Now that we’ve come to the end of the summer camp season, we have a couple more GenMin camps to tell you about: New Heights and SEP Montana.
New Heights, Connecticut
This report is from camp director Dishon Mills.
New Heights 2015 was fantastic! God poured out his love on us—64 campers and 65 staffers. We began with a block party to get acquainted. That evening we held our first chapel—from the beginning, the campers enthusiastically worshiped God. In accordance with our Epic Story theme, we discussed how God has a story in which we are all part. Our theme song, Rez Power by Israel & New Breed, was introduced. It was an instant hit. We also introduced the Great Book, a gigantic book made to record the stories of our campers. On the first page, campers were asked to write their “working titles”—names they are called and they call themselves that hide the truth of who they are. It was very sobering to read what some of our youth wrote.
On Monday, we began our first full day of activities, including dance, riflery, team-building, science, arts/crafts and biking. This year we added Turning Point (a class that helps campers think about important moments in their lives and how they were impacted) and mountain boarding (like skate boarding but with a longer board with giant wheels and a hand brake—perfect for coasting down New Heights’ many hills). One of the last activities of the day was Showtime, a showcase of skits, songs, dances, etc. by our campers. We ended the day with the Pavilion Party, a series of messy, wild, and hilarious games. Marshmallows, women’s make up, and a sing off were all featured.
On Thursday we held a concert. We were blessed to have several staff who are talented artists. All acts delivered uplifting, Christian messages, letting our campers know that they do not have to give up their music to follow God.
On Friday, we began by baptizing two young people; 15 others dedicated their lives to Christ. God is so good! Each baptism reminds us why we do camp. We then conducted archery and riflery challenges and our first “water war”—a structured water fight where good behavior and actions during the week earned dorms more “water-power.” The staff got in on the action, handing out “justice” with their water blasters. Water war made a big splash (sorry!) and will, no doubt, be one of our signature events.
We closed the day with a beautiful ceremony. The Great Book made another appearance, this time we turned the page to record our True Titles. Campers wrote who they believe God made them to be. It was moving and inspiring to see the transformation our campers underwent in just a week. A banquet followed, and the evening closed with a dance.
New Heights does not happen without its incredible volunteers. As those who pour into the campers, it is important for staff to be spiritually nourished as well. New Heights was blessed to have five lead pastors and five elders attend. With their help we were able to have a morning devotion each day for staff members.
This report is from camp director Tobe Johnson.
SEP Montana is a faith-based community youth camp held on the banks of Canyon Ferry Lake near Helena, Montana. It was started by Living Hope Fellowship, a GCI congregation. Staff are recruited primarily from community churches, and campers come from across the community. 2015 was our ninth year. We had 116 campers and 60 staff members.
We faced many challenges this year, including learning in March that our regular camp location was unavailable. But God provided and we found another location that gives us room to grow. Though some of our regular staff were unable to participate due to the change of dates, God provided new staff members and allowed existing ones to move into new roles. The change of dates also caused problems with campers’ schedules. We had to refund some deposits. Despite these challenges (or perhaps because of them) we had the best camp ever.
This year, due to GenMin Converge conference participant donations, we were able to add a new dorm for girls (we use tents for dorms). This year we also added a Staff in Training (SIT) Program for kids who are still campers, but show interest in becoming members of our camp staff.
This year we had 44 church and community donor sponsors—a new record for us. We are happy to partner with various church and community organizations to make a difference in kids’ lives. Those organizations include Kiwanis, Wal-Mart and Staples. Our largest donor core is made up of GCI groups, including GCI churches in our region. Thank you!
This year 22 people committed their lives to Christ, including Michael (not his real name) who is about 12 years old. His interactions with several staff members throughout the week went something like this:
- Day 1, to our Christian Living teacher: “I’m a wiccan. Don’t try to convert me.”
- Day 2, to another staff member: “Actually, I’m not a wiccan, but my mom is.”
- Day 3, to another staff member: “I actually might want to get baptized someday, but not this year.
- Day 4: “I think I might want to get baptized this year. Do you think that I can?”
It is our policy to ask parents about baptism on their child’s applications. Michael’s application had checked: “Do not baptize child. Do not call to ask.” Our chaplain explained this to Michael and how we honor our parents and how God will watch over him until a later time when he could get baptized. He seemed to understand and take it all well. God reached out to Michael in 2015 and we all got to witness to it.
This year we baptized 30 campers and staff members in Canyon Ferry Lake—the highest count in our camp history. Another group camping nearby heard about our baptism service and one of the women in that group asked if she could be baptized. In the middle of her camp, with 15 or so of her friends listening in, we talked about baptism, what it pictures, and about God’s unconditional love for us all. At the end of our time, I told her that if she wanted to be baptized, show up at our baptism service, and we would be glad to baptize her. As we were standing out in the water on Friday morning, with a line of kids and staff waiting their turn to enter the water, I looked back at the shore and there she was—standing in line with the rest of those waiting their turn!