Photo: Men from Hope CC in Ajax, Ont., help get Newport Adventure Camp ready for the summer. From left, Mark Hemming, Connor Hemming, Craig Carleton, Sal Ayala, Cpt Jason Sabourin, Jim Sabourin and Roy Risely (Photos: Nathan Richardson)

At The Salvation Army’s Hope Community Church in Ajax, Ont., the men’s ministry starts with a burger, not breakfast. “For the past three years, we’ve led a mission trip to the Army’s Newport Adventure Camp in Muskoka, to help get the camp ready for the summer,” says Captain Jason Sabourin, corps officer. “On the drive up, we always stop at Webers, a burger place on Highway 11.”

The road trip to the camp, located on the shores of Skeleton Lake near Huntsville, Ont., is part of the fun for the group of eight to 10 men, who arrive on Wednesday evening and stay until Saturday. “In the morning, we have a laid-back time of devotions, and then get to work,” says Captain Sabourin. “We sweep and mop the cabins, put out the canoes and dock, rake pine needles and cut up fallen timbers.”

The trip is a way to get men active and involved in their faith. “For guys, the idea of physical labour is appealing,” he says. “Most men are introverted, and want to stay in the background— something like leading a Bible study can be daunting. But ask them to come and help, and it’s different: ‘I can find my place because I can work.’ They feel like they can offer something.”

As they laugh and joke throughout the day, they get to know each other and build relationships, leading to a sense of belonging. Craig Carleton, who started attending Hope in 2010, has been on the mission trip twice. “Working as a team with guys I go to church with was great,” he says. “We had a brotherly bond after the trip. We’re all good friends to this day because of it.”

Spending time together away from the corps also helps Captain Sabourin break into people’s lives. “I talk to them about anything. It could be sports, it could be cars, whatever they have an interest in—especially if they’re new,” he says. “I’m not in any kind of ‘priestly garb,’ just wearing work pants and a tool belt, getting dirty—it helps fuel the relational piece.”

Jim Sabourin and Mark Hemming on their way to build a gazeboJim Sabourin and Mark Hemming on their way to build a gazebo
The relaxed, informal setting can open the door to deeper conversations. “Men don’t respond well to sharing their feelings on the spot—they tend to shut down. It has to happen naturally,” says Captain Sabourin. “Being outdoors, just having casual conversation, they are able to open up easier. If I say, ‘Hey, come to my office and let’s talk,’ most men would feel like they’d been called to the principal’s office.”

In the evening, they have a campfire. “I throw out a couple of topics, but I try not to structure it too much,” he says. “Invariably the conversation turns to issues going on in people’s lives. I just let it flow, and see where God leads—I believe God is already working on them.”

Along with discipleship, the mission trip helps to alleviate the financial burden of ministry for the camp. “If they don’t have to hire people, it reduces costs—and helping the camp helps kids,” says Captain Sabourin. “It’s great to go and support the Army in another country that lacks resources, but we need to do that at home as well. We need to share what we have—whether financial or people resources—with other ministry units, so they can help people in their own community."

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