Camping–a hot topic

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Army summer camps offer refuge and fun.

Camp Del Oro counselor Harrison Washington (center) and friends. [Photo by Shevaun Malone]

In a year plagued by financial hardship for many and unusual summer flu outbreaks nationwide, The Salvation Army continued to reach out through its summer camp ministry. Located in the mountains, deserts and beaches, Western Territory camps offered fun-filled weeks of new friends, swimming, activities, and Scripture studies.

Community outreach
For the third year in a row the Salvation Army Kings Lake Camp in Wasilla, Alaska, partnered with the Armed Services YMCA to provide a camp experience to young people who have parents deployed overseas. It also hosted a week of camping for at-risk and community youth.

Some corps in the Cascade Division offered free camps for children from the community this summer. Other corps provided free spots for children of local ARC beneficiaries and White Shield youth.

Los Angeles kids adapted easily to the lack of everyday pressure and embraced the safe haven that summer camp affords—especially inner-city kids who must cope not only with their families’ struggles, but also with crime and gang activity just outside their front doors. Summer camp provided a rest from all of the stress.

Camp Mt. Crags and Camp Gilmore—Southern California Division—delivered a welcome sanctuary. Far from the day-to-day stresses of life and tough neighborhoods, dozens of young campers found recreational and educational activities in a safe and enriching environment—one where they flourished, with many accepting Christ into their lives.

A safe haven
For some first-timers, camp was the last place they wanted to be. Justin came from Philadelphia to spend the summer with his aunt in Sacramento, but found himself on a bus to Camp Del Oro. “We ain’t got no door on our cabin?” “Where’s the TV?” But he adjusted and was soon making friends. Harrison Washington, his counselor, made a priority of spending time with Justin. By “being there,” he learned about Justin’s life in Philadelphia. Justin told Harrison he saw shootings take place just a “few streets down from where I live.”

Caring counselors are a major key to a successful camping program. “I consider it the ultimate gift from God to be able to do this for my campers,” says Harrison. “It’s a lot of responsibility, and I want to treat them all like my little brothers.”

Realizing that camp is often a refuge from difficult life circumstances, counselors at Camp Kuratli at Trestle Glen in Oregon strove to “stand in the gap” for their campers, replacing negative situations with positive ones to instill a sense of safety, love and acceptance by creating a “home away from home” atmosphere and—for some—their only “home.” The kids are connected to camp because “it’s a good place to be”—and safe.

“We’ve worked hard to make camp special, a place to come and have fun, apart from daily worries,” said Captain Timothy Carr, divisional youth and candidates’ secretary, Alaska Division.

Camping is available to everyone. “The ministry of camp is to reach the at-risk and inner-city kids, to bring them to a place of safety and refuge while also providing an opportunity for them to meet Jesus Christ as their personal savior,” says Captain Osei Stewart, divisional youth and candidates’ secretary, Sierra del Mar Division.

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