Summer camp: More than a facility

February 27, 2013 | Viewpoints
Gary Sawatzky |

Summer camp had a very significant influence on my life. I remember being nervous before attending for the first time at age six, and I found the idea of going to camp very scary. I didn’t want to leave home to spend a week with strangers! But after the first couple of days, I began to develop friendships with some of the other kids. In fact, some of the fellow campers I met that year are still friends today.

Bible stories were an important part of my church camp experience. Hearing Bible stories from somewhere other than home, from someone other than Mom and Dad, helped me understand that other people shared the same faith.

It was during my week at camp when I was nine that I came to know Jesus personally. Around 2 o’clock in the morning the Holy Spirit was wrestling with me. I got out of bed and went down to the speaker’s cabin and knocked on his door. The speaker was Mr. Quark; to this day I still remember his name. He answered my knock and we had a long conversation and that’s when I made a commitment to follow Christ.

The camp influence stretched beyond just one week each summer. As a teenager, Dad and I would go to the camp on weekends to hammer nails and help with maintenance and renovation of the camp’s facilities.

In my late teens I was wrestling with my faith and was moving away from God. Once again, a speaker at camp had a significant influence. He challenged my spiritual journey to the point that I quit my job and enrolled at Bible school after I got home.

Many have similar stories of how much of an impact summer camp has made on their lives. Today, I’m grateful for the people who had the vision to build the camp, for those who gave money to support it and to those who volunteered there. I’m thankful for the investment of all those who gave of themselves and their resources.

But camp is more than a facility. It’s a safe place for spiritual interaction and learning responsibility. It’s about making friends and finding out how to relate to others who are different than you. It’s about learning to take your turn on the dish crew while others are out playing.

The challenge for today’s camps is: Who will invest the time, energy, prayer and financial support? Investing in camps can have significant returns. Please support church camps with your time, prayer and finances. You just never know whose life may be changed.

Gary Sawatzky is a stewardship consultant at the Calgary office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit

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