Greetings from the Great Plains of America! As I write this, I'm sitting in the lobby of the Ortner Center at Union College (soon to be Union Adventist University) in lovely Lincoln, Nebraska. The reason I'm here? We're smack dab in the middle of what I like to call the Season of Camp Hype.
The season starts in January when we get lots of our Summer Camp staff together for our annual WinterFestaPalooza ski weekend, and continues as we enter into a schedule of recruiting and promoting encounters at our local and nation-wide institutions of Adventist Education. So far, since mid-January, we've been to:
Petersen Adventist School
Three Angels Christian School
Green Bay Adventist Junior Academy
Maranatha SDA School
Hillside Christian School
Bethel Junior Academy
Southern Adventist University
and presently, Union College
Before the season is over, we have plans to visit the rest of our local schools (Milwaukee, Otter Creek, Frederic, and Hylandale) as well as Walla Walla University (where a handful of our Wisconsin Academy graduates and Summer Camp staff are attending this year).
We also recently announced the theme of this upcoming Summer Camp season: Back to the Garden. During the morning and evening programs, campers will travel back in time with our staff as we explore how sin entered the world, the problems it has caused, how God has a plan to erase sin, and how we can tell everyone about that plan. Of course, the theme is a spin on the 1985 film "Back to the Future," and will employ the use of a golf cart (rather than a DeLorean) to "time travel" back to the Garden of Eden (rather than 1955 California), as well as to various time periods and Bible stories. The central character is Steve, a carry-over from last year's play, who will start out self-centered and jaded and, over the course of his travels, will learn about the love of Jesus and be transformed into an earnest and selfless follower of Christ. The hoped-for result of this programming is to inspire our campers to re-evaluate their own walks with Christ, to ask if they themselves need to decide and make a change, and to compel them to share their faith with others.
We already have a number of our Summer Camp staff team hired at this point, but we still need counselors and a boat driver. If you are interested, or know anyone who is: applications can be found on the front page of wakonda.org. While we hire Summer Camp staff who are 16+, for those in the 14-15 age range but still would like to try out working at Camp Wakonda, please fill out a volunteer application (also found on the front page of our website). Volunteers will spend a week helping a counselor and department director, and while they aren't paid monetarily, they will receive a free week at Teen Camp for their efforts.
Spots at camp are filling up, and we want to encourage campers to sign up sooner-than-later. If your children or family would benefit from a week at Camp Wakonda's Summer Camp, you can find more information and registration links at wakonda.org/camp. Remember: if paying for Summer Camp is a struggle, we'd still love to see you there. We have Worthy Camper funds that people pay into, in order to help young people experience the joys of Summer Camp Evangelism.
Last summer, we saw nineteen individuals (campers and staff) accept Christ in baptism and re-baptism at Summer Camp, as well as hundreds of first-time decisions and re-commitments to Christ. Did you know that a study done by the NSYR (National Study of Youth and Religion) concluded that “those who attended religious summer camps were over three times more likely to remain religious five years later than their peers who never attended camp. These findings present a strong argument for camp’s lasting impact on faith formation.”
The bottom line: while Summer Camp is fun and presents opportunities for kids to experience exciting activities like zip lining, to make new friends, and to get out of their comfort zone...that's not really the best part. The best part is that it conclusively keeps kids in the church. And those who stick around and eventually work as staff at the camp will receive leadership training and opportunities that will positively impact them throughout their life as they take on leadership roles in their careers and in the church.
There are FEW OTHER things in life that we can be more hyped about than programs that are proven to work in retaining our young people and preparing them for leadership and ministry. Full stop. Thank you for your continued support of Camp Wakonda, a Place Set Apart for this wonderful Youth Evangelism. Please pray for our team as we prepare for another blessed season of evangelism.