Photo: Staff and interns from the Tops enjoyed the dirt bike trails at Mountain Trails Adventure School near Wee Jasper as part of their tour of Christian Camping ministries in NSW and ACT.

 

By Josh Gibbon

Seven nights, 20 hours on the road, five unique Christian camp ministries, one border-locked state, and one big, old bus named Bertha.

Each year at the The Tops we send our interns on either an international or interstate adventure to visit other Christian-camping ministries. We do this in the hope that they gain a wider and deeper perspective of what Christian camping ministry can look like in environments unique to our own. This year we had intended to head to Victoria, but in early August we realised we had to significantly shift our plans. However, what at first felt like a restriction quickly turned out to be a beautiful appointment by God in a tough year – a chance for God to refresh the perspective and passion of interns and staff by connecting with friends around our state.

Over the last eight days of August, our big, old bus trundled down highways and country roads carrying our four interns and five of our staff – bouncing along to movie soundtracks, cracking ‘jokes’ out of

 Kodie’s joke book, munching on the over-catered snack bucket, and stopping off at five of the most beautiful campsites in New South Wales. At each of these venues we were on the hunt as a team to catch what these teams and venues were all about. We wanted to know: “What makes these camping ministries tick?”

At Bluegum in Springwood, we blazed through trails on mountain bikes. At StayKCC in Katoomba, we shared a long-table feast and sat by the fire sharing stories. At CRU Camps Lake Macquarie, we canoed, tried to stand up on giant six-man paddle boards, and sat on a jetty at sunset together. At CRU 

Camps Galston Gorge, we innovated silly challenges on climbing courses and witnessed how their team present the Gospel to kids through story. And finally, at Mountain Trails Adventure School near Wee Jasper, we rode dirt bikes and horses through their stunning 9000 acres and their interns led us up to a jaw-dropping mountaintop view before dawn, where we shared a sunrise together.

Along the way, we heard incredible stories from faithful, humble women and men who had seen these ministries through many a storm. There were a few lines that fell out of their mouths that our interns held onto long after the trip:

 

          “Our motto is that we leave things better than before.”

           “I don’t want to breathe another breath without Jesus.”

           “We serve Christ by serving others.”

 

“I believe camping ministry is the most effective way of communicating the message of Jesus, and this will only increase.”

In reflection, on this trip, I feel that our small party went out like spies into the ‘promised land’ to bring back a report of the terrain. And while I could tell you of the very real giants and threat these ministries are facing in light of a pandemic, I would rather relay to you the abundance of joy, faith, and hope that these faithful people are continuing in, despite their challenges. We all returned to Tops soil reflecting to each other a deep sense of privilege to be in the ministry we are all in, encouraged and challenged by our camaraderie with great friends across our state, and all carrying new hope and ambition into this thing that we are feel more excited about than ever – camping ministry.

 

*Josh Gibbons is Intern Coordinator at The Tops

 

 

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