Bible camp sees big numbers despite the high temperatures
Sweltering heat didn’t deter over 200 children from attending Fellowship Bible Church’s annual day camp in Shenandoah Junction this week.
FBC has been hosting this day camp on its 53 acre property since the early 2000’s as a community outreach event even before the congregation had a church building.
Day camp, similar to vacation bible school, has a six hour day which is an increase from the usual three hours that most churches do.
Using simple word-of-mouth advertising, camp has grown from a couple handfuls of kids at its inception to an average of 250 campers each year, with a staff that is dedicated to the spiritual growth of the children in attendance.
Teaching children that Jesus is a light in a dark times, this year’s theme was entitled “Cave Quest.” There were Bible points each day which are reinforced throughout the day’s activities. Jesus provides hope, courage, direction, love and his power were the daily themes respectively.
Sixteen teams of kids rotate through a series of stations, where they learn, play games, make crafts, watch inspiring videos and participate in team building activities. And of course, no church camp would be complete without Bible lessons, memory verses and songs.
Much of the church camp property is located in shade areas which helps to cut down on the heat, and the kids were able to cool off in the soaker hose and take plenty of water breaks.
“We try to create a whole experience for kids,” said camp director, Anne Vocature. “Our camp is a little different than some of the other VBS camps because we go all day and we’re outside (weather permitting).”
In the Imagination Station, one of the daily stops for campers, children learned about rocks, gems, minerals, stalactites and stalagmites, exploring cave elements through lessons and experiments.
Even the daily snack parallels the camp lessons.
Vocature says she often uses Group Publishing, the creators of this year’s Cave Quest theme, when looking for a topic. But other times there will be a particular topic that speaks to her.
“I look for something that’s got depth of message,” said Vocature. “Last year I chose a theme based on a recurring message in my devotions, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ So I looked for a program where I could incorporate that. Lifeway (Publishing) had a program called, ‘Journey Off the Map,’ and I knew that was it. God was really speaking to me through that.”
Planning for summer camp begins in early spring for Vocature. “I have rough sketch drawings of how I want everything to look,” she said. “Sometimes I get teased about all my drawings and schedules and lists-I’m a teacher by trade. But it all comes to life in the end,” laughed Vocature. “We were really blessed this year because Covenant Church (in Shepherdstown) allowed us to use a lot of the decorations they had.”
The VBS publishing companies will often provide decoration DVDs and suggestions for embellishments. Vocature and her volunteers paint, hammer, build, assemble and arrange the elements and even write skits to help bring her vision to fruition to make a memorable experience for the campers.
“I love doing this,” said Vocature. “I teach the Bible lessons each year and that’s my favorite part. When a child gets baptized and says that they got saved at Day Camp-that’s what this is all about. That’s why I do this. I do even try to teach at a level where the teens will be challenged to walk deeper in their faith, too.”
Tim LeMaster, the new children’s ministry director at Fellowship Bible Church provides all the logistical support and training/organizing the teen staff for camp. LeMaster gives ample credit to the large number of teen staffers.
“We have about 75 teens-a record number this year-who have given of their time each day to make camp run smoothly,” said LeMaster. “It’s phenomenal to have our teen program built up that much that we have so many teens available and willing to help. It’s a joy to see teens give of their summer this way. It’s a lot of volunteer hours that they put in-teens and adults. It really is a praise. The great thing is that these (camp) kids are growing up and they will be our future generation of (camp) leaders.”
Morgan Wilson, 12, of Shepherdstown, is staffing camp for the first time after being a camper for the past six years.
“It’s really fun,” said Wilson. “I liked being a camper, but I’ve wanted to be staff for a long time. This week I’m just helping wherever they need me.”
Emma Tucker, of Harpers Ferry, is another teen staff member who has been coming to camp since she was six years old. Tucker, now 16, admitted to being intimidated when she first started staffing because she didn’t think the kids would listen to her, but she pressed on and has been helping with camps ever since.
“I love the kids, even the ones who are a little challenging,” laughed Tucker. “I just figure that if they’re difficult, that means that they need a little extra love and kindness-at least that’s what I try to do. Being a team leader challenges me too because sometimes a kid will ask me what a particular Bible verse means and if I feel like I don’t have the right words or the right way to answer them, it makes me want to study more.”
Fellowship Bible Church Associate Pastor, Everett Vocature has been heavily involved with the camps for years.
“We probably usually see a dozen or so kids make a profession of faith each year at camp, so that’s a significant number of children over the years,” said Everett. “We see Day Camp as a ministry outreach; that’s why we keep the cost so low ($10 per child for the whole week). We want any family that wants to come to be able to afford it.”
Camp concludes on the last day with an invitation for family members to come hear a production of songs and Bible verse recitation.
“It really is a great ending to the week,” said Anne Vocature. “Parents get to sample just a little bit of what their kids have been doing all week. It’s all so positive and upbeat.”
For more information about Fellowship Bible Church, visit their website www.fellowshipwv.org.