“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.”
Focus on Camps
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 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.
When thinking of the word “faith,” Silver Lake comes directly to mind. Camp provides me with the space to integrate faith into daily life. Campfire songs, morning and evening reflections, and sessions are all valuable parts of camp that invite faith-based reflection.
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.
Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp was excited to celebrate 60 years of camp over the past season. It was a season of seeing new things that the Lord is doing, and reflecting on all that he has done over the past 60 years.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
The past two summers have been difficult for summer camps.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After last year’s cancellation of summer camp due to the pandemic, staff at Mennonite Church B.C.’s Camp Squeah are hopeful that a regular camping season can resume in summer 2021.
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.
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)
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.”
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)
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.
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.
Camp can make such a difference in the life of a camper, even over Zoom. That was the great discovery of the summer of 2020. We were very happy to see so many faces in this online experience!
Last year, Fraser Lake Camp’s cabins, which magically turn groups of kids into little families each summer, went empty. There were no echoes of rambunctious camp songs to rattle across the lake. No one reached the top of the climbing wall to the cheers of their counsellors and fellow campers below.
At Shekinah we struggle to sit still. When we decided to shut our doors in March 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it not only felt foreign, it also felt wrong. It is much easier to work harder to try to solve a problem than it is to wait, watch and be still. What we have found as a staff is that slowing down and letting go has opened up new opportunities.
After a week of non-stop activities soundtracked by endless cheering and screaming kids, you might think the staff of Camp Koinonia would sleep in. Instead, every Sunday morning they put on their Birkenstocks and cleanest clothes and head to Whitewater Mennonite Church in nearby Boissevain.
Summer Camp 2020 was full of innovations. Almost everything needed adjustments. We held staff Zoom parties in the spring to begin to build the camp community feeling that usually happens naturally at our staff training week.