International (AMG/MNN) — Winter 2013/14 has been hard. Ready for a story about summer?
Think about summer camp. Aside from all the fun of swimming, archery, horseback riding, and even tater-tot casseroles, the best part of camp is often just the chance to come away from your troubles and routines to reflect on life. AMG International Vice President of Development Pat Ragan says that’s true for any child, but especially so for the children in their sponsorship program. “For these children, they’re in very difficult situations. They’re poor, they’re struggling day in/day out, often times, and they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Single moms, drugs, gangs, the whole nine yards. So, to go away for a week of camp, for these children, is like a Disney World experience.”
All of their childcare programs address these problems and give children the Gospel so that they can learn about the hope and future they can have in Christ, and camp plays a big role in that approach for AMG.
A summer camp experience not only provides a break from a chaotic routine, but it also introduces hope. Ragan explains that AMG takes a long view on the week they have with the campers. “Camping is obviously a lot of fun with all of the actives that go with that: sports, and the food, and the campfires, and all of those things…. [But] everything really does center around making sure that it’s Bible-centered and that the children have an opportunity to hear and respond to a clear presentation of the Gospel.”
Jayrah Mae Resuento, a sponsored child at the Home of Hope Orphanage in Bacolod City, Philippines, shares how that experience has helped her young faith:
“This summer I enjoyed very much because I attended two different camps–church camp and Home of Hope. There was so much fun with the games, swimming, and the lectures were so good, too, that contributed to the nourishment of my soul. I have already accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I followed Him in baptism last May. I joined the choir, Sunday school, prayer meeting, and have been given opportunity to lead in a praise time during Sunday worship. I am so happy, and I want to follow Him always.”
Ragan adds, “We have a camping ministry in Guatemala, one in the Philippines, one in Thailand, and one in Greece, as well.” For example, in Guatemala, children from AMG’s childcare centers around the country come to Camp Canaan for a week and participate in spiritual and recreational activities to develop skills and abilities that will help them in the future.
There are devotionals, Bible studies in small groups, educational activities, bonfires, crafts, swimming, other games, singing, and time for the campers to be alone with God. In a typical year, over 2,500 campers visit Camp Canaan, and many have come to know Christ there.
José Luis Meza, who with his wife, Orfa, serves as the director of Camp Canaan, shares this update:
“I am grateful because we finished one more year of camps, and, in spite of many difficulties, we have seen that God has been good, and His grace and care were with us. God is faithful, as it says in His word, ‘The One who keeps you will not sleep.’ God has never left us, and we have felt His presence in the most difficult times. This encourages us to continue working in this ministry that the Lord has given us and to continue giving all that is needed so that the children and youth will be inspired to serve God and to be committed as Christians. Our desire is to prepare new leaders so that they go out and change our nation.”
A week at camp may look like fun and games, but that could be exactly where the Lord is building His nation-changers. Ragan says it’s life-changing. “It’s a week where you’re loved on by people whose hearts are pure, whose hearts love the Lord, and by the end of that week, you’re changed. You can’t come away from that week without having experienced something extremely special.”
For U.S. camps, a week in the summer ranges from $200 to $8,000 (fine arts summer camp instruction). When you consider that the average child AMG works with in the sponsorship program is dealing with poverty, is it realistic cost? Ragan says, ‘Absolutely, it is.’ For one thing, because the cost of living tends to be lower in the areas where they have camps, the overall cost is lower against the strength of the U.S. dollar. For another, the camp is staffed by AMG nationals (keeping overhead low) and missions trip volunteers. “To be able to send one child for one week of camp in any of these four countries where we have camping ministries, it’s $35 to send that one child.”
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