Seeds of leadership and faith planted at camp
Camp has given me such an opportunity to grow as a disciple, leader, evangelist, and prayer warrior.
Every summer with camp ministry, I’m reminded that God is provider. God provides staff, finances, campers, stamina and energy, safety, and vision.
Honestly, I’m surprised camp has been such a huge part of my story. I’m surprised that ministry is a part of my calling. I’m surprised that I have the ability to be involved in evangelism, leadership training, singing at the top of my lungs, hearing stories of God’s wonder, salvation and power!
At first, I only viewed camp as a fun summer thing to do. I put camp and God in a pretty small box.
Journey into leadership
My journey of camp ministry started with an invitation from a board member at Camp Likely who asked if I’d be interested in lifeguarding.
Then, God continued to call me back to be involved summer after summer.
Each year, I understood more deeply the impact camp had on faith and development – for me, the campers, and the staff.
Nine years later, as camp director, I’m still involved in what God is doing through camp in the communities of Williams Lake and Likely, B.C.
Camp Likely gave me the chance to listen to God in meaningful ways through mentors, Bible stories, other counsellors.
I witnessed childlike faith in these children and youth, and it inspired me to remember that God is not keeping tabs on how I behave, but instead focuses on who I become.
Partners on the journey
As I look back, it makes sense that camp would build confidence in my faith – and extend into other parts of life.
While I attended Columbia Bible College, the content of my classes came alive as I related them to tangible experiences of growth in leadership at camp.
As well, I engaged differently through my church because of the impact the summers had on my faith. I experienced the value of weekly youth ministry, the years-long relationships churches provide that camp can’t offer.
At church, I experienced the value of multi-generational worship, prayer, and learning.
The more involved I become in camp, the more I see the impact of the church in the process.
Local church, a safe haven
For more than 10 years, Camp Likely has had a unique and meaningful relationship with Cariboo Bethel, the Mennonite Brethren church in Williams Lake, B.C.
This gives our campers a safe haven and spiritual community throughout the year.
Camp Likely invites the Cariboo Bethel youth pastor to share his heart at teen week. He then hands out a card with his cell number and an invitation for our campers to call him and go for coffee or ice cream after camp. Our goal is to offer these teen campers the option of a youth group, youth leader mentors, and weekly connection.
2017 was a year of disappointment at Camp Likely: nearby wildfires forced us to cancel the camping season. Campers not only missed the summer fun, they experienced the stress of evacuation, uncertainty about their homes, cancelled plans, and their parents’ financial pressures.
Looking forward to 2018, we are excited that Cariboo Bethel has partnered with us to offer bursaries to young people in the area to attend camp for free. This is an opportunity for these children to be kids again after a summer of trauma.
Through these bursaries, Cariboo Bethel demonstrates the relevance of local church to camp ministry. We anticipate that campers will appreciate how the local church enabled them to come out to Likely. As camp director, I truly value knowing there is a safe place I can direct campers after the summer season is over, a place where they can thrive and continue to grow: the local church. Cariboo Bethel will love on these kids, invest in them, and welcome them into their congregation.
Local church, provisions for the journey
Though far away from Likely, my home congregation, Broadway MB Church, Chilliwack, B.C., helped pave a way for me to be mentored in leadership. The people at Broadway encouraged me in my increasing involvement at Camp Likely, offered grants that made it possible to attend Columbia Bible College, and spoke into what God is calling me to.
I am grateful that churches see the value of camp ministry for evangelism, leadership development, Bible knowledge and mentorship.
What an honour to work alongside churches that love their community!
[Kate Reid is director of Camp Likely, one of five camps owned by the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
How can churches partner with camps on one mission in Canada today?
Camp will only be as strong as our support; as our support increases, so do ministry opportunities. Churches, camps, individuals, and Bible schools need to work more intentionally together to see more lives transformed by the power of Jesus. We cannot do it alone. —Bob Kroeker, Camp Evergreen
Offer a bursary program to support those who serve at camp. It‘s a great investment that helps a student afford to work at camp, where they grow tremendously – and likely return excited to serve more. It’s a win-win for camp and church alike as they reach the world as one. —Darrell Janzen, Simonhouse
We appreciate when churches invest the time to gain an understanding of what the camp ministry is all about: come out to camp, “walk the land,” hear the life-changing stories following active presentation of the gospel, and discover the prayer needs. This often leads to a commitment to help in tangible ways. —Les Klassen, Camp Bob
Executive director: Bob “Ranger” Kroeker
As I reflect on all the summers I’ve worked at camp, and all the camps I’ve worked at, summer 2017 will be one of the best. We still had stress, homesick campers, and hospital runs, but they seemed significantly less. The best part of summer was seeing our staff loving our campers.
Of the 944 children and youth campers that joined us in the summer of 2017, 476 made a significant faith decision. That number is why we do what we do.
Our guest group ministry continues to bring people from many different religions and backgrounds to camp where they are exposed to the love of Christ, often for the first time.
Reaching Higher – our new lodge and staff homes – continues to advance. We moved into the homes just before Christmas 2017 – and because of the strong support for Camp Evergreen, we built both homes for the price of one. We’re excited to take the momentum generated now to focus on our need for a new lodge.
Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre
Lindell Beach, B.C.
Executive director: David Seeley
The summer is shaping up to be another fantastic opportunity to grow and disciple children, youth, and adults for the kingdom at Stillwood Camp and Conference Centre. Stillwood anticipates some 3,000 children campers and 250+ young adult workers over the summer months.
The biggest change for Stillwood is related to the recent retirement of Harry and Gail Edwards who served the camp for the past 21 years. Under Harry’s leadership, camp ministry saw significant growth and prosperity. David Seeley, executive director at Redberry Bible Camp in Saskatchewan for the past five years, takes on leadership as executive director at Stillwood. David and his family are excited about the ministry at Stillwood and are looking forward to being involved in a ministry that continues the rich tradition of Mennonite Brethren youth camps in Canada.
Simonhouse Bible Camp
Cranberry Portage, Man.
Director: Darrell Janzen
Simonhouse Bible Camp, located in northern Manitoba in Grass River Provincial Park is a front-line evangelistic ministry where 80 percent or more of our campers come from little-to-no church influence and may have never heard the name of Jesus before. Our young staff grow quickly in their faith as they learn how to share the love of Jesus in words and in action.
Reaching many small, isolated local towns and Indigenous communities, Simonhouse has campers who travel up to three hours or more to attend camp. Some children have to come by airplane or train. Each year we see some 20 percent of campers make a first-time decision to follow Jesus. We see the sheer excitement of these children and teens as they encounter a living and loving God! We are so excited when we hear stories of these campers sharing Christ with their families and friends at home.
Between all the excitement of games, forest fires, and bears, Simonhouse is a great place to “Be still and know that [he] is God!”
Campfire Ministries & Camp Bob
Campbell River, B.C.
Directors: Les and Val Klassen
Camp Bob is a rustic, wilderness camp set in a pristine lakefront forest, simple by many standards, but with a mission that is timeless in its relevancy: “introducing people to Jesus Christ.”
The message is simple gospel, but the mission goes beyond that with a desire and intention “to change and inspire children’s hearts by encountering God through the testimony of Jesus Christ in us.”
At Camp Bob, we are purposeful in encouraging our staff about the importance of consistency and intentionality in modelling how their lives reflect the teachings of Christ. Our focus is not just providing a great summer experience for campers, but in creating an opportunity where campers and staff alike experience the reality of God in a way that inspires them for life. The “testimony of Jesus in us” provides the proof that the gospel is relevant to our campers, and inspires hope that God can actually be a part of their life, giving them the tools to be a conqueror, rooted in God, understanding that they have been created for a purpose.
Our motto is simple: “Camp Bob isn’t just a place to come to … it’s a place to go out from!”
Other camps in the MB family
Pines Bible Camp
Grand Forks, B.C.
Operations manager: Ryley Heppner
Gardom Lake Bible Camp
Campbell Enderby, B.C.
Executive director: Rikk Kieft
Redberry Bible Camp
Redberry Lake, Sask.
Executive director: Roland Thiessen
West Bank Bible Camp
Swift Current, Sask.
Executive director: Jeff Penner
Executive director: Ed Heinrichs
Lac Théodore, Que.
Director: Jason Levesque