For nearly sixty years, summer camps have served the Church and her youth well. But not in 2020. To my knowledge, not a single camper slept in a camp cabin with others her age this year or swam with his church camp buddies or sang or prayed beside a campfire at a CoG7-sponsored event. Did our youth camp vision survive this time of COVID cancellations?
My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that the first CoG7 youth camp beyond local level was sponsored by the Oregon State Conference and held in Silver Creek Falls State Park near Stayton, Oregon, in 1961. I was an eighteen-ager in Oklahoma then, but the word about what happened out west soon spread north, east, and south in our well-connected church. Some of it sounded a little like the stuff of legend to me.
So when Barbara and I resettled in Oregon five years ago, I began to investigate the reports I’d heard so often about the ‘61 and ‘62 camps at Silver Creek Falls. What I learned confirmed all I’d heard, and led to a remarkable Sabbath celebration on the Marion, Oregon church campus on Sabbath, August 15. In a season and on a day when we could not camp at Silver Creek Falls or Sis-Q Meadows, 1961-62 camp director Ray Straub led our Sabbath crowd in recalling the joys of those first camps. His memories highlighted the soul-stirring, heart-warming, loving, and forgiving presence of God’s Spirit around evening campfires and numerous baptisms at week’s end. (The August 15 celebration service may be viewed and heard on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/marioncog7).
The year 2020 would have been our sixtieth consecutive summer for CoG7 youth camps, had the pandemic not interrupted our count. Buoyed by precious memories of so many fruitful camps past, we in Oregon now move toward 2021 with undiminished trust in the power of the gospel to win people young and old to Christ. We also move with undiminished confidence in the efficacy of camping as a primary strategy to proclaim and achieve that win, especially for our youth.
In whatever state or province you find yourself, please join us in this determination. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us!
— Calvin Burrell