There is a buzz in our vehicle on the way home from summer camp every year. A, “I can’t wait to go back,” kind of feeling. I love hearing the stories my kids have to share. Growing up I had limited camp experiences and I wanted something more for my own children and, as a Pastor, for those in our church as well. What I discovered was that InterVarsity Pioneer Camp Ontario [formerly known as Ontario Pioneer Camp or OPC] had become very special to all of them in a very short period of time.
Pioneer Camp has played an incredible role in my family and in the life of our church. Not only have my kids been attending regularly but many families in our church, including those with children who have exceptional needs, are seeing the benefits of sending their kids to this amazing place.
In 2016 we were interviewed about our third child’s experience with camp. The personal and spiritual growth we’ve seen in him is miraculous. Watch his story here:
Pioneer Camp Ontario has it all, including: beautiful surroundings, great facilities, fun programming to challenge every child, and more than enough good food to please the bottomless pits, but more importantly, the Staff and the Leaders In Training [LIT] program are top notch.
I’m in awe of the effect individual counsellors have had on those we send to Pioneer Camp Ontario. I know many of them by their camp names like, “Nanook” or “Awol,” but our kids know them as friends and mentors and examples to follow.
Pioneer Camp Ontario provides an outstanding opportunity for those teens who are older to attend the Leaders In Training program. What I see year-after-year are young lives changed and challenged to become Servant Leaders through LIT and then take it home to their schools and churches.
“The LIT (Leaders In Training) program at Pioneer Camp has been successfully training and developing young leaders for over 40 years. This co-ed, five week leadership development program provides a personalized, innovative mix of formal and hands-on learning experiences.”
Those who go camp become some of the best leaders we have in our local church.
I’ve seen some of the quietest, less-confident teenagers literally transformed into stronger, self-assured young leaders as they are encouraged and taught how to step out and make a difference in the world around them. Many of them go from sitting at the back of the room to sitting in the front rows, taking notes, and participating in the service. Many of them are the first to volunteer and usually the last to leave. Most of them become future counsellors and camp staff who challenge new generations to live up to the greatness God created them for.
Take these two sisters for example:
They began attending our church a few years ago, Emily (left) was very shy. Through our relationship with Pioneer Camp, Emily was able to attend LIT in 2016, along with our daughter. This was Emily’s very first camp experience. After LIT wrapped, she worked as a Camp Counsellor for the remainder of the summer. When she returned to our church, she was different; she grew emotionally and spiritually. According to her parents, “Emily is more confident, more open to hear the voice of God, and she’s developed the habit of daily devotions.” They attribute it to her time spent at Pioneer.
Emily returned to camp as a chalet leader for the summer of 2017 and in the fall, she became part of our Dream Team at church. She took on the responsibilities of, “Kid’s Ministry Crew Leader.” Emily now leads four teams in our Sunday school department. In 2018, Emily will spend the entire summer at Pioneer, as the Targets Coordinator.
Caitlyn (right) became our church’s “Events Crew Leader” in 2017. She is now attending Rhema Bible Institute and working with our discipleship team at The Grace Project-Africa in Lusaka, Zambia.
Then there is Allison’s story:
Allison went to Pioneer for the first time with a group of interns from our church in 2016. We volunteered for a week during the summer. Our teens served in the kitchens and in cleaning the bathrooms and chalets. That year following was the hardest year of Allison’s life. Her home-life fell into pieces. She suddenly found herself cut off from any biological family she had. In June 2017 Allison moved into our home for some much needed respite and spiritual encouragement. After much prayer and consideration Allison applied to become a short-term chalet leader at the end of last summer. It was the best thing for Allison. You can read her blog post about her experience here, “Regaining my Peace.” For the past six months Allison has been an incredible volunteer at our church. She teaches Sunday school and helps out at almost every single event we put on. She grew in compassion and concern for others. She reached new heights in her walk with Jesus.
Quinton, our oldest has his own story:
After a few years of being a camper, participating in LIT, becoming a camp counsellor… this year he returns to camp as the Special Needs Director at Boys’ Camp. In between all of that, Quinton spent 2 years as our church’s Sunday school coordinator before leaving to attend Trinity Western University in British Columbia. As a political science major he finished off his first year with a 3.94 GPA and a trip to Israel with other Christian University students with leadership potential. He was offered an internship at three churches for the summer, but he prayed about it, and chose to return to InterVarsity Pioneer Camp Ontario.
If you are a pastor, I highly recommend you have your church partner with InterVarsity Pioneer Camps. Many churches provide benefits and financial assistance for families who want to send their kids to Christian camps. Camp is an ideal environment for a child/teen to learn, grow and have fun. At Pioneer Camps, your kids are safe, secure, active and happy.
They will develop friendships which last a lifetime!
This is how Karissa came into our lives.
Our daughter Emma met Karissa on the first day of girls’ camp, as chalet buddies, in the summer of 2013. After camp, Karissa and Emma connected on social media. In the summer of 2015, Karissa and our son Quinton enrolled in the first LIT Abroad program. They spent two weeks leading day-camps in Kingston, Jamaica. Since that time, the bond we have with Karissa has grown to include the rest of our church family. Our church “adopted” Karissa, praying a blessing over her last month and supporting her while she attends Bible school in San Jose, Costa Rica over the next four months.
I have witnessed the benefits of camp firsthand: it’s true that it nurtures social skills, models healthy living, enhances self-confidence, builds friendships, fosters teamwork, encourages personal growth, and because this is a Christian camp, it draws the campers closer to Jesus!
I can’t say enough about Pioneer Camp other than I thank God our paths crossed years ago and I look forward to partnering with them for many years to come.
Pastor Dave Mischuk is the founder and lead pastor of New Song Church and World Outreach in Kitchener, Ontario. Their motto is: “We exist to help people take one step closer to Jesus.” He and his wife, Shannon Mischuk (author of Shasher’s Life), have four kids, two of whom have gone on to become camp counsellors at Pioneer Camp Ontario.
Loving God + Loving People = Changing Lives