After a too-quiet 2020, when summer camps were cancelled due to the pandemic, Camp Squeah of Hope, B.C., is once again a place to hear the sounds of children’s laughter and families gathering this summer.
Camp Squeah of Hope, B.C. has cancelled its 2020 camping season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a May 15 statement, camp director Rob Tiessen wrote, “In order to best ensure the health of our campers and staff, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our 2020 summer camp session. This applies to all day and overnight camp programs, including Family Camp.”
Before COVID-19, southern Ontario not-for-profit Willowgrove offered summer camps, outdoor education and seasonal events in Ontario from its Willowgrove Day Camp and Outdoor Education Centre in Stouffville and Fraser Lake Camp in Bancroft. In order to maintain its mission but move its work online, Willowgrove has created Camp @ Home, a unique online camp experience that allows children and youth to have personal, genuine camp connections under the supervision of a live counsellor. Each day, campers log on from home for a three-hour condensed camp schedule.
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.
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.
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.
Every summer Melita Penner and her daughter, Denelda Fast, spend a week cooking for summer camp at Shekinah Retreat Centre, north of Waldheim, Sask. They’ve been doing it for 15 years.
Over the past few months I have had the privilege of seeing a whole new side of camps, and this experience has only confirmed and strengthened my belief in the importance of a camp ministry for the broader church.
A young girl pretends she is an expert equestrian. Slightly older, she learns the difference between a J-stroke and a C-stroke. Later, as a counsellor, she races through pouring rain near midnight to the lodge bathroom. Another night, she holds a tiny hand as someone struggles to fall asleep in a strange place.
Chesley Lake Camp, located west of Owen Sound, Ont., lost its main building to fire on Canada Day. The building housed offices, a restaurant, tuck shop and many memories.
The fire has been classified as accidental and no further investigation is being carried out. Fireworks had been displayed near the building on the evening of July 1, 2017, and the fire began several hours later.
A highlight of each summer at the Shekinah Retreat Centre near Waldheim, Sask., is the coffee house during our senior-teen camp for ages 15 to 18. Campers come out of their shell and display talents that we didn’t know they had. It is a special time of vulnerability.
The sun is shining through the tall trees today at Camp Valaqua near Water Valley, Alta., and the a hint of spring is in the air. This time of year brings hiring, planning and anticipation into our little corner of the camp world. Sometimes it is tough to keep track of why we work at this all year long and so I tell myself stories to remember. Here is one of my favourites:
I’m an archetype. My family immigrated to Canada when I was 6, and while I went to school, my parents worked tirelessly to support me. They uprooted their lives in hope of a better tomorrow for their child. My story is that of millions of immigrant children in Canada and around the world. At 10, unfortunate circumstances led to my placement in the foster-care system for six months.
Molly Schaeffer, standing rear, one of this summer’s resident managers, acts as emcee for Camp Koinonia’s 50th-anniversary celebration on Oct. 2. Close to 150 people gathered for the event that included camp activities like wall climbing, ziplining, canoeing and pontoon boat rides that were supplemented by tours and cinnamon buns in the afternoon. (Mennonite Church Manitoba photo)
Jake Neufeld, right, a long-time Camp Koinonia supporter and resident manager from 1977 to 1987, makes a huge batch of chili in the cauldron for the 50th-anniversary supper meal, with help from Jack Heide, left. (Mennonite Church Manitoba photo)
Molly Schaeffer, standing rear, one of this summer’s resident managers, acts as emcee for Camp Koinonia’s 50th-anniversary celebration on Oct. 2, 2016. Close to 150 people gathered for the event, which included camp activities like wall climbing, ziplining, canoeing and pontoon boat rides that were supplemented by tours and cinnamon buns in the afternoon. (Mennonite Church Manitoba photo)
What does it look like when two churches and Camp Valaqua partner toward a common goal? It looks like 18 enthusiastic campers!
This past summer, the Service and Outreach branch of Edmonton’s First Mennonite Church learned that a number of young people from the city’s South Sudanese Mennonite Church were interested in going to Camp Valaqua in Water Valley, Alta., for the first time.