Phone calls to each of our Partner Camps revealed, as expected, that ministries pivoted to meet COVID restrictions, all doing their best to provide the highest level of service they could for those who were able to come, and in a couple of cases, for those they reached remotely.
As fall begins, our Camps need our prayers as they finish the season and begin to prepare, by faith, for the fall, and next year’s programming, staff and finances.
Charis Camp, Chilliwack, BC
Charis was closed to Campers this summer. A bright spot was that they were able to re-open their brand new coffee shop, Cedar and Moss. Only a 10-minute drive from Chilliwack, the shop was well-received by the community and enabled them to pay a staff member. Charis is a year round camp. Executive Director, Darren Duncalfe says they intend to do everything they can to remain open and connected with people through this fall and winter. To comply with restrictions, and for viability, the Camp is able to welcome groups of 20-50, for retreats, reunions, or meetings. To see how the Camp will apply additional safety measures, and to register a group, please visit their website. The current financial situation is fragile and most of the staff remains laid off. Your prayers would be appreciated.
Rivers Edge Camp and Retreat Centre, Cremona, AB
Rivers Edge was able to serve close to 700 people through ‘Day Camp and Camping Cubed’, which was a program of activities offered daily to families camping on site. It was enjoyed by those who took part and the Camp was able to hire some students, with the help of the CSJ grant, along with regular staff for July and August. They ran their annual Leaders in Training where 15-18 year-olds come to learn leadership skills.
A real highlight this year was the baptism of 12 LITs in late August. At the end of September the Camp will begin a ‘pause of onsite activity.’ They hope to resume in January. Only an hour from Calgary, guest groups are the main revenue stream in the off-season consisting of mostly schools and church groups; however, schools can’t take groups for overnights from Sept 2020-June 2021 and Alberta Health Services has limited overnight groups to single families per accommodation which is not something Rivers Edge is able to accommodate.
Interim Exec. Director, Terry McKenna asks for prayer for the staff, most of whom will be laid off at the end of Sept, and also for a safe and allowable way to conduct their annual major fundraiser, ‘A Cowboy Country Christmas’, held on site in December. “We value each of our constituent churches and appreciate all your giving and support thus far,” says Terry. “We ask for your prayers for our staff and for the future of Rivers Edge Camp, that God’s plan be fulfilled.”
Whispering Pines Camp: Elkwater, AB
At Whispering Pines this summer about 40 families camped in tents, RVs or cabins and availed themselves of ‘Do It Yourself Family Camp.’ With crafts, self-led devotionals, and activity suggestions for each day, this was a success. “Although it has been a challenging year to do ministry, God is still drawing people closer to himself,” says Camp Director Denver Knodel. He was thinking of a woman who came for a day with her daughter. She said she was not really open to religion, but that her daughter liked it, and so… could they come back again next year?
Denver is grateful that supporters have been faithfully giving and God laid it on the heart of some who were able to give very generously, all of which is a tremendous help when much of the usual revenue stream is dry. With some of these funds they were able to complete several much needed maintenance projects. Whispering Pines is a year-round camp, but as is true for all, faces restrictions as they enter the fall months. They have 10 cabins and so can host 10 families for overnight stays, and currently only families may stay together in the same accommodations. A few smaller churches are registered to come up for a day.
In December and January they will begin to get ready for summer programming. “We may need to pivot how we do ministry and come up with new options that are more resilient.” Denver asks for prayer that they may hear God’s voice as to what to plan for next year.
Echo Lake Bible Camp, Fort Qu’appelle, SK
At Echo Lake Bible Camp they are thankful for an excellent response to their volunteer work bee camp, SERVE@ELBC. Over the course of three weeks, sixty-six volunteers made their way to the Camp. They painted several buildings, replaced flooring, and took care of a host of odds and ends that had been waiting for attention. They also sent out 25 ‘Camp-in-a-Box’ packages to kid campers this summer. Seventy people attended Camp Sunday on July 26, an annual service open to the community, and which is their biggest fundraiser, and these donations were much appreciated.
On September 15 they will launch another fundraiser. It is through donations that they are able to fund ongoing operations and future programming. As fall approaches, ELBC is expecting a few family groups who will stay in their year-round facility and prepare their own meals. They have had some cancellations, and are taking reservations. Echo Lake is usually busy from August-November and February-June hosting groups from supporting churches, local schools and the community. It is not yet clear if summer camp will be possible in 2021.
“We praise God for providing miraculously through this difficult season,” says, Exec Director, Monique Strachan. “Donations are coming in. We are praying that the province will firm up the overnight camp regulations for 2021 as soon as possible so we can plan well for the upcoming camp season.”
Camp Mishewah, Killaloe, ON
At Camp Mishewah they were much busier than they expected. They opened campsites, cabins and lakeside suites, and lots of people left home to enjoy the Camp for a few days or weeks. Since all overnight Youth Camp programs and traditional Family Camp had been cancelled, food costs and payroll were minimal and the financial burden was lessened.
They did an online version of camp for kids, complete with a fun kit, which they dubbed, ‘Mish-in-a-Box.’ The program team volunteered their time and packed 77 pizza boxes, full of items for an at home 5-day camp experience. It included tuck items, s’more kit, Bible, activity booklet, stickers, tuque, t-shirt, water bottle, devotions and craft supplies. Each registered child received their box, either by courier or hand-delivery. When this virtual camp began, every day there was an online chapel message.
Mish-in-a-Box was a great success, and lots of positive feedback and photos poured in. Three young and eager maintenance staff did a fantastic job of all the onsite work and they were the only staff at Mishewah this summer, joining Managing Directors Jeanette and Steve Balzer. Quite a number of volunteers came throughout the summer to help with various tasks and were a huge encouragement to the staff team, getting many jobs done that otherwise would have had to wait until another year. Camp Mishewah is not winterized so the doors will close for the season after a few more small groups and seasonal trailer owners enjoy the facilities for the month of September. Jeanette and Steve would appreciate your prayers for the planning team as they prepare for next year’s summer season. In January they will be in high gear, making programming and staffing decisions.
Stayner Camp and Christian Retreat Centre, Stayner, ON
At Stayner Camp this summer they were busier than normal in respect to camping, trailers and cottage rentals, as people, eager for a taste of summer, arrived on site. Correspondingly, revenues were higher than expected. Even so, with the cancellation of 5+ months of programs and retreats for overnight guests, finances are still a challenge. Some extra help came their way by means of a few individuals who needed short term accommodations.
A couple of empty cabins were available and this was a win-win as the rent was very affordable, and the extra income helped the Camp. The Lodge is taking registrations for retreats of up to 15-25 people staying overnight, depending on the type of retreat and social bubbles. For those wishing to come for a day retreat, current legislation allows for 30 people. Whether the Camp will remain open after Thanksgiving is uncertain at this point, although they normally host retreats throughout the winter months.
This was Managing Director, Kyle Moore’s first summer at the Camp and it was a good experience, getting to know people and the ministry. A few times when Kyle felt in ‘slightly over his head,’ God helped him through, leaving Kyle with the message, “It’s not what you can or can’t do, it’s what I want to do through you.” “I felt God leading me to a deeper level of trusting Him”, says Kyle. Please pray for God’s wisdom as they make decisions and begin planning summer programming in January. Additionally, the tabernacle needs a new roof.
This article is featured in the Fall 2020 edition of the EMCC Together Newsletter.
Download a PDF copy of this and previous EMCC Together publications here: https://emcctogether.ca/emcc-together-back-issues/