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Greetings from Down Under! Joe Fant and I made it safely to Sydney a couple of days ago and are adjusting well to the 16 hour time change. Our main purpose in being here is to assist Condell Bible Church in running their first full length junior camp. Two years ago, Dan and Amy Brooks spent some time here in Sydney with our hosts, Glenn and Erin Matthews. The Matthews are burdened to see a junior camp established that would be a blessing to area churches – similar to the teen camp that has gained traction over the last 10 years or so. Their goal is to see a wider number of churches participating as a philosophy of ministry is set in place and implemented.
Back in the summer of 2015, it was our privilege to host a group of about a dozen folks from Australia at staff training week at The Wilds. The Matthews coordinated the trip, but those who came represented a wide variety of churches and ministries. Shortly after their visit, they invited us to speak at their annual teen camp as well as assist them in running the junior camp this year. In a few hours, Joe and I will be heading up to Bethshan Camp and Conference Center, a couple of hours north of Sydney near the town of Wyee (but still in New South Wales.) The teen camp begins this afternoon and they are expecting around 100 young people. We’ve found that even though teens look and sound differently around the world, they face the same challenges and struggles as American teens do.
This weekend, we are planning to return to Sydney to minister in churches on Sunday before holding a day of staff training on Monday for the junior camp staff. Then we head back up to the campsite for the junior camp that runs from Tuesday – Friday.
Report by Matt Collier
The man who oversees the facility of Bethshan Camp and Conference Centre, Pastor Collin, took us on a tour of the facilities on Tuesday and gave us a history of the property. He explained to us that about three years ago he and his wife were in a place of discouragement with the camp and ministry, not knowing what to do next or whether or not they should even continue in the ministry. With tears in his eyes he told us that it was the trip to The Wilds back in 2015 that renewed their passion for ministry and vision for the camp. Since they returned to the campsite (18 months ago) they have completed 4 major onsite camp improvements and have continued to pursue their renewed vision to help the churches in the area.
We had about 115 campers at camp last week! The level of excitement was great in spite of the temperature. Wednesday it was 107 degrees and the sun was scorching! Thankfully, the camp had just finished a new lake that the campers were able to take advantage of to escape the heat. Pastor Matt and I had the opportunity to preach for the services and observe the camp. We weren’t sure what to expect from the Aussie young people but found them to be very receptive and appreciative of the messages. We know of several who made significant life decisions throughout the week, including some for salvation. One of the younger campers who is from Papua New Guinea originally came up to Pastor Matt after the Thursday night service and said, ““Pastor Matt, I want to do what you are doing in other countries. I want to preach the Bible.” And maybe he will! We were able to spend some quality time with the camp leadership at the end of the week to discuss ways to continue to make the camp program more effective in the future and they were very receptive. These folks are doing a great job!
On a lighter note, Pastor Matt and I had the opportunity to play rugby for the first time. After each scoring a “try” we were awarded with official Australian Wallaby rugby shirts to wear proudly! Yesterday after camp finished we went into downtown Sydney to eat a buffet dinner in the highest building in Sydney. We both tried kangaroo and emu and decided we would stick with beef for the time being. We have seen some kangaroos and even had the opportunity to pet several of them in the wild.
Report by Joe Fant
Our week of Junior Camp went extremely well. This was the first week of Junior Camp that this group of churches had ever had so it was a relatively small week with just under 30 campers. The size of the group allowed all of us to spend a lot of time together and was a good intro to camping for the new director.
Our time spent with the Matthews family (our hosts and the pastor of Condell Park Bible Church) was truly a blessing. They are a wonderful family who have a great heart for the Lord. Pastor Matthews’ son, Luke, was there both weeks of camp and helped direct the program and Funtime. We had a great time of fellowship and encouragement with them.
Our stay in Australia has been very enlightening on several levels. Some of the customs we loved, such as eating 5 (sometimes 6) meals a day! I am on a mission to try to work this into teen camp at The Wilds on some level in the future. We quickly learned that “going out for tea” included much more than just drinking tea, it usually meant a full meal! We did have a shark diving expedition scheduled in the Sydney Aquarium after camp one day, but the aquarium called the day of the dive and informed us that the shark was sick. I am convinced the shark heard the prayers of our wives, Kelly and Becky and faked an illness.
Report by Joe Fant