camps

COVID camp closures

Camps across the country are cancelling their summer programs. (Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/CampSqueah)

B.C. children will not be able to attend Camp Squeah this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Amy Rinner Waddell)

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.”

Willowgrove guarantees camp programming this summer

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.

Can church be more like camp?

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.

Chesley Lake accordion

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.

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)

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

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

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

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)

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.

No place I’d rather be

Janet Peters, right, the associate program director for MC Manitoba's Camps with Meaning, is pictured with an adult camper. (Camps with Meaning photo)

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.

Summer memories go up in smoke

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 front-row seat

Pictured from left to right: Katie Wiebe, Curtis Wiens and Kristy Hosler. (Shekinah Retreat Centre photo)

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.

‘I can’t wait for summer’

A camper climbs the rock wall at Camp Valaqua in order to ring the bell at the top. (Camp Valaqua photo)

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:

The beauty in difference

Yun Lin is a staff member at Fraser Lake Camp near Bancroft, Ont., and brings joy to everyone she meets.

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.

‘So supported’

The summer of 2016 was one the most memorable summers of my life.

When the opportunity to work as a camp counsellor first came up, I was admittedly a little apprehensive. Having never counselled before, I was unsure of what to expect. What I experienced, however, was nothing short of spectacular.

Camp Koinonia 50th anniversary snapshots

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)

Visiting, and waiting in line for chili, buns and salad. (Mennonite Church Manitoba photo)

The event was capped off with worship, reminiscing and giving thanks for all the people who served, and opportunities for ministry, that 50 years at Camp Koinonia has enabled. Laura Dyck, a former resident manager, holds the anniversary cake. (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)

It takes three villages to send 18 kids to camp

Nyantut Pal, left, Christina Chany and Balat Pal are ready for three-and-a-half-hour drive from Edmonton to Camp Valaqua in Water Valley, Alta., with their driver, Barry Andres. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

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.

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