By Jon Roberts – Casper, Wyoming … “It’s been a long time since we’ve had kids running around screaming and making noise, and learning about Jesus in camp,” Brent Learned, Mills Spring Ranch Camp director, expressed about welcoming youth back to camp and referring to 2020 when camp was not held.
As Engage Base Camp campers begin to pack their gear for MSR, Learned reflects on the lost year of summer camp and how important this week is to the campers. “I especially feel for the kids that don’t have a safe home. Summer camp is the one week of the year that they really look forward to. It’s a safe place where they can connect with Jesus and with their friends.”
MSR is about reaching out, not only to campers in the Adventist church, but also to the community. Part of the outreach this year is teaming up with Angel Tree Camping Ministry, a subsidy of Prison Fellowship. This partnership allows children with an incarcerated parent to attend camp free giving them the opportunity to come to a safe zone for a week as their home life is usually very difficult and most of them have never experienced summer camp before.
Learned offered the roofing contractors, who replaced the roofs on all camp buildings earlier in the year, the opportunity to send their children to MSR. He added that finances would not be an issue for the contractors who couldn’t afford camp. “These are kids that have never gone to church before or to summer camp. It’s a brand-new experience.”
During the summer of 2020, even though MSR couldn’t welcome campers, staff and volunteers were busy improving and building new attractions. One new activity is a sand volleyball court. Being very intentional about creating the court correctly, sixty tons of sand was hauled in, explained Learned. He added that eleven new rock-climbing routes and two rappelling routes await the youth. However, the newest attraction is a redesigned fire pit with benches. The project was designed and created by Casper resident, Gary Gauge, a student-intern from Union College. The homemade benches were made from trees located on the camp property and include no rebar, unlike the old benches that were uncomfortable to sit on.
Aside from the activities campers can submerge themselves in, Learned explained the real motive behind the camp experience is to initiate or assist the campers in their walk with Jesus. “The main point of camp is to connect and reconnect kids with Christ so that they can grow in the knowledge of salvation. Everything that we do is focused and centered around getting to know Christ.”
He added that worship isn’t just in the morning or in the evening. “It’s an all-day focus. First thing in the morning is our camp council worship as a group, and throughout the day, we begin every activity with prayer. The camp staff is always open to having conversations, mentoring, and building those relationships with kids throughout the day. The week-long play continues every single night, all week long, focusing on the story of Zacchaeus this year.”
He added, “To conclude the day, the cabins come together for worship before they go to bed. So, Jesus is in the center of absolutely everything we do.”
Engage Base Camp kicks off on July 25 and currently more than 30 are signed up there is room for more. You can register online at https://www.millsspringranch.com/summercamp or by emailing [email protected] or by showing up on July 25.
–Jon Roberts is RMC communication/media assistant; photos by Jon Roberts and Casper church Facebook