After a long season of isolation and limits on gathering, Adventist summer camps across Australia brought some relief to hundreds of juniors and teenagers. With COVID still part of the reality, adjustments and cancellations had to be made to comply with the always-changing restrictions.
Of the nine Adventist Church conferences in the Australian Union Conference (AUC), one, the Greater Sydney Conference, had to cancel summer camp events due to the sudden COVID outbreak in Sydney’s northern beaches. The other eight conferences were able to run their summer camps, while having to go the extra mile to adjust to restrictions.
With all the uncertainty around organizing events during a pandemic, the conference youth departments did everything they could to avoid missing one of the church’s most important evangelistic opportunities, according to youth leaders.
“Summer camps are so important in the life of the junior and teen,” Jeffrey Parker, AUC youth ministries director, said. “We believe that the Holy Spirit does in six days what can sometimes take years to do in their lives. We see so many lifelong decisions for Jesus Christ made at summer camps. All of our youth ministries teams around Australia see the running of summer camps as vital for the church.”
From all the camps run in Australia in the summer of 2020/2021, more than 426 teens and juniors requested Bible studies, and 298 manifested their wish to be baptized. What makes summer camps such a unique evangelistic method, youth leaders said, is the opportunity to present Jesus in a fun environment where young people make lifetime memories. Also, many non-Adventists attend, which makes camp an excellent opportunity to introduce them to Jesus.
In addition to all the fun activities like abseiling, archery, and horse riding, the campers have dedicated times for worship and spiritual talks. Austin Schmitz, a 12-year-old from Newcastle, went this year to his first summer camp in Stuarts Point, New South Wales. He points out that what makes summer camps unique is the spiritual environment.
“I loved all the activities and the fact that we had all our friends there, but we love going there because it’s not just a normal camp. It is spiritual-focused,” Austin said. His brother, 15-year-old Xander, highlighted the role of prayer during the event. “It was very special to have a prayer before every activity,” he said.