Camp GC: Fun and Spirit-Filled
The 2023 Camp GC at General Council is not only entertaining kids, but it's teaching them about ministry and opening opportunities to encounter the Holy Spirit.COLUMBUS, Ohio — The road through Camp GC, the daily camp for kids offered during the 60th General Council, is filled with fun like most camps, but how it incorporates missions, ministry, and the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit is what makes the camp not only fun, but potentially lifechanging.
Jen Whalen, Project and Events coordinator for AG Kidmin, partners with Julie Pratt, director of Discipleship for AG National Children’s Ministries, to direct Camp GC located in the Hyatt hotel connected to the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Whalen said that the 425 campers, kindergarten through sixth grade, and the 55 children’s leaders from across the country volunteering at the camp are a unique mixture of children’s leaders and kids who come nearly exclusively from ministers’ homes.
As a result, in addition to traditional camp activities such as crafts, games, and inflatables, kids get to meet with missionaries, create items for the missionaries to distribute to individuals they minister to, and attend chapel with AG U.S. missionaries Tim and Marcia Jones and their fun-loving rabbit puppet aptly named “Rabbit.”
Each camper also received a BGMC cinch sack, a Buddy Barrel, a themed T-shirt, the new Made for This devotional/activity book, an AGUSM coloring book, daily lunch, and a name badge with lanyard to collect pins on that are distributed throughout the week.
“This year’s theme is Route 4:23, taken from Proverbs 4:23 to guard your heart,” Whalen said. ”We have road trip themes for each day and kids are one of eight teams, such as the Transformed Truckers, Believing Bicyclists, and the Mighty Mopeds.”
And the kids? They love Camp GC.
Brinley, who’s 8, comes from Orange, Massachusetts, and she said she really enjoys Camp GC.
“I think the activities are really fun,” she said. “Chapel services are really fun too; I like the music and the funny rabbit (a puppet).”
Abigail, who’s 6, is from Levittown, Pennsylvania. She has already had a lot of fun at Camp GC.
“I like the games and the gaga ball and when we sing songs,” she said. She added that one thing she really liked about chapel was writing a letter to Jesus where she thanked Him for forgiving her sins.
The fun and engagement are practically non-stop, including chapel, so Camp GC also offers the Quiet Zone for kids.
“The Quiet Zone and Activity Room is primarily for kids with special needs,” said U.S. missionary Bob Aston, who volunteers with his wife, Lynn. “We have hammocks and sensory/tactile toys for kids to use. And sometimes kids who simply get a bit overwhelmed or have separation anxiety and need a break or just need to get away for a while come over here.”
However, few things leave a bigger impression on kids than the Camp GC chapel services. Opportunities to express their thoughts to Jesus in a number of different ways, including writing a letter to Jesus, are part of the experience.
On Wednesday afternoon, the service offered high-energy action songs that focused on God and faith, followed by the appearance of Rabbit and his wildly fun interactions with PT (Pastor Tim) that left kids laughing and singing along to some of Rabbit’s made-up songs.
But along the way, Rabbit and PT began discussing the thought of “needing a fill-up,” as kids need to be filled up with the Holy Spirit every day. The mood in the room, still upbeat and fun, began to shift as the pair began discussing how God sent the Holy Spirit to help kids and give them power to be witnesses for Him.
After Rabbit’s departure, and an object lesson with an illusion that communicated how the Holy Spirit continues to pour into a person’s life as they ask for a “fill up,” the mood continued to grow more serious as Jones spoke about how the Holy Spirit wanted to pour himself into kids’ lives.
Sharing how speaking in tongues is the sign that you’ve been “filled up,” Jones revealed that the Holy Spirit does so many things including helping them understand and know Jesus better, understand Scripture better, guide them into truth, and so much more.
After having the kids list off the fruits of the Spirit, Jones said, “When we’re full of the Holy Spirit, the fruits (of the Spirit) begin to grow faster and stronger in your lives.”
The concluding altar service saw the altar full of elementary-age kids and their leaders, lifting their hands, praying for a filling or a refilling of the Holy Spirit – not just for a few moments, but nearly half an hour of praise and worship -- with kids receiving the Baptism.
“I heard a story a few minutes ago of a young girl who was checking out of Camp GC for the day,” Whelan said. “When her mom picked her up, she told her that during chapel, she stayed at the altar for a long time. Then she said, ‘I can speak in another language now!’ That little girl was baptized in the Holy Spirit!”
Whalen notes that ministry life isn’t always easy, including for ministry kids.
“For us to take this camp and focus on these children — helping them to develop and grow spiritually — is an incredible personal blessing.”