Possibly the best summer camp in the whole world! YES! A great team of student leaders, backed up by our clergy and church members, and loads of happy and enthusiastic children, supported by their parents – oh, yes, and grandparents. Never forget the grandparents ~ after all, it’s school holidays and lots of grandparents are looking around for ways to keep their grandchildren entertained and having fun!
Thanks be to God, this year’s Advent Church summer camp, held on 2 very sunny but breezy days, July 2-3 in our Advent Church centre, was one of the most successful ever! We had 5 teams, named after 5 colours, here they are with their banners, each team also had a action song or rhyme to introduce themselves. Fun!
With a drastically falling birthrate in Taiwan, it is rural areas that are particularly affected, so in our local area, schools are really struggling with hugely reduced numbers. One of our local elementary school teachers, who just retired last year, talks about how when she first started teaching here 30 years ago, her school had over 300 kids – now the school has about 70. Actually that was Laomei School, and a whole group of them came along to our summer camp with Ms. Cheng, as they have done for several years now… we’re now long-term friends, and here we all are!
To help struggling schools, the government and charitable foundations sponsor tons of free and fun activities, especially in school holidays. So our summer camps over the last few years have seen decreasing numbers as a result… from 100 in years gone by, down to 80, and last year, less than 60 ~ so this year, we started advertising very early, in April rather than June ~ and we were pleasantly surprised when 94 children registered!
So we had 94 kids and 32 student leaders – helped by their relatives, friends and church members, and our older church members, who offered to come along and supply breakfast and dinners for the student team. The whole summer camp was wonderfully coordinated and organized by Yu-Ru, our church outreach worker, she was helped by 2 student leaders, and all supported by our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang, chaplain Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang plus church members ~ here’s the leaders and the back-up team!
Everyone worked so hard ~ the student team have been training and preparing full-time since Friday afternoon ~ ah, and it was worth it!
This year’s theme was the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14–30), rearranged and adapted into a drama for 3 little pigs (yep, and it worked!) – 2 of whom went into business together selling shoes, while the third one, well, of course, he didn’t do anything much at all…. but he was so funny!
All the games and activities that followed were then focused on discovering, sharing and using our possessions, abilities, gifts, skills and of course, the greatest gift of ourselves ~ and our love. For example, one of the games involved the kids working together to completely turn a sheet over to the other side, without any of the group stepping onto the floor…
Many of the activities also had a Bible verse to learn too. The children had the chance to ‘earn’ some paper money, which they collected up, and at the end they could decide to donate it, or if they had a lot, they could donate some, and enter a lucky draw to ‘buy’ some snacks to take home.
On the second day, we heard the story, ‘Boxes for Katje‘ by Candace Fleming: “After World War II there is little left in Katje’s town of Olst in Holland. Her family, like most Dutch families, must patch their old worn clothing and go without everyday things like soap and milk. Then one spring morning when the tulips bloom “thick and bright,” Postman Kleinhoonte pedals his bicycle down Katje’s street to deliver a mysterious box—a box from America! Full of soap, socks, and chocolate, the box has been sent by Rosie, an American girl from Mayfield, Indiana. Her package is part of a goodwill effort to help the people of Europe. What’s inside so delights Katje that she sends off a letter of thanks: beginning an exchange that swells with so many surprises that the girls, as well as their townspeople, will never be the same.” Loved it!
We also had the drama of a king who tries to go incognito to visit a town in his kingdom where everyone is busy preparing for his official visit ~ there he meets a girl who is distraught because she thinks she has no talents to perform or to make something to welcome the king, and so can only offer visitors some water from the well ~ only to find that what the king wants most of all is her friendship. Everyone just loved our ‘king’ (who was also the third little pig!) and his ‘Supershy’ T-shirt!
And for nearly everyone, the highlight was Tuesday afternoon’s water games – and then huge water fight!
We had testimonies too, plus prayers and a blessing from our rector, Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang…
And in case you’re wondering what my role was, well I was there taking a few photos. Over 2,300 to be precise. Now reduced to less than 300, you’ll be glad to know, and only a few are posted here. One of the great things is that our student team is so disciplined that they do not use their cellphones during the summer camp, so they rely on us for the photos…
Our Advent Church summer camps are legendary in the local area, and each year they get better and better. Months of hard work, training, preparation and prayer pays off. Always grateful to all those who make it all possible, and to Almighty God for his many blessings!
And if you want to see all the photos and videos, check our our facebook page here: 台灣聖公會降臨堂 Advent Episcopal Church at St. John’s University, Taiwan
Already looking forward to next year YES YES YES!