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GCI youth camps

Youth camps are a vital way that GCI participates with Jesus in advancing the Father’s mission to the world. Below are reports from some recent camps, beginning with a video in which GCI pastor Mike Swagerty appeals to other pastors to get involved in camp ministry.

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/kr7_BDXJ9f8.

YEP camp, Ghana

GCI Ghana conducted its first YEP (Youth Education Program) camp in August. Eight youths came from the community, bringing the total number of campers to 21. Activities included Bible study, Christian living, morning devotions, soccer, initiative training, music appreciation (see picture below left), computer appreciation, swimming, softball, hiking, camp services and kitchen services.

Ghana music appreciation classGhana initiative training clasGhana bible study

Camp Oasis, Tennessee (report from camp leader Carrie Smith)

This year the camp was changed to a day camp designed to connect with children residing in a nearby housing complex. The kids participated eagerly in the many activities, with most staying all day. We were blessed to partner with a local organization called The Learning Center and to have assistance from Wane Creager who has conducted a similar day camp for several years in Cincinnati. During the camp we shared the gospel a couple times with the kids. Each child went home with a water bottle, which had our church name, address and time of service and an invitation to join us for our potluck and service the next day. Though we didn’t see any of the kids or their families the next day, we have their contact information and will follow up as we continue developing a relationship with them. We plan to conduct similar camps in the future. We are excited to see where God leads! For pictures of the camp, go to https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.713317982085845&type=1.

SEP So Cal (report from camp directors Mark and Anne Stapleton)

SoCalThis summer, we celebrated SEP So Cal’s 13th year of operation. God has done amazing things. We’ve seen campers come in as atheists and leave knowing that God loves them. We’ve seen young staffers pick up the mantle of leadership and soar. We’ve seen grandparents use their maturity, wisdom and life experience to encourage campers and staff. This year we had 162 campers, 90 staffers and 4 guests–it was a multi-generational and multi-ethnic group. 44% of the campers were first-timers with most receiving financial assistance.

Our “Hero” curriculum was provided by Generations Ministries. It was both fun and powerful—we used capes, masks, stories, analogies, movies and scriptures to talk about everyday heroes and to reveal the true Super Hero, Jesus Christ.

Once again we conducted a Knights & Daughters of the King purity session. This year it coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary, so we decided to renew our vows at the end of the session (see picture at right) as a vivid picture of the coming wedding banquet of Jesus with his bride, the church. At the end of the session, each participant received a hand-crafted ring to show God’s invitation and inclusion into a love relationship with himself.

This year was our fourth time to provide ministry equipping tracks for older campers. Participants spent two hours on each of five days learning new skills, discovering a lot about themselves, making friends with others who enjoy the same interests and meeting instructors who will become mentors. The ministry tracks included audio/visual tech, counselor training, dance ministry, discover your strengths, drama ministry, photography, public speaking and worship ministry.

The Rock, North Carolina (report from camp director Dennis Elliott)

God provided a spectacular new location for us this year. We had 77 campers, 9 mini campers and 43 staff. Our theme was Truth Is…. We discussed how God (who is Truth) defines truth (instead of it being defined by feelings or cultural norms). We talked about how Truth is the forever Incarnate Son of God, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We talked about how Truth is unchanging—despite changes around us, God’s love, passion and existence are unchanging. We then applied this understanding of Truth to everyday life, noting that the Truth remains when the lights go out. We then acted out difficult life-situations many kids experience then discussed how the Truth is still with us when life gets tough. And then we talked about how the Truth is worth sharing with others.

Camp activities included paintball, dodgeball, 9-square, blacksmithing, arts and crafts, and zip lines. We also had a dance, a hostage rescue night (campers rescuing counselors in the dark, dodging staffers with flashlights), a talent show, a banquet and the Night of the Spear (where male and female campers were given challenges related to the analogy of a spear). There was amazing willingness on the part of campers and staffers to share their joys, sufferings and struggles. The Holy Spirit worked powerfully to strengthen relationships and promote healing. Here is a short video showing this year’s The Rock camp:

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/F_VgaXUDEyI.

SEP Tahoe, Northern California (report from camp director Susan McKie)

Last August a team of members from several GCI congregations in Northern California started a brand-spanking-new youth camp at Lake Tahoe. It seems that God had been setting the stage for a while. He brought pastor Mel Dahlgren and me together at Converge West in 2013 to set his plan in motion. A team formed, and plans to find the perfect spot were laid out. After a lot of searching and praying, the idea of Lake Tahoe surfaced and everything seemed to fall into place. We found a breathtaking location on the shores of Lake Tahoe at an affordable cost. The accommodations at this 4-H camp were exactly what we needed. So I arranged for our newly formed team to visit for a weekend last October to check out the facilities and brainstorm. To my amazement, 28 people signed up to pay their own way, drive several hours and give up an entire weekend to help make this new SEP camp a reality. Truly a God-inspired commitment! Over the winter, the team met monthly to fine-tune plans. We then rolled out registration, utilizing new software (with help from Pam Morgan at GCI’s home office). We were ready to open our doors to campers and staff!

SEP Tahoe had the huge blessing of having Mark and Anne Stapleton as our first guest speakers. We chose GenMin’s Rooted curriculum for our first camp. It meshed perfectly with our SEP Tahoe theme: “How High, How Deep” (based on Ephesians 3:16-19), reflecting the great depth of Lake Tahoe and the great height of the surrounding mountains. The kids loved it.

In addition to the usual activities such as basketball and archery we had zany games, capture the flag, an obstacle course, Bunco, a carnival, canoes, kayaks, paddle boats and inner tubes and a speed boat to pull kids on tubes and skis. We also had line-dancing one night—many said it was their favorite activity.

The work God did during this first camp was amazing. A first-time camper told me she could feel the Spirit of God. What a privilege to have 50% of our staff experience camp for the first time! One told me that both of her first-time camper children were greatly impacted and she herself was different as a result. Here is a short video showing this year’s SEP Tahoe camp:

On YouTube at http://youtu.be/ddpJu9zEWq0.