Let’s Consider Christian Camping
Across Canada nestled among grand oaks or shimmering birches are the sites of more than fifty Christian camps for boys and girls. One may take a long drive down a crooked country road or merely stop beside a busy highway to observe one of these camps in operation. Many of them lie dormant for eight or nine months of the year, and then suddenly become alive with the pounding of hammers, the laughter of children, and the sounding forth of God’s Word. Time, money and energy must go into each of these efforts. What is the purpose? To where does it all lead? Why should I become involved?
Eight years ago, Mr. James Booker saw a need to further the work of the Lord among boys and girls, and with the help of Mr. Colin Anderson directed the first Camp Galilee. Using tents and little equipment it was a small group that shared in the daily activities, but is was a start and today we see the results of that exercise and vision. Ten miles northeast of Renfrew and two miles off highway 17, Camp Galilee is located on a hill overlooking a small private lake. From a few tents and one frame building it has grown until at present there are six camper’s cabins, a large dining hall, handcraft building, recreational hall, chapel, and smaller cabins for those who are helping. Up to seventy campers enjoy the program at each ten day session, which includes; two boy’s camps, (junior and senior) two girl’s camps, (junior and senior) and a Youth camp. We are impressed and thankful to see the Lord working in young lives and in blessing every effort put forth at the camp.
During the camping season last year 300 campers, 40 counsellors, and 8 assemblies participated directly and many others indirectly. Observations from our experience at Camp Galilee are presented in this article. Both the assets and dangers of Christian camping are to be seen as they relate to: THE CAMPER, THE COUNSELLOR, THE LOCAL ASSEMBLY, THE HOME, THE LORD
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy ‘Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).
A trip to camp exposes a child to one of the most concentrated influences of BIBLE TEACHING that is possible today. Our ten day period provides approximately three hours organized Bible teaching plus many incidental applications of the Scriptures every day. This is far superior to any other current program to reach children for Christ. The results of this concentration are at least two-fold. Many children have been brought to a SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST through camp work. It is unquestionably the most fruitful area of our work in the Ottawa Valley. Also this concentration of Bible teaching has a marked effect upon many Christian campers producing SPIRITUAL GROWTH. Peter’s words are still true, “Desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby.”
We have become increasingly conscious of the danger of mere “professions” at camp. The setting is conducive to this, and overly-zealous counsellors can contribute to it. Constant effort is made to eliminate any undue pressures upon the camper. It has been our experience that when a spiritual atmosphere prevails, and young Christian campers are ‘living Christ’ before their companions, unsaved boys and girls are brought under conviction and seek counsel.
The CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENT undoubtedly accounts for the spiritual impact upon the camper’s life. This environment builds Christian character as the camper is taught to apply Christian principles to every area of life — the ball field, cabin clean-up, and the dinner table. The preaching and practising of the Scriptures are related constantly, something that is unique in children’s activities among our assemblies today.
There are not, however, the conditions of resentment and hostility in this protected environment and this could tend to give a new convert an unrealistic introduction to the Christian life. Thinking that life at home will be as easy as taking a stand for the Lord at camp, could develop a false sense of security which, in turn, could be the very means of his collapse. If every effort is made to avoid a monastic atmosphere at camp, and appropriate ministry and counsel are given, we feel that a babe in Christ can be prepared for the difficulties he will face. At this point we commend him to the Lord for His keeping.
The highlight of every camping session is the testimony meeting at the concluding campfire. Invariably, we are greatly impressed with the SPIRITUAL STIMULUS camp is to the Christian youth. It is like a ‘battery charger’ or a ‘filling station’ on their journey of life. It was a thrill to listen to the testimony of a keen teenage athlete as he told of the Lord’s dealing with him in his backslidden condition during youth camp, and how he had been restored to the Lord. The repetition of such stories speaks for the value of such camping experience. Every Christian young person needs this type of spiritual retreat.
Perhaps one of the greatest needs in the Church of God is the consistent Christian life. The camping program aids in the SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT of Christian youth, teaching them to live the Christian life in a society, not just a Chapel. The responsibility is placed upon the Christian campers to so live Christ that others will be won to the Lord. The opportunities are unlimited to teach responsibility, cleanliness, considerateness, obedience and co-operation.
A good part of the program is related to the development of PHYSICAL SKILLS. As qualified counsellors give instruction in swimming, boating, archery, riflery, handicraft, camperaft, etc., campers acquire abilities that can be very useful in promoting their testimony. The danger of over-emphasizing this is ever present, and must be held in proper balance constantly.
From the camper’s viewpoint, the cost of going to camp is a hindrance to some, — or is it? True — the expense is great in contrast to D.V.B.S. or Sunday School, but the relative value is as great a contrast. Fees are at a minimum and many adults have made scholarships available for those in need.
“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” (2 Tim. 1:16).
Seventy campers race across the field, through the trees, hopping over logs and knolls, snapping to attention as they form seven straight lines in front of the dining hall. At the front of each line urging each boy to stand at his best is the counsellor. Many have given up their holiday time, devoting it to camp and the camper. Why is he there? What benefit is it to him?
“Jim” was a young fellow who, after prayerfully considering what to do during his vacation, decided to counsel at Camp Galilee. The camp director inquires about “Jim’s” testimony in the local assembly. This is important as much harm can be done if a counsellor sets a bad example for the young lives entrusted to his care.
“Jim” is anxious to help in the assembly, but finds it difficult to take part publicly. At camp he, and every other counsellor, will lead a Bible study group with their cabin as well as direct a campfire. Many have testified that as a result of their counselling experience they started TAKING PUBLIC PART in prayer and speaking which has been carried over into the assembly.
During the ten day period two of the boys in “Jim’s” cabin came to him seeking to be saved. “Jim” had the unspeakable joy of LEADING HIS FIRST SOULS TO CHRIST and caused within him a greater determination to witness for Christ. Others came with spiritual problems and Bible questions causing “Jim” to SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES and seek the Lord’s guidance for a satisfying answer.
FELLOWSHIP with other Christians his own age and the example set by the more mature Christians are unforgetable experiences for every counsellor.
Camp has been a CHARACTER BUILDER for “Jim.” He has taken on responsibility, learned patience and his spiritual concern for others has increased.
The spiritual environment for ten days has probably been a mountaintop experience for “Jim” and there is the danger of being let down when he returns home. Proper guidance from the camp director and the local elders, however, should result in a continuation of his exercise and development to the lasting profit of the assembly.
The Local Assembly
“For from you sounded out the Word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad” (1 Thess. 1:8).
Since their association with the Christian camping movement “Springhill,” a fictitious name, but actual assembly, has felt the impact.
Each year their Sunday School sponsors several children for a period at camp. Also they conduct a contest with a free trip to camp as the prize. Besides this they promote camp with announcements, pictures and rallies. Their reason is obvious, they have found camp to be the REAPING PLACE for their work in the Sunday School and the children’s meeting. Often the seed sown in the assembly work is the basis for conversions at camp.
The visiting children to Sunday School early in September were NEW CONTACTS made through the camp. The parents were so impressed with the effect of camp on their children that they even accompanied them to the Chapel. Now as a result of the initial contact at camp several are in fellowship in the assembly and four families are attending regularly. This is an actual case history.
“Springhill” has every reason to thank the Lord for the camp when they reflect upon the DEVELOPMENT OF THEIR YOUNG PEOPLE who have counselled at camp. “Jim” now participates actively at the Lord’s table. Others have offered to teach Sunday School, and are willing to open meetings. One brother in full-time service for the Lord did his first speaking at camp.
Our Lord’s commission: “Go ye into all the world” is taken seriously by this assembly. They are not content to wait for the unsaved to come in but are aggressive in attempting to REACH OUT INTO THE WORLD with the Gospel. Camp work is their most fruitful out reach. With proper follow-up procedures — investing time, talent, and finances in camp work is investing it in the local assembly.
“He… .rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:34b).
The home is still the basic foundation for our society, the local assembly, and every individual. Having such an influence, the home itself does not escape the impact of Christian camping.
Two years ago our neighbours sent their two boys to camp. This opened the door for WITNESSING TO THE UNSAVED. After camp, the boys who had professed to be saved put themselves to sleep by singing choruses. This so impressed the parents that the father asked what had happened to them at camp. Since then they have attended some meetings at the Chapel. So sympathetic was he toward camp that he offered to assist in the electrical work being done.
A Roman Catholic recently converted came as cook to camp last year and found it to be a PLACE OF REAPING FOR HER FAMILY. During the summer her daughter and son both professed to be saved. What a change this makes in their home! How often the story is repeated! Parents who faithfully pray for and witness to their children see them come to the Lord during a stay at camp.
Another home was greatly disrupted by a rebellious teenage son who had professed to be saved in his younger years. The Lord dealt with the lad at camp and his desires now are towards the things of the Lord. The ATMOSPHERE OF THEIR CHRISTIAN HOME has been completely changed, and the family has been drawn together in a way they thought impossible.
The return of ‘challenged’ campers to their home many times STIMULATES THE PARENTS. The challenge to continue the work begun at camp encourages an active Family Altar, and the provision of adequate Bible study and counsel. Indirectly it often proves of great benefit to parents too.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).
In reviewing the Christian Camping movement and our experience, it is increasingly obvious that this is a work raised up by the Lord for the glory of His own Name. It is perhaps one of the greatest expressions of obedience to the “Great commission” today. All in one, it is a training-ground for God’s people, a reaping-field for the unsaved, and a channel into the assembly.
“I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22b).