Volume 23 Issue 4

Can church be more like camp?

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Every winter, I hear a radio advertisement for a back-to-the-woods summer children’s camp in Ontario. The ad closes with the tagline, “You send us your child, and we’ll send you back a new one.” It’s a great slogan. It points out that renewal and transformation occur when people are pulled away from their daily routines to spend time in the great outdoors.

Evil is right here with me

“We are a mystery to ourselves, a bundle of contradictions. We are inherently prone to self-deception, particularly when it comes to justifying our own behaviours and assumptions. We are not nearly as pure or virtuous as we imagine ourselves to be. We are, each one of us, capable of beautiful and terrible things. We are human beings.” (Photo © istock.com/fotogeng)

Call for volunteers

Something needs to be done about all the hate in the world. 

This morning I encountered no fewer than three pieces of media expressing incredulity that the internet seems not to have transformed humanity into an oasis of harmony and mutual understanding, but has, instead, degenerated into a cesspool of anger and ignorance.

Deepening our walk with each other

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'Throughout the biblical story there is a direct correlation between our love of God and our call to love each other,' Ryan Siemens writes. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

During this past year, Mennonite Church Saskatchewan has focused on the theme of “Deepening our walk with Christ,” in the hope of increasing our openness to encounters with God’s presence in our lives. This theme grew out of an awareness that, if we desire to live well in this day of great turmoil and uncertainty, we need to come back to the One who calms the storm and brings us peace.

Chesley Lake accordion

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Photo: David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

An accordionist serenades a literary society meeting at Chesley Lake Camp in Ontario, in 1949. Chesley Lake was the first Mennonite church camp in Ontario and one of the first in Canada. Literary societies were common in Ontario Mennonite churches at the time, as social outlets and avenues for artistic expression.

‘Conversation Circles’ offer encouragement, hope

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MW Manitoba committee members Larissa Pahl, left, and Elsie Wiebe were active participants in the Conversation Circles last fall. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Giesbrecht)

Last fall, ignited by curiosity about what we would hear if we invited women to share their experiences of life within Mennonite Church Manitoba congregations, Mennonite Women Manitoba decided to host two Conversation Circles, one in Winnipeg and the other in southern Manitoba.

Militia lays down arms in Congo

Militia members enter the Congolese city of Tshikapa in a truck to lay down their arms on January 29. (Photo by Joseph Nkongolo)

(Photo by Joseph Nkongolo)

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Joseph Nkongolo leads a literacy training session. (Photo by Zachary Cooke)

(Map by Betty Avery)

As truckloads of militia drove into Tshikapa to lay down their arms, Joseph Nkongolo went to meet them. Nkongolo—Coordinator of the Service and Development Department of the Mennonite Church of Congo—spoke of militia members saying they want to re-enter civil life. “Pray for us,” they said to him, “we have done horrible things; forgive us for what we have done.”

‘How can I help?’

Chris Steingart, as Joseph, shows off his amazing Technicolor dreamcoat while his brothers look on with disgust from the background. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Narrator and musical director Stacey VanderMeer, far right, takes a selfie with the whole family of Jacob in Breslau Mennonite Church’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Joseph, played by Chris Steingart, accuses Benjamin, played by Jonathan Klassen, of stealing his cup. Narrator Stacey VanderMeer, in red, registers shock while the chorus joins in the blame. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

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Matthew Rappolt, left, Karl Braun, Brent Schmidt and Nick Martin, as some of Joseph’s brothers facing famine, long for ‘Those Canaan Days’ when they had plenty to eat. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Janice Klassen, left, Amanda Snyder and Karl Braun dance and sing, ‘Go, Go, Go Joseph,’ to assure him that he’s not beaten yet, and his fortunes will change. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Justin Martin, right, who played Issachar and served as production manager, explains to his father Jacob, played by Phil Martin, left, what happened to Joseph, and why there will be ‘one less place at the table, while one of the brothers look on. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Chris Steingart, Joseph and artistic director, and Stacey VanderMeer, narrator and musical director, begin to tell the children the story of Joseph and his dreams. (Photo by Christine Saunders)

Driving to the cottage while listening to a recording of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Justin Martin had an idea. Could Breslau Mennonite Church stage it? More than a year-and-a-half later, that dream came true. 

‘We really need each other a lot’

Werner and Joanne DeJong spent September to December of last year at Meserete Kristos College in Ethiopia. They are pictured with a couple of college staffers on New Year’s Eve. (Photo courtesy of the DeJongs)

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Werner and Joanne DeJong visited an Ethiopian prison that had received donated sewing machines from Mennonites. Joanne also preached at this prison. (Photo courtesy of the DeJongs)

Werner and Joanne DeJong returned to Edmonton’s Holyrood Mennonite Church excited about the Anabaptist church in Africa and at home. They see possibilities for ongoing partnerships that benefit both the rapidly growing church in Ethiopia and the declining church in Canada. “We really need each other a lot,” Werner says.

Journey of a beloved camp treasure

The former Camp Moose Lake picnic shelter is placed in its new home at Camp Assiniboia. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg, Mennonite Church Manitoba)

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The former Camp Moose Lake picnic shelter at its new home at Camp Assiniboia. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

Moose Lake was one of three camps under the umbrella of Camps with Meaning (CwM), Mennonite Church Manitoba’s camping ministry. It opened in 1957 and closed in September 2017, in order to create a more sustainable model for the regional church’s camping ministry.

Stepping outside the comfort zone

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Campers learn to canoe on Lake Laverne at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp. (Photo by Chris Pot)

I had the pleasure of leading the Leaders in Training (LIT) and Advanced Camper Experience (ACE) programs at Hidden Acres last summer. Both programs offer youth a chance to further develop leadership skills, study the Bible, build community, spend time outdoors, and learn the ins and outs of serving at camp.

Witnessing God at Camp Assiniboia

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Nadya Langelotz is pictured at a ‘theme meal’ at Camp Assiniboia. (Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg)

As I prepare to enter my eighth summer as a camp staffer, I have an overwhelming abundance of memories to reflect on. From childhood weeks at Camp Moose Lake and the pubescent discoveries at Camp Koinonia, all the way to last summer, when I fell into awkwardly new territory to direct at Camp Assiniboia.

Fun is a camp byproduct

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Canoeing across a lake at camp for the first time is not easy. (Fraser Lake Camp photo)

The word “fun” is often used in association with camp but, from my perspective, fun is not the meat and potatoes of what happens at camp. Fun is the byproduct of an accepting community and doing silly, exciting and difficult things together.

This ground is holy ground

This Ground participants harvest potatoes at Camp Assiniboia in the fall. (Photo by Barrette Plett)

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After an afternoon of working outside at Camp Assiniboia and eating a potluck together, This Ground participants gather to sing and worship together. (Photo by Barrette Plett)

This Ground is a collective that meets to work, worship and eat together in aid of Camp Assiniboia near Cartier, Man. 

“This ground, this is the place when we come here we are participating in worship just by looking up at these big trees and recognizing God’s greatness,” says Sandy Plett.

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