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.
“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)
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.
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.
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.
I drove to the nursing home to visit a dear old friend. She was sleeping when I entered her room, so I pulled up a chair to wait.
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.
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.”
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.