The Local Impact of Camping Ministry: Camp AREV Celebration Message
Message delivered by Minister to the Union Rev. Hendrik Shanazarian during the August 27, 2022 Camp AREV Ribbon Cutting Celebration, featuring the newly renovated/expanded Lodge, new Central Courtyard, new Soccer Field, and Staff House:
We are here to celebrate another great day in the history of Camp AREV. Many of us are living testimonies of the impact of camping ministry. We believe in the ministry of Camp AREV, and that’s why we are here. I am tasked to share a few thoughts about the local impact of camping ministry.
In English, we have the expression “mountain-top experience.” It is from the Bible, because of God’s interactions with His people on different mountain tops. God made a covenant with Noah on Mount Ararat. Abraham was asked to offer a specific sacrifice on a mountain. Later, Solomon built a temple on Mount Moriah. God gave Moses the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. Elijah challenged the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Jesus taught His disciples on the Mount of Olives, and He himself was transfigured on a mountain. Before ascension, Jesus met with his disciples on a mountain and sent them to go and make disciples and promised them that He would come back. These are just a few examples of God using a mountain location to impact peoples’ lives and the lives of those around them when they returned to their valleys.
The most common response kids give when asked how their camping experience was is, “It was fun.” Such a superficial evaluation has caused critics to see camping ministry as merely songs and games, theologically shallow, leading to emotionally-induced changes that can quickly fade away.
Cutting the Ribbon to the new Lodge, left to right: Minister to the Union Rev. Hendrik Shanazarian, Master Plan architect Ariel Babikian, General Contractor Kalem Kazarian, Building Committee Chair George Phillips, Jr., Camp AREV Committee Chair Levon Filian, and Camp AREV Executive Director Rev. Razmig Minassian
Camp goers, including many of us present today, prove the critics wrong. Individual testimonies and data gathered show that the impacts of camping experiences are significant, transformative and long-lasting. Christian camps, including Camp AREV, have the following characteristics: relational, a safe space, participatory, different from home, faith centered, an amazing atmosphere where the message of the Gospel and prayerful teaching of the Scripture can change lives and transform people. Parents consistently express joy that their children seem happier after returning from camp. Many note that they sing the camp songs around the house. Some parents identify changes like increased self-confidence, independence, and care for others. Others identify positive changes related to faith, including more frequent faith practices (especially prayer and Bible reading), willingness to discuss topics of faith, and desire to attend church.
In many cases, one week of camping experience continues to affect participants long afterward, and this impact extends to family members, congregations, and others in their networks. Many of us present here - pastors, lay leaders and volunteers - are living witnesses to the life-changing impact of the camping ministry in our personal lives and our ministry. Many of us started a deeper relationship with the Lord and have made lifelong best friends, and in some cases found our life partners.
Today is a great opportunity to praise God for Camp AREV and its ministry, and an opportunity to support Camp AREV to continue its wonderful ministry of bringing more people closer to God and to each other, and having a lasting impact on lives of individuals, our churches, and our community at large.