Each summer, with the help of donors in the community, we send kids to our summer camp near Lexington, Mississippi. The Salvation Army’s 300 acre Camp Hidden Lake helps disadvantaged boys and girls in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi open their eyes to a whole new world. Summer camp is much more than a vacation for these kids. Camp Hidden Lake teaches new skills, healthy attitudes, and high values. Long hot summer days, a dip in the pool, canoeing, star-filled nights, campfires, roasted marshmallows, pillow fights, cabin devotions, emblem work, seeing old friends, and making new ones. Expanding horizons and creating memories: That’s what camp is about, and this is what the kids are missing out on during summer 2020.
Camp Hidden Lake was canceled this year due to the novel coronavirus. Since so many of our corps are no longer able to host the Evangelism Campaigns, The Salvation Army Youth Department wanted to find a way to still get Jesus to kids throughout our division. This was done by providing “camp in a bag,” a modified camping experience. Camp Hidden Lake: Backyard Edition is a 3-day resource bag that provides a camping experience for 700 children at home, complete with all the items and directions they need for the daily activities.
Each day followed the following schedule:
- Morning Manna (Bible Story with questions)
- Daily Camping Experience
- Camp Craft
- Recreational Activity
- Daily Wrap up
This year’s camp theme is “Fearfully & Wonderfully Made,” with the scripture Psalm 139:14 being a focus in the daily “Morning Manna” readings and provided Bible stories. The focus will be on “making and creating” as the youth are encouraged to engage God’s creation and look at their ability to create. Each bag will have three packets for three days of the modified camping experience and a smores kit, complete with instructions on making the camping dessert via microwave. A postcard from Camp Hidden Lake and the Youth Department will be included in each bag as well. This resource will also allow for the children to earn an “Ecology Badge” in character building if they participate. Officers and service center staff are encouraged to use these bags to engage the youth in their localities and think outside the box on evangelism.
“The kids in our division come from all walks of life. You have kids whose parents have an internet connection, but many of our communities don’t have that capability. And even more so, there are still parents who have to work, so teens are home by themselves,” Captain Michael Good stated.
“Helping these kids is our ministry, so we’re trying to figure out how we can help them during this crisis. It also gives officers in our division the opportunity to think outside of the box and meet kids where they are. They get to go to the homes, shelters, and foster homes where these kids reside and give them Camp Hidden Lake,” Captain Good added.
Camp in a bag provides all materials with instructions for a three-day camping experience. Officers are encouraged to check in with the kids to check their progress. The campers learn everything from ecology, boating, camp crafts, and devotions so that this summer feels as close to any other summer at Camp Hidden Lake.
Camp Day #1
Morning Manna: Study of Creation (Genesis 1:1-25)
Camping Experience: Study of trees w/ leaf imprinting & study
Camp Craft: Birdhouse
Recreation: Nature Scavenger Hunt
Camp Day #2
Morning Manna: Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)
Camping Experience: Study of a plant’s life cycle w/”Grow Your Own” activity
Camp Craft: Suncatchers
Recreation: Miniature Boating Activity
Camp Day #3
Morning Manna: Study of Creation (Psalm 139:13-18)
Camping Experience: Study of Ecosystem’s w/”Make Your Own Ecosphere” activity
Camp Craft: Leather Bookmark Craft
Recreation: Sidewalk Chalk Games
“I’m excited for the kids to experience the science portion of camp. They’ll practice leaf imprinting. It’s the story of leaves and trees to feel like they’re truly at camp. The second day, the kids get to plant their seeds, and the material talks about the life cycle of a plant and what plants do for us. The last day is my favorite. They will be making an ecosphere. Each kid received a mini mason jar, and they can make an ecosphere. It’s a self-supporting ecosystem, and they won’t have to open the jar to feed the insects or clean it,” Captain Good shared.
One of the things that Captain Good and the Youth Department made sure of was the bags were reusable so that campers could keep them as “camp swag”. The bags are branded with the Camp Hidden Lake logo in hopes of the kids being able to bring them to camp next summer.
“I can imagine them coming to camp next year with their bags. Having camp swag at home is a cool feeling because it’s a sense of belonging and togetherness. Some of these kids come from rough home situations. We get to think about vacationing in New Orleans or Memphis, whereas the kids we serve with The Salvation Army don’t always get that chance. Vacation for them is Camp Hidden Lake. For many of these kids, camp is a week they don’t have to worry about life. It’s a week that they don’t have to worry about food. They don’t have to see their parents fighting. It’s a week where they don’t have to take care of their siblings. They can just be kids,” Captain Good shared.
“That’s one of the most frustrating parts of changes within my job in 2020. The kids don’t get that opportunity. We’re hoping that this backyard edition of the camp hidden lake will allow kids to feel like they are at camp,” Captain Good added.