FFF 11:8 (Oct 1965)
Fount of Living Waters
Mini-Yo-We is TOPS!” The young enthusiast emphasized his exclamation as if he had tried all summer camps and had at last found the very best. While comparisons are most improper, we have to admit that we caught some of the boy’s enthusiasm as we mingled with the campers during our recent visit. The happy hours spent with the Administrator, Robert Grant, and the Director, Frazer MacKenzie, the camp chaplains, the counsellors, junior and senior, and the many boys at South Camp and the Edgewoods section convinced us that summer camp work is one of the modern means God is using to save souls and mould lives.
The primary purpose of Mini-Yo-We is to glorify God in service among boys and girls. To win young souls to Christ demands expenditure and effort. It also requires wisdom to lead these simple believers into an intimate fellowship with the Lord, and into the building of stable Christian characters. To accomplish this primary objective a well planned enjoyable holiday for youngsters is provided in beautiful surroundings, in a spiritual atmosphere, under the careful and prayerful supervision of capable directors and counsellors.
In 1947 a Committee for the Extension of Sunday School Work formed in the city of Toronto, Canada. This committee investigated the possibility of summer camp ministry, and finally, for ten days, rented Fair Haven Camp Grounds near Beaverton. In this first venture 50 boys and 50 girls enjoyed their vacations and God honoured the exercise of those who instituted the move. The results were so gratifying that a decision was made to purchase and develop a property for camp work among the assemblies.
When the present site was located the committee called a meeting in Central Hall, Toronto. The $16,000 necessary for the purchase and equipping of half the present property seemed prohibitive. Objections and obstacles were discouraging to even the more exercised and aggressive workers until an elder brother of much experience said, “Not only is the Lord with us, but business-wise it means that only 32 brethren have to pledge themselves to contribute $500 each.” As we looked over the large investment represented now and thought of the accomplishments of the intervening years, $16,000 seemed a very small sum. The Lord who met the need at the beginning, is just the same now.
“Uncle Bob, please come to the office.” The voice of Mrs. Copeland sounded over the public address system, in response to our request she called for brother Grant. While we waited, we found that staff members are known during camp by nick-names and abbreviations: “Uncle Bob,” “Rivers,” “A. G.” “Meadow,” etc. This is but one of the many ways the noble group of Christian workers makes itself all things to all boys and girls that they might win some.
The warmth and sincerity of Uncle Bob’s welcome set us at ease to wander through the camp in order that we see for ourselves what was being done.
Boys were everywhere: running, wrestling, shouting, playing. As we walked towards the lake, a whistle sounded and over the public address system hymns were being played, it was Bible study hour. There could be no better place to start our survey than in a Bible study so we followed some of the boys to the portable hall in which their classes were held. It was not really a Bible study that morning, it was an examination on the life of Joseph. Thirty boys bowed over the mimeograph sheet to fill in the answers, true or false.
From there we moved to another group in the Crafts Building and listened while 25 boys received a lesson from the life of Paul.
Bible studies over, we visited the First-Aid infirmary. The Registered Nurse on duty described the facilities and answered our questions. A little girl, quickly appeared. We noticed several girls around the camp, the children of staff members. “I have a bee sting on my back,” she asserted. Carefully the little jersey was adjusted to the burning spot. “Looks more like a mosquito bite to me,” said the nurse. “Well, it hurts” replied the little one. Medication brought such instant relief that we wondered whether the effect was physical or psychological.
It was now lunch time, the test of order and discipline in any camp. We joined the ranks of boys as they stood according to their cabins, orderly awaiting word from the Assistant-Director to enter the dining room; this they did with alacrity as the names of their cabins were called.
The meal prepared under the supervision of Dietitian Mrs. Robert Grant, was just what hungry boys would need both in quantity and quality.
After lunch, while others went to their cabins for a necessary siesta, we followed about 20 young converts to the portable hall and listened to excellent counsel by one of the chaplains. During the week he intended to cover some essential subjects: assurance, the Bible, prayer, witnessing, and the two natures. We heard him speak on the Word of God in the Christian’s life. As we walked away, we prayed, “Lord, may Thy Word ever be to these young fellows the authority, guide and strength of their character and testimony.”
A conducted tour through Edge-woods, a section of Mini-Yo-We adjacent to South Camp where we had been, only deepened our admiration for the work. The ages at Edge-woods are higher than those at South Camp, all the boys there are 14 or over. There were 32 at the time of our visit, more than half of whom were unsaved; consequently, there was much prayer for these teen-agers in all the counsellors’ prayer meetings.
The new building under construction that we visited is for South Camp; it will increase facilities and make it possible to enlarge the younger groups. Hopes are high that it may be ready for next season.
About 4 p.m. we caught our breath and our hearts pounded as the siren wailed out over the entire camp; trouble had occured. Boys, counsellors, chaplains, everybody was running to the water front. What tragedy had struck Mini-Yo-We? Three forgetful boys failed to return their tags to the safety rack after they had finished swimming. What a relief to all when it was obvious that only tags had to be recovered! God has preserved this camp from serious accident throughout the years; our hearts are truly grateful to Him.
Free time at camp is precious time; some of the boys do their memory work then, some seek individual help from their counsellors, some write home. These minutes of nonscheduled activities in some cases have been crucial; they have been the periods of decisions, decisions for Christ.
As the close of boys’ camp was only two days away, the staff prepared a Mother Goose Banquet for them. What a splendid meal, each course whetted the appetite! The meal was accompanied by enough child’s play to provoke merriment. Little faces from broken families and poor environments shone with happiness as they rarely do.
Camp Mini-Yo-We operates for several important reasons on Eastern Standard Time, dusk therefore settled an hour earlier for us. “Listen,” said Uncle Bob. We stepped outside the lodge. Below us all the boys were standing at attention around the flag pole, and as the flag of Canada was slowly lowered, they sang together, “God, save the Queen.” Good citizenship and national loyalty are thus impressed upon young hearts.
After the lowering of the flag the boys returned to the lodge for a program of relaxation and change in which, so it seemed to us, every one participated. The program was planned not only as an entertainment but for the use of natural talents. What a delight to see such cordiality, team work, and consideration among boys! Their example would have been good for some men.
The evening ended a little later than usual, so the boys were quickly dismissed with words of caution by the Director. They made their ways along lighted paths to their cabins, where alone with the Lord and their counsellors they closed the day with a quiet time of devotion and prayer. Weary limbs and happy hearts were soon tucked away in sleeping bags or under blankets.
Our visit showed us that an extensive curriculum has been developed at Mini-Yo-We. For the campers there are both physical and spiritual benefits. There are sports, camp-craft, swimming, boating, treking, but also prayer meetings, Bible studies, devotions, Sunday service, etc. all with an evangelical emphasis.
Over and above the plans for the campers, there is special training for young men. There is a class for C.I. T’s (Counsellors in training). To enter this course one must be a Christian, 16 years of age and ready to
receive Bible teaching, instruction in counselling, and ready to apply oneself to camp activities, water safety measures, and sports. To be a junior counsellor one must be 17 years old and have attained certain special qualifications. A senior counsellor must be 18. All such young men are given definite training for Christian leadership.
There are, today, men in full time service for the Lord, men giving leadership in assemblies, who first developed their spiritual gifts and moral qualities under this training. The plan for the future is to continue and even intensify this diversified training.
A cup of tea and a sandwich in the company of the staff closed our pleasant visit. As we nosed the car down the dark side roads to the highway and turned south and homeward, although conscious of the hum of night tractor-trailer traffic that rumbled northward, our minds were full of a new appreciation of the work being done by zealous brethren and sisters who sacrifice their summers to touch young consciences and fashion young lives for the glory of God.