Saturday, July 22, 2006

Family Camp

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16).

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

We're home again, and I have a little bit of time to write. We just had a blessed week of family camp, where we fellowshipped with the brethren from both our mission works. Those from Ottawa have come every year for the past four years, but this is the first year we had those from Quebec City. Family Camp means we camp for five days and four nights on the banks of the beautiful Clyde River, sleeping in tents and cooking over camp stoves. Some of our group also stayed in the campground's motel rooms, which were very nice. We all came together for meals, prayer times, services, and activities with the children. Have you seen Rand's or Twinklemoose's blogs? They were there, and I thoroughly enjoyed some uninterrupted chats with Twinklemoose.

Why family camp? Well, why not? It is a time to be refreshed through the preaching of the Word and through fellowship with other believers. It is a time to come away from the busyness of everyday life and relax. There is time to pray -- alone and with others -- in a way we can't always experience at home in our regular routines. It's a time to focus on Christ: Who He is, what He has done for us, and what He can do through us if we are fully yielded to Him.

Things to do with the children:

1. Be a part of their swimming milestones. We don't get to swim much since we don't have a pool and we tend to avoid the public beaches (too much partial nudity). Family camp is the time we see who has advanced in their swimming abilities, and how far. One daughter swam all the way out to the raft without her life jacket (a "deep part" requirement for children who can't swim well). Another daughter swam out to the raft with her life jacket, "all by myself!!!" This daughter was petrified of the deep part last year. And the third daughter showed me proudly how she could put her face in the water without plugging her nose.

2. Special music. One of my sons has been practicing playing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" on the piano, with one finger. He asked me to sing a solo with him playing, which I did. Two of my sons sang in a young men's quartet. We also sang as a family.

3. Help memorize Scripture. Every year we divide the children into 3-4 teams, with adult team leaders. We give them a passage to memorize (this year they did Psalm 85) and encourage them to learn as much as they can. Prizes are given to the winning team, and to the individuals who can say the whole passage perfectly. This year I actually didn't help that much since I wasn't one of the team leaders, but I did listen to my oldest daughter as she struggled, for the first time, to memorize the passage. Usually she does really well, but this year, for some reason, she couldn't seem to get past the first 2-3 verses. She said it just wasn't sticking. I told her to pray about it, and ask the Lord to help her. The next day she almost had the whole Psalm down! When she stood up to recite on the last morning, she did very well, making only two mistakes. Two of my other children were on the winning team. One son said the whole Psalm perfectly, tying for first place individual prize.

4. Fish. Okay, I didn't fish. I don't have the patience for it. But my 10-year-old caught one early one morning, and ate it for breakfast. Here's the test for patience that my husband passes with flying colors, which I don't even attempt: untangling the fishing lines of about half a dozen fishing poles.

5. Encourage their character. Every year the adults nominate campers 18 years old and under for the "Camper of the Week" prize. They are chosen based on cheerfulness, willingness to serve, and overall good attitude. I got to see the tally sheet this year and was pleased to see that about half the children received nominations, and no one person received an overwhelming majority of the votes. This means we had a pretty good bunch this year, as all of the children were pretty well behaved and showed reasonably good attitudes. My oldest daughter tied for first place, and my youngest daughter tied for second place. My youngest daughter is only three, but all week we received comments about her sunny disposition and her ready smile. (Was this really the same little girl who only a month or so ago was the world's worst whinepot? What an encouragement to me that our training and discipline in this area is paying off!)

6. Pray. Twice a day the adults gathered for prayer. During this time, our two oldest sons (either together or taking turns) led the children's prayer group. None of the children resisted this; in fact, they expected it. It is such a joy to see children learning to pray.

If you ever have the opportunity to be part of a good family camp, one sound in doctrine and practice, I hope you'll take advantage of it. I like it much better than age-segregated youth camps or adults-only retreats.


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