Welcome to Camp!
You may wonder why I would begin with “welcome to camp!” After all, it is still February! It may seem like a long time until June, when our first camps will take place, but we have been planning for the 2017 camps since the fall of 2016.
This coming year we have chosen the theme “Vision: Seeing Clearly in a Clouded World.” The scripture we are using for this theme is found in Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law” (New American Standard Bible).
The world seems adrift without an anchor. People live life aimlessly, in many cases just surviving. The World Bank reports that over 700 million people live in extreme poverty with little hope for improvement in the course of their lifetime. Extreme poverty is defined as living on $1.90 or less per day (worldbank.org/en/publication/global-monitoring-report). Purpose and vision for the future are virtually nonexistent for those who live under these conditions. Just surviving another day is the best these people can hope for.
One of the greatest tragedies unfolding before our eyes is the child migrant crisis. In 2016 the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published the first comprehensive look at what is happening to the children who are being displaced by war and violence. In June 2016 there were 50 million children, labeled as migrants, who were forced to leave their home and flee to another location, where they still don’t have a home. These are some of the most vulnerable people on earth. The complete UNICEF report can be found at this location: unicef.bg/assets/PDFs/2016/Uprooted.pdf. These children have little hope for the future—no home to live in and no home to return to. The results of the report led UNICEF to report that this world “is no place for a child.”
It is true that here in America, we live a life that is very different from that of the refugees in Asia or Africa or those forced to live in extreme poverty. But even here the younger generation still faces a major problem. While we have many more possessions and more money than the rest of the world, young people in America can lack purpose. Suicide rates continue to rise; depression is epidemic. In 2015 suicide was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. among 10- to 24-year-olds, amounting to 4,600 young people. Clearly, money is not the answer. So what is the answer? How can we instill purpose for life and provide a vision for young people?
I can’t promise you that attending a youth camp will provide a clear vision for every camper, but I can assure you it will help. Our camps have a clear purpose, which is to assist parents in rearing children to become healthy physically, mentally and spiritually—to become young people who have a purpose in life.
We have been conducting youth camps in the Church since the 1960s. I have a number of friends from days gone by who have long since stopped attending Church, but when you ask them about their favorite memories from the time when they were attending, youth camps are high on their list. Many of them give credit to camp for providing purpose in life and a hope for the future.
We see the same among our young people today. Camp is a major part of our Church program. As you know, our mission is twofold: to preach the gospel in all the world and to care for the brethren. Part of that caring is to educate and train. Every Sabbath we provide education, inspiration and opportunities for fellowship, but it is during a youth camp that we have time to focus on each individual. And it does make a difference! Will it change a preteen or teen overnight? No, but it will plant a seed and reinforce their need to have God in their lives. We invest a considerable amount of money and human resources in our camps, but we believe it is well worth it. The fruit is there, and we appreciate everyone who participates.
In 2016 we concluded our sixth year of camps since the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, began in December of 2010. This past year we had 671 campers and 535 staff members, spread out over 11 camps, for a total of 1,206 participants. When compared to our first year, when we had a total attendance of 931, this represents an increase of 29.5 percent. It isn’t just the increasing attendance that gives us encouragement, but also the surveys that are conducted after camp, which show a clear improvement in the focus of our youth on what matters most in life—the purpose for mankind and what God expects from each of us.
If you have teens or preteens at home, please consider sending them to a Church youth camp this summer or to winter camp next December. (If the cost is prohibitive, we do offer a limited number of scholarships.) Each camp runs for approximately one week (preteen camps are shorter), but you would be amazed at what is accomplished in that short period of time. One additional thing to do prior to camp is to encourage your camper to read the theme article, posted beside this one, so they will know in advance what the focus of the Compass Checks and Christian Living classes will be.
There are many good things that the Church has done in the past 50 years to assist families, but I know of none as effective as the camp program. I hope you will support the program and be sure you get your teens and preteens involved. It should be another great camp year! Welcome to camp!