This column highlights the ministries of Disciple's parent organization, Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel (AMG) International, a non-denominational missions agency.
Most of us who have grown up in the United States share a common memory from our childhood and teenage years: summer camp. The canoeing, archery lessons, horseback riding, ping-pong tournaments, s'mores and campfire songs are a part of the national experience.
Many of those camping experiences were at church or ministry-run camps designed to get kids away from familiar surroundings so that they can hear the call of God in their lives. I can personally attest to friends and ministry partners who came to Christ through such camping ministries.
As widespread as Christian camp ministries are in America, children and teenagers in most other parts of the world seldom have access to the same opportunities. If lives are changed by the Gospel message through camping here, why couldn't those same ministries reap a harvest for Christ in other countries as well?
One of AMG's core missions has always been ministry to children, and for several years we have worked to reach youth through camping ministries in some of the countries where we minister.
In Guatemala, AMG's Camp Canaan serves as an oasis for the children from AMG's childcare centers who come for a week and participate in spiritual and recreational activities to develop skills and abilities that will help them in the future. In the morning there are devotionals, Bible studies in small groups, educational activities, bonfires, crafts, swimming, other games, singing, and time for the campers to be alone with God. In a typical year, over 2,500 campers visit Camp Canaan, and many have come to know Christ there.
In Thailand, Camp Joy serves as a youth camp for those in AMG's childcare ministries, but also as an outreach facility for youth and adults. The camp has hosted "English Camps" where participants learn and practice English and hear the Gospel. Camp Joy also has served as a retreat center for churches and pastors in the region.
In the Philippines, AMG's Living Hope Beach and Adventure Camp on the island of Samar serves a similar purpose to Thailand's Camp Joy, reaching out to youth and also hosting pastor training and church retreats. Additionally, our staff in the Philippines has conducted special outreach camps at other facilities on Luzon and Cebu within the past year.
In Greece, the Cosmovision Center serves as a center for youth outreach for Greece's evangelical minority. Through sports events, ropes courses, music, and other activities, AMG's staff shares the Gospel with teenagers and young adults in this highly secular, post-Christian culture. The ministry in Greece is particularly important these days in the midst of the country's crippling financial crisis.
Ministries like these have a tremendous impact. Our workers in the Philippines report that at one recent evangelistic camp in Luzon, 69 out of 97 campers professed Christ as Savior and have been referred to local churches for ongoing discipleship.
Somphong Kongpirak, a Camp Joy alumnus, shares the following:
"Camp Joy has become my second family. Bible studies, learning new songs, celebrating birthdays, participating in sports competitions, involvement in camping activities, working on the campsite, repairing the road , and other [activities] both helped in developing my skills and introducing me to the basics of Christian Service.
"One of the things that God has blessed me with during my stay with Camp Joy was the burden for the salvation of others. Two years ago, one of my brothers came to stay with me, and he has now trusted Jesus as his Savior. My other brother came to stay with me last year, and last month, he trusted Jesus as Savior during one of the Sunday Bible studies at the Camp Joy Fellowship Center."
As powerful as Christian camping can be for impacting children and youth around the world, it is severely underfunded and underappreciated by most Americans. Even at AMG, as we strive to develop these ministries, we struggle to find partners willing to support camping.
Looking to the future of God's Church around the world, reaching children, youth, and young adults is crucial-it has been well observed that "the church is always only one generation away from extinction." If we don't share the great love of Christ with the youth of the world, others with false beliefs are always ready to win them to their side.
Think back to the spiritual growth you or your children experienced through Christian camping and the lessons from those times that still resonate today. Think about the value you would place on sending your kids or grandkids to a solid camp this summer where they would be taught Scripture and encouraged in their relationship with God.
For just a fraction of the cost of sending someone to a Christian camp here in the U.S., you can make a tremendous difference in the life of a youth through AMG's camping ministry. Please consider partnering with AMG to help extend this blessing to thousands of kids in Europe, Asia, and Latin America through your generous gift. When the life of a child is changed by the Holy Spirit, the Lord can do amazing things for his whole family, community, and nation.
To learn more about the AMG's camping, youth, and childcare ministries, and how you can help support this work, please visit www.amginternational.org or call 1-800-251-7206.
Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel (AMG) International is a non-denominational, international missions agency based in Chattanooga, Tenn. AMG's distinctive has always been its reliance on national workers to carry the Gospel in their own cultures. Today, they operate ministries in over 40 countries around the world through partnership with national believers.
Justin Lonas is editor of Disciple Magazine for AMG International in Chattanooga, Tenn.
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