Leadership staff from the summer of 2014 have shared these stories of “God Moments” or personal development.
This summer I was privileged to be part of our first ever week of City Day Camp.
During this week we would spend our mornings at Bethel Mennonite Church learning about God’s Community, playing games and running around. Then in the afternoon we would go somewhere for some kind of activity.
On Thursday, our activity was to take the city bus to Assiniboine Park where we would have a picnic lunch, get ice cream and go on a scavenger hunt.
It took a little while to get there, we even had to take shelter from some rain, but thankfully, we found the perfect spot for a picnic at the children’s playground. After our picnic, we decided to walk across the foot bridge to Sargent Sunday. All the campers (and staff) were so excited to get ice cream! As we were walking across the bridge, some of the campers noticed a man sitting on the ground pan handling. As they walked by they said hello to the man. I silently congratulated myself; these campers hadn’t ignored the man, but had treated him like a person just like Jesus would. We kept walking.
I am so glad I wasn’t working behind the ice cream counter that day! It must have been so stressful to have twenty people come in at once (mostly children), shouting about chocolate and frozen yogurt and whatever else we ordered. After making it through the line we sat down outside to eat our frozen treats. I was talking with a camper when I noticed some other campers handing each other change. I knew it was my responsibility to make sure nothing fishy was happening, so I walked over and asked what they were doing.
Slowly they turned and faced me and with guilty expressions, explained that they were collecting their change to give to the man on the bridge.
I thought I was going to cry, I had underestimated these campers, they knew it wasn’t enough to be nice to that man, they had to help him.
A camper noticed the expression on my face and asked what was wrong. I explained that I thought that what they were doing was beautiful. The camper simply laughed. “It’s normal to help people” he said.
The campers divided the change among themselves equally so that each could give something to the man. And as we walked across the bridge, they each lined up to place their offering in his plate.
In Luke 18: 16-17 Jesus says: “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” I was so blessed by my campers, your children, this summer. Thank you for sending them to camp.
Possibly the most meaningful part of my summer was a conversation I had with a camper after fireside one evening. I’ll call him Steve. Like many of our campers, Steve did not grow up in a Mennonite household. Quite unexpected by me, Steve told me that he would like to become a Mennonite. This was, of course, really exciting. So, curious, I asked Steve what it was about the Mennonites that really appealed to him. He said that they seem to place such a big emphasis on relationships with others and being like a family and that he thought that was really important. Our Bible theme this summer was community. We spent a whole summer telling kids about community and how important it is. Steve spent half an hour telling me about community and how important it is.
Camp is an incredibly busy place and sometimes our purpose gets forgotten in all the hustle and bustle. Steve may never read this and may never realize what exactly he did that evening, but he reminded me of why we do what we do. And that was huge. We spend so much effort teaching campers, but I find every year to have learned more than I have taught. Thanks be to God.
There are many moments each week at camp that help remind me what makes camp so special. As the Bible instructor for the Day Camp I felt so rewarded when campers would energetically ask questions during Bible sessions, or to see their excitement when they knew the Bible story and wanted to explain it to the whole group.
One specific moment that I felt God’s presence in our camp week was during the last week of the summer with Grades 2-5 at Moose Lake. During the last two Firesides in the evenings we walk out to Eagle’s Nest, a special fire pit in the woods, for some songs, sharing and conversation around a fire. For our last evening I also invited campers and staff to share a favourite memory or moment where they felt close to God during the week and then throw a stick in the fire. It was the first time I had done that in years and I didn’t know what to expect. Once I had invited them there was a pause and then a steady stream of at least half the campers coming up to share their highlights. They were all such special moments: campout, activities, devotion times and relationships that they had made. I was impressed by how deeply the campers were experiencing God in their week with us. It was a reminder to me that there is something special that goes far beyond what any one of us could do alone but when all of our efforts come together in a week at camp it becomes something so extraordinary and memorable.
This summer, I was the Nature Instructor at Camp Assiniboia and Camp Moose Lake. Essentially, that meant that my job was to hang out with kids, hug trees, let kids try various vegetables from my garden, and just in general share my passion for God’s creation with kids and staff. It was a pretty sweet gig. However, I am no biology student, so though I tried to memorize as many facts about trees and animals as I could before summer, this was not my forte. Sticking with my strengths, this summer was focused a lot on the wonder of creation as well as encouraging the appreciation of God’s beauty by tuning into the details of nature as well as making art of or from nature.
My favourite activity from the summer was the Nature Photography lesson, which was done with Junior High and Youth weeks (either during the regular lesson or as a Choose-A-Challenge) with the idea of giving campers an opportunity to see nature through a whole new ‘lens’. After getting in tune with the small details and receiving basic photography pointers, the campers walked around taking pictures of their surroundings and each other. Upon compiling these pictures for the end-of-week slideshow, I was struck by the utter beauty of the pictures the campers had taken. My own awe of nature was inspired and this experience was very fulfilling for me.
Camp exists for many important reasons, and is a very valuable part of the Mennonite ministry in Manitoba. I think when answering the question “why camp?” we often go straight to the idea of connecting with young folk (campers) and making theology exciting and fun. This is certainly one of the main reasons camp exists, but during this summer I realized how it effects the development and growth within the staff community. Being an SLT director gave me the opportunity to work with, mentor and be mentored by a group of 20 younger individuals. My job after the summer began was to observe and evaluate each one, thus giving me a fairly clear vantage point of how camp changes people, and encourages growth. Working as a camp staff develops many important life skills such as: leadership, independence, confidence, and teamwork, among many others. The noticeable development in many of these aspects between a first and even second week of work was very evident. This idea of growth and development certainly have applied to myself as well, if I could put myself as an SLT next to my present self, the changes would be astronomical. The use of these skills and abilities that are fostered extend far beyond time spent at camp and are useful in general life.
A major reason camp exists is to develop leaders of the future. Attention is usually drawn to spiritual growth of campers and staff, and we might not see the amazing development of emerging leaders unless we look for it; I can assure you this is an ever occurring journey that happens and will continue to happen in the future.