A children's ministry says switching to a day camp model is giving space for young Manitobans to make life-changing decisions overnight. 

Stephen Johnson, the Field Director for One Hope Canada's Manitoba and Ontario region, says a third as many children attended camps this year compared to last year. The lower number of campers meant some camps had a leader-to-camper ratio of two-to-three campers for every leader.

"It was much more intentional with just a heightened sense of love and care for our campers," Johnson says.

While he has yet to receive this year's camp statistics, he knows that lives were changed this summer.

One Hope Canada's camps in Manitoba includes:

  • Adventure Day Camps
  • Dauphin Bible Camp
  • Gimli Bible Camp
  • Roseau River Bible Camp
  • Turtle Mountain Bible Camp
  • Valley View Bible Camp

Johnson says that each camp adapted in its own way, noting that Gimli Bible Camp ran camps so children could go once a week for six weeks, and Turtle Mountain Bible Camp ventured into communities to offer programs. 

"The kids loved the camps," Johnson says. He says that those working at the camps, the teens and adults, also enjoyed their summer ministering to children. 

Hearing how the camp-to-councillor ratio was quite small, Johson was not surprised to hear that intentional relationships were formed at camp.

"We had deeper relationships and deeper Biblical, spiritual teaching for our children to be able to grasp."

The field director says that while it was a tough task, camps found ways to keep young ones two meters apart from each other while playing games.

"One of the challenges is obviously, children do not do social distancing very well."

He says games were adapted to ensure physical distancing and is hopeful that campers will remember what they have learned when they return to the classroom.

The largest challenge, switching to a day camp, has also proved to be successful for the ministry.

"Several of our camps shared with me some children who were learning truths in their chapel sessions were able to go home at the end of the day and share what they learned with their parents and foster parents. They actually made some life-changing decisions at home, at night, before coming back the next day."

Johnson says One Hope is intentional about allowing children to make their own decisions about their faith and that it was reaffirming to see those decisions happening this summer.

He says relationships were more intense this summer due to the close groups.