When we think of camp ministry, we may think of the programs, the relationships, the facilities, the fun and the beautiful surroundings but may spend little to no time considering the preparations which take place before the camping season begins.
At a 2012 camp board visioning retreat, an Evergreen Christian Ministries board member who attended Bethany, St. Catharines, decided to launch a Mishewah Missions Trip to raise funds and gather skilled tradespeople to meet the ever-increasing need for repairs and improvements. He turned to a fellow board member who attended Bethel EMC and asked if she would be in charge of the meals for the workteam. This marked the beginning of an informal partnership between Bethany CC, St. Catharines, and Bethel EMC, New Dundee. More recently Vineland EMC has joined them.
Each spring a team of upwards of 40 people, many of them tradespeople, not a pre-requisite, converge on Camp Mishewah for 10 days. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of maintenance and renovations have been completed. Teams have built cabins, renovated the kitchen, lodge, washrooms, etc, and have begun the enormous project of moving the electrical infrastructure underground so power will not be affected by storms. There is also the inevitable maintenance, inside and out. Along with the set financial donation of team members, fundraising dinners are held, food is donated, and EMCC ministry grants have helped along the way.
Hanover MC has twice sent sizable teams that have made much-needed repairs inside and out, along with finishing a bathroom, interior painting, and building two accessibility ramps. Area churches, First EMC in Pembroke, and Grace EMC, Killaloe regularly respond to Camp requests for clean-up/maintenance days.
One cannot measure the value of the ongoing ministry of our camps in the lives of children and families. In speaking with one woman from Bethel whose attendance at Mishewah Camp spans 35 years since the days when she herself was at Sr Teen Camp, she related how she now enjoys camp with her grown children and grandchildren. Family Camp becomes a community of friends where everyone looks out for one another. This family returns year after year for the strong spiritual component, the opportunity to connect more deeply with each other, with people from their congregation, as well as with those from other congregations.
The churches send these annual teams so ministry like the above can continue well into the future. Better facilities and an improved waterfront enable greater capacity and program enhancements. They do what they do in the prayerful hope that people will be drawn to a beautiful environment where they can then be spiritually fed, encourage one another and have fun together.
Mishewah is grateful to be supported by many volunteers and supporters from our denomination, allowing them to continue offering life-changing camp ministry to kids and families.