Despite the looming threat of the Omicron variant of COVID, PYNSW pushed ahead with running Summer Camp, and all agree – it was a roaring success!
Youth from around NSW came together for fun and games, excellent Bible teaching, in-depth discussions, and a fantastic New Year’s celebration. While there were a couple of COVID scares, we thank God for protecting Summer Camp from a major outbreak.
Each year, running alongside camp is the Lead for Life internship, which trains young leaders in Bible teaching, leading activities and helps them grow in their personal faith. Tim and Bec Pfennigwerth were part of the team running this element of camp, and they’ve shared some reflections on their time as leaders this past summer.
This year I was quite apprehensive! Both because of the Omicron outbreak and because it would be our first camp with a baby! In the end, we decided that the pandemic risk at camp was no higher than at home. Camps have always been very important to us and we want to share that with our son, Atticus. So despite not knowing quite how the day-to-day would work out, we decided to bring him along for his first camp.
I was a small group leader on the Internship. There’s lots of things I love about this role. I love the smaller and more intimate setting of the Internship, I love meeting new people and reuniting with familiar faces. The best part of the role is seeing our small group of interns go from being a group of strangers, unsure what they’ve signed up for, to a group of friends equipped to return to their church as budding leaders.
There were many highlights! Watching the interns present their answers to challenging questions like ‘why does God allow suffering?’ and seeing them grow in confidence as the week progresses is always a highlight of camp. This year, it was also lovely to see the young leaders interacting with our baby and demonstrating grace to Tim and I, as we did have to come and go a fair bit in order to look after Atticus.
A challenge for me this year were the meal times! The dining room was too loud and overwhelming for our little one and meals nearly always coincided with his naps/bedtimes! So I ate most meals outside our bedroom, which made it harder to make connections with the interns, as those mealtime conversations are such a valuable time to build new relationships. Fortunately, there was another young family on camp, with the same mealtime challenges! So we were able to connect over meals together.
I am regularly impressed by the resilience and strength of young people. I was so encouraged by several conversations with young people who have persevered towards their academic goals despite two years of interrupted schooling. It’s also always encouraging to see the young interns working out how their faith will shape the decisions they are making about their futures and I look forward to seeing where God takes each of them.
I am praying for all the young leaders that they would continue to grow in their faith and that God would use them to grow his Kingdom.
I was excited that camp was going ahead, but became somewhere both cautious and somehow simultaneously at peace in the week leading up to camp – cautious that positive cases might affect the leaders, campers, and the camp as a whole (as well as possibly giving COVID to my family!), but at peace that PY was doing its best to be compliant, and that God would be in charge of whatever might happen. It was also the first time we were bringing our first child to a camp, which I was both looking forward to very much, and slightly concerned about how he might take away from our being present for our small group, and the rest of the team.
My role involves guiding a small group of interns through a pretty hectic week of Biblical and leadership/reflection lectures, as well as a whole range of practical leadership exercises. I never get tired of seeing young people getting serious about their faith – the way it should invade every aspect of their lives, the way Jesus forms a wonderful centre to our identity, and that they are driven and called to enter into serving in their churches by giving up some of their summer break and NYE to spend time investing in that. I’ve done it for several years now, and I love it.
Seeing the interns bond is always brilliant. The first night is always a complete reset from the last year, with people trying to understand what the week is going to entail, and with their own hopes and concerns about what they’ve signed up for. By NYE they have always formed into a tight cohort who encourage, look out for and enjoy one another as a group. Their surviving the week, presenting to one another, and leading Summer Camp activities grows and binds them, and it never gets old to see them get ready and leave to the NYE party together, watching out for each other. They move from being a group of strangers to a group of friends, and I cherish it every year. I always feel proud to have been a part of it, and excited that God continues to work in growing the next generation of young leaders.
COVID restrictions were a slight challenge – balancing the frustration of mask wearing while trying to communicate to an already exhausted group of interns was hard! But it was important to abide by the guidelines and set a good model of leadership. That and missing out on precious free time with the interns to care for my son was hard. There is so little free time in the week, and so many people to get to know… it was sad to leave with the sense I had only just met these people.
Having the interns run the NYE activity is always a pretty busy evening – from the rushing to get everything prepped to the tempo of running through each collection of small groups is always pretty full on. This year, not only did the interns all rise exceptionally to the challenge, but the summer campers were kind, friendly, gracious and open-minded during the activity. They were respectful to the interns as the game was explained and played, and it was encouraging to see the small group leaders, interns and campers all participating with enthusiasm. The moment I saw it all coming together and everyone getting involved was really special.
I am praying for the interns, that they would settle into their churches and make the most of their time there, and with their mentors. It is also for PY, that it continues to be a place where young people come and hear the gospel, and are grown in maturity.