Focus on Camps

Learning why

Camp Valaqua. Photo by Jon Olfert.

When campers first roll down our narrow road into the tall, tall trees, they are usually thinking about themselves: Will I have fun? Will I be scared?

When they return, they often begin to think about the people that surround them: Who will be my counsellor? Will the kids in my cabin be nice?

Connected at camp

Campers bond in the field at Silver Lake in Sauble Beach, Ontario. Photo by Jessa Braun.

Cam was working as a kitchen assistant at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp at the beginning of July 2022. It was his firstever week on staff. He’d had a lot of experience cooking, but it doesn’t take long for one to understand that the Silver Lake kitchen is a different beast.

OMMC grows musical leaders

Ontario Mennonite Music Camp. Supplied photo.

Ontario Mennonite Music Camp (OMMC) at Conrad Grebel University College is a small camp with a big impact. With a focus on communal music-making, campers receive exceptional instruction in voice or a variety of instruments, learn new musical techniques and explore church music and worship.

Journey to unity

Campers at Hidden Acres. Photo by Ben Watson.

Hidden Acres’ “Narnia Closet” carries the adventurous explorer on an unexpected journey. What begins as an innocent cleaning closet winds through a maze of stored items, a section so low you must crawl and finally a floor covered with basketballs, before exiting into the ping pong room on the other side of Stonehouse.

In but not of

Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg.

While I’m new in my role as associate program director for Camps with Meaning, I am not new to this place, or rather, these places. What has always shimmered at camp is the particularly thin space they are between us and God.

The question of camps

Members of Superb Mennonite Church gather for a meal at Camp Shekinah in 1987. (Superb Mennonite Church / Mennoite Heritage Archives photo)

“People used to work at camp because it was the right thing to do. They’d say things like: ‘I’d work 18-hour days, was paid very little, never got breaks, took care of kids and had the best time of my life, it was great!’ But that’s less motivating now.”

‘More of a home than my actual home’

Three 2022 Fraser Lake Camp staffers, from left to right—Edlyn Laneva, Zoe Suderman, Gaelle Cineus—offer fist bumps to the campers. (Photo by Shadrack Jackman-McKenzie)

Conor Mcloughlin, a Fraser Lake counsellor last year, and his camper get ready to take a trip in a time machine. (Photo by Shadrack Jackman-McKenzie)

A Fraser Lake cabin at dinner in 2022. Counsellor Gwynneth Kolbold is pictured at back left, and Haram Jeon, a counsellor/lifeguard is pictured centre right. (Photo by Shadrack Jackman-McKenzie)

A long, long time ago—way back in 1955—Fraser Lake Camp was born in the hearts and minds of three Mennonite pastors: Emerson McDowell, John H. Hess and Glen Brubacher.

Camp and mental health

Campers enjoy the water and sun at Camp Koinonia. (MC Manitoba photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

The summer of 2022 was a re-opening in a multitude of ways. After two summers in various states of restrictions, we were able to be together in all of our spaces and to provide a full spring and summer of camp programs.

2021 was a milestone year for Silver Lake

Fifth-year staff members Elora Neufeld, left, Saskia Snyder-Penner, Kathyana Carvajal, Katie Goerzen Sheard and Benjamin Schwartzentruber lead their closing campfire at Silver Lake in expectation for a bright 2022 camp experience. (Silver Lake Mennonite Camp photo)

Francis, a camper at Silver Lake Mennonite Camp, gets some exercise in God’s great outdoors. (Photo: Silver Lake Mennonite Camp)

As with so many organizations, the pandemic was a challenge for Silver Lake Mennonite Camp in 2021. However, we were blessed last summer to have the ability to run camp programs such as the Camper in Leadership Training (CILT) program; overnight camps in August; and day camps in Toronto, Hanover, Hamilton, Kitchener, Leamington, Ottawa and Waterloo.

Modernized amenities, same old camp feel

Camp Elim campers take a leisurely paddle around Lac Pelletier. (Camp Elim photo)

Running and jumping off the raft at Camp Elim is a popular pastime every year. (Camp Elim photo)

Everyone making behind-the-scenes plans for Camp Elim has all their fingers crossed that this year we will get back to running the summer camp programs that we love. After two years on hiatus, we are ready to rally an amazing staff and host campers for what we hope will be the best week of their summer.

Camp prepares for post-pandemic opportunities

Canoers Patrick Quail and Rhona Gearty take part in a wilderness out-tripping event at Youth Farm Bible Camp on the Paull River in Saskatchewan. (AHA! Adventures photo)

The last two years have been an adventure at the Youth Farm Bible Camp. The summer camp program was on hold for 2020 and at low numbers last year. However, we were able to see other programs grow and impact the constituency we serve. During times of crisis and chaos, we have opportunities to take risks and use our creative juices.

The essential gift of hope

The sun sets in Hope, B.C., facing west towards the Fraser Valley that was deluged with rain last November. Camp Squeah provided hope and care for more than 150 stranded motorists who were trapped in the area by the flooding. (Camp Squeah photo)

Hope. It’s a command, a gift, a noun, a verb. Of all that matters in life, the Apostle Paul states that hope is one of a trinity of essentials alongside faith and love. When we are loved, faith blooms in our hearts, and when the path darkens, hope keeps us remembering the love we’ve received and the presence of God.

Music camp is back this summer

As a response to the pandemic, 2021 Ontario Mennonite Music Campers created videos of new and favourite hymns for churches to use in virtual worship services. (Ontario Mennonite Music Camp photo)

This summer, Ontario Mennonite Music Camp is once again happening at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, from Aug. 14 to 26. The camp provides an exciting adventure for 12- to 17-year-olds that helps to build friendships, strengthen leadership skills, celebrate their love of music and explore their faith.

Embracing the ‘mystery of God’

The Tiessen family is at home at Camp Squeah. Pictured from left to right are Josiah, Rob, Eli, Nyah and Kim. (Photo courtesy of Rob Tiessen)

Mention “church camp” and many people might think of camping or volunteering there a summer or two. But for Rob Tiessen, executive director of Mennonite Church B.C.’s Camp Squeah, camp has meant a decades-long experience.

Growing up in Vancouver’s Sherbrooke Mennonite Church, Tiessen faithfully attended summer camp at Squeah throughout his childhood and youth.

The power of music

Camps with Meaning staff sing together in worship at Camp Assiniboia. (Mennonite Church Manitoba photo)

Singing is an integral part of life at Camps with Meaning (CwM), Mennonite Church Manitoba’s camping ministry. This is the case at many summer camps, but unique to CwM is this: their staff have been writing their own music for more than 20 years.

‘A marathon of uncertainty’

A forest class at Willowgrove. (Photo by Willowgrove)

A Harvest Fest wagon ride at Willowgrove. (Photo by Willowgrove)

Young Willowgrove visitors with a ‘pumpkin person.’ (Photo by Willowgrove)

If you pivot enough times, it becomes dancing. And over this past year, Willowgrove found that, despite its Mennonite roots, it has taken to dancing quite naturally.

Johnny Wideman, Willowgrove’s executive director, only took the helm this past February, having just three weeks in the office before the COVID-19 lockdown.

Grief and loss

Thinking of our remarkable trees, never in my 14 years at Squeah have we had such losses to life and limb—trees, that is. Buildings damaged, activities crushed and some truly magnificent softwood giants have fallen. (Photo by Tim Larson)

(Photo by Tim Larson)

In the late hours of a wintry night, a cold wind blew hard up the valley. It howled from an unusual direction, bending tree and limb. Under the unaccustomed pressure, seemingly sturdy trees gave way to the unyielding force, grasping desperately to the earth as their mass was moved inexorably to the ground.

Keeping the excitement of camping alive

Campers enjoy a bonfire at Camp Elim. (Camp Elim photo)

Last year marked Camp Elim’s 75th anniversary, but it was a challenging year for us. Our plans for running camp as normal were quickly thwarted with the looming pandemic. By mid-May, it became apparent that we would not be able to operate our camper program due to government restrictions forcing the closure of overnight summer-camp programs across Saskatchewan.

A chance to try new ideas

Hidden Acres 2020 summer staff cabin, pictured from left to right: Chris Pot, Brittany Ratelband, Cassie Zehr, Julia Lantz, and Sam Bielby, (hanging upside down). (Photo by Chris Pot)

The Hidden Acres 2020 summer staff team at the pond; pictured from left to right: Cassie Zehr, Julia Lantz, Brittany Ratelband and Sam Bielby. (Photo by Chris Pot)

A group of 2019 Hidden Acres summer staff take a hike. (Photo by Aaron Lantz)

As I reflect on a year of “being camp” during COVID-19, I hear Psalm 32: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

‘Love thy neighbour’

Youth Farm Bible Camp’s corn maze theme last year was ‘Love thy neighbour,’ honouring its neighbour, the Mennonite Nursing Home, and its dedicated staff. (Photo by Mark Wurtz)

Last April, Youth Farm Bible Camp created a seven-metre snowman and sign to bless the Mennonite Nursing Home staff as they drove by. (Photo by Mark Wurtz)

Innovation, creativity and pivoting were key strengths that non-profit organizations used in 2020, especially if their main revenue streams involved gathering people together in large groups.

Two-week music camp being planned

Ontario Mennonite Music Campers participate in daily master classes with their instrument of choice, as part of two action-packed weeks of music, games, faith, concerts and friendship, in 2018. (2018 Ontario Mennonite Music Camp photo)

Ontario Mennonite Music Camp (OMMC) is a two-week camp hosted at Conrad Grebel University College, offering teenagers aged 12 to 16 an opportunity to explore both music and faith.


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