Camp work is lifestyle for long-time volunteers

Canoe some 10 miles down the Swift Current Creek from West Bank Bible Camp in southwest Saskatchewan, and you find Brent and Colleen Eliason: Brent, behind the wheel of a John Deere tractor; Colleen, on her way to a substitute teaching assignment.

More than 100 ordinary people helped directors Jerry and Liz Dennill make West Bank a success in 2010, and the Eliasons are two of them. Brent has been on the camp board for 12 years, 2 years as acting chairman. Colleen – an anchor in the kitchen – has volunteered long enough to remember the old facility, which she says “went from a 2 to a 10” with building improvements. The camp was started by the Mennonite Brethren in 1944.

What initially got Colleen involved at West Bank was her middle daughter’s egg allergy. When Ruth went to camp, Colleen volunteered to help out in the kitchen, “to keep a closer eye on…what she was eating.”

Making Swift Current, Sask.’s MB congregation Bridgeway Community Church their church home in 1996, the Eliasons had another connection with the camp. Brent joined the West Bank board when Bridgeway asked him to be their representative. “I thought it was a good fit for me in terms of ministry, because I believe in camping and had been involved in camping all of my life.”

In 2010, approximately 300 out of 600 campers came from non-churched homes, and for Brent, “This is the main reason we do camping. It is an opportunity to bring the gospel to kids who have never darkened the door of a church.”

Encouraging Christian young people at a critical stage in their lives, and providing a place to nurture healthy relationships, grow in faith, and feel a sense of belonging are other important aspects he identifies.

“Together we can make something that none of us can make on our own,” Colleen says. “I just want to be part of that, to do what God has called us to do.”

“These folks are quality people,” says Jerry Dennill; “I only wish I had 10 more of them.”

Nathan Olson is a freelance writer from Nordland, Sask. A longer version of this article can be found at www.careerdirection.wordpress.com/article. He is related to Colleen Eliason.

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