is important for us. That doesn’t change. Salvation Army camping is an ideal setting for life-changing, fun-filled adventure and a wise investment in both camper and staff lives. It truly is a little piece of heaven on earth.


    Paying it Forward
    by Cody Russell, Fredericton Community Church, Maritime Division

    Cody Russell in canoe with two campers"Leading someone to Christ is the most awe-inspiring thing I can do," says Cody Russell (left)
    To say that I love camp would be the understatement of a lifetime! Being able to serve God and minister to so many kids over my eight years on the staff of Scotian Glen Camp in the Maritime Division, where I’ve been a kitchen support worker, counsellor, head male counsellor, Bible director, activities co-ordinator and climbing tower co-ordinator, has been the greatest blessing of my life.

    From music camp to youth retreats, camp has been my home away from home since I was seven years old, thanks to the efforts of my leaders, counsellors and faculty members. They took the time to encourage me and to make sure I was having fun and felt included in what was going on. Those moments defined me and planted seeds in my heart that would eventually grow into something God could use to serve his people.

    A highlight of my time at camp is the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with campers to talk about how amazing Jesus is and answer any questions they might have. As I watched one camper pray and pour out his heart to God, I was filled with so much joy and happiness that I could not explain it in words. It was in that moment I realized leading someone to Christ is the most awe-inspiring thing I can do. That’s why I choose to work at camp—to follow the example set for me by my camp leaders all those years ago, to encourage young people and to show them the way to Christ. And maybe, one day, they will be able to do the same for the next generation.

    The thought of not having camp this year was hard for me. My heart goes out to the kids who look forward to camp, especially those who see it as a safe place to get away from difficult home situations. I may not be able to minister directly to campers this summer, but I can still reach out to staff members. If I can put a smile on one of their faces with an encouraging message or share the joy and spirit of camp with them, it would be amazing!

    Comment

    On Sunday, July 12, 2020, Jodi Dunstan said:

    The impact of camping ministries is unquestionable! Thank you to everyone who contributed to this article. You are having a Kingdom Impact.

     

    On Monday, July 6, 2020, Sipili Molia said:

    This is my official first day back to work after a covid layoff as Community relations Coordinator for TSA in Victoria. This article was the absolute perfect start and reminder for me moving forward in finding creative ways to serve in this new World. So thank you and God bless! Don't tell God how big your problems are... Tell your problems how BIG your God is!! Amen Sipili

     

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