Summer Camp The Alaska Way
After a year-long hiatus from youth camp, kids eagerly anticipated loading the car with all the essentials for a week-long Alaska Camps adventure. For many in the state, as well as the Lower 48, parents drive their children to camp. After turning over their cherubs to staff, they revel in the knowledge that they'll have the house to themselves for a whole week! Parents want to give their kids the opportunity to make new friends, create memories and experience a bit of freedom in a secure and fun environment.
But for Alaska Native youth, the chance to attend a residential summer camp is an opportunity of a lifetime. It is a week of countless firsts.
For some, it is the first time they have ever left their village. For many, it is the first time they've flown in an airplane (which is the only way to get to one of the camp locations). For others, it's a first time being away from friends and family. Sadly, for some it's the first time they can just be a kid, the first time they'll have three meals a day and the first time they'll experience healthy relationships with adults.
Because of private sponsors and donations from the North American Division Adventist Community Services, the Alaska Conference’s Arctic Mission Adventure ministry was able to send 15 kids to camp this summer. Nine youth attended the Alaska Camps Teen xTreme and six at Camp Tukuskoya Juniors, both in Flat Lake, Alaska. Traveling from the village of Selawik, the groups began a 30-minute ride in a bush plane to the village of Gambell. It was followed by a second 90-minute flight to Anchorage. Next, they had an hour-long car ride to camp.
For several campers, it was truly a cultural shock! When they landed in Anchorage and started the drive to camp, the kids couldn’t contain themselves.
During the entire car ride, kids were glued to car windows with wide-eyed amazement as they took in what would be very ordinary things for most. “Oh, the road is paved and sooo smooth." "We can ride our bikes forever without a sore rear-end!” “Look! There is Taco Bell! Can we eat there?” “Look at the mountains!” (The village of Selawik is flat tundra.)
At camp, the adventures continued. New friends were made and memories created. But most importantly, they met their friend Jesus.
When the week was over and the campers prepared to return to home to face adult-sized challenges, they learned that an amazing God goes with them. There is comfort and security to know He cares for each of them, never abandoning them and helping them through their toughest times.
Taiku (thank you) to those that provided this opportunity to plant seeds the Holy Spirit will nurture through the experience of summer camp.