It is February, which means it is time to begin planning for another year of COGWA Youth Camps! In spite of experiencing two years of COVID restrictions, resulting in the cancellation of all camps in 2020, we were able to hold most of our camps in 2021, and we are looking forward to a full slate of camps this year, 2022. We did cancel Camp Athens in Texas and Winter Camp in Wisconsin in 2021, but we are planning to return to both this year.
Since 1995, the Church of God has focused on a regional model for youth camps, as opposed to one large camp as we did in the years prior. From its beginning, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, embraced this regional model, and each year (with the exception of 2020) we have conducted camps throughout the United States. Additionally, we have organized youth camps in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and Chile in Latin America; in several African countries; in the Philippines; and in the Caribbean.
Last year, our camp attendance was 848. Of this number, 452 were teens and preteens, and 396 were youth and adult staff members. In 2019, before the pandemic, our camp attendance was closer to 1,200 campers and staff. Then the pandemic hit, and all camps were canceled for 2020! Given the high number of COVID cases sweeping the country in 2021, we were very happy to have 848 attend (about 70 percent of our prepandemic attendance). We anticipate returning to full attendance this year!
For 2022 we are planning 10 camps—five preteen and five teen camps. We will have at least two new camps. We’ll have a new preteen camp and a new teen camp in South Carolina, and we are still finalizing plans for our camp in the Midwest. The summer camp season will begin in June and go through the middle of August, and then we will close out the year with Winter Camp, scheduled for Wisconsin in December.
Each year we choose a theme for our camps, which we focus on during our Christian Living classes. The theme selected for 2022 is “Courage Under Fire.” We want our young people to have courage and stand firm and unwavering in their beliefs and in their conduct even as they live in a world that promotes the opposite—where good is declared evil and evil is declared good (Isaiah 5:20).
Our goal each year is to provide encouragement for our youth, who must face the challenges of our society while enduring the constant bombardment of false values. We can’t change everyone with a one-week camp, but we have seen dramatic changes in some of our youth after attending camp. It is heartwarming to read the testimonials we receive each year from the youth and their parents.
The online application process opens in early March. It should be another great year of camps! Thank you in advance for your support of the camp program—either with donations or with direct involvement at one of our regional sites. And, of course, we encourage and appreciate your prayers for another safe and rewarding year for our campers and staff!