[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in September 2007. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

Seminary Students Practice Ministry at Camp

By Laura Lehman Amstutz

Mark and Sarah Schoenhals
Mark and Sarah Schoenhals led canoeing camps at Beaver Camp in the Adirondacks of New York state.

HARRISONBURG, Va. - Students are back to books and studies, but six Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) students have recent memories of fireside talks, hiking, and canoeing.

This summer six EMS students were involved in some form of camping ministry. Mark and Sarah Schoenhals were wilderness trip leaders for Beaver Camp in Lowville, NY. Mike and Risha Metzler were speakers at Victory Bible Camp in Sutton, Alaska. Linetta Ballew continued her regular ministry as year-round program director at Brethren Woods camp in Keezletown, Va. and Tamara Gill spent her summer helping at camps in Virginia and Ohio.

"I'm not sure if there's another form of ministry that's more holistic," said Mark Schoenhals."Camping ministry engages one's mind and spirit, of course, but it also engages all the senses, involves lots of physical activity and provides plenty of time to be refreshed outdoors."

The Schoenhals' spent six of their seven weeks at camp leading outpost and canoeing camps. They taught students outdoor living skills like firebuilding, and map and compass use. Their camps also included rock climbing and rappelling.

"During all of these trips we wore a lot of different hats," said Sarah, "camp counselor, planner/organizer, cook, nurse, lifeguard and fireside speaker. It never got boring."

As speakers at Victory Bible Camp, Mike and Risha Metzler prepared and spoke to anywhere from 15-70 sixth through ninth graders every evening.

"Using Simon Peter's growing relationship with and understanding of Jesus, we talked about what it means to 'journey with Jesus,'" said Mike, "We also talked about our own journeys with Jesus."

Mike and Risha Metzler
Mike and Risha Metzler were speakers at Victory Bible Camp in Sutton, Alaska, 2.5 hours northeast of Anchorage.

"Camping ministry is about authenticity," Mike continued, "The close quarters of camp means that you learn to know people as they truly are, without the facades we usually wear and the individual schedules we usually keep."

Linetta Ballew is involved in camp ministry year-round as a program director for Brethren Woods, with most of her efforts focused on preparing for the summer camping program.

"There are more hours in a week of camp than the total number of hours of Sunday School in a year," said Ballew "so Christian camps have a huge responsibility in the areas of Christian education and faith development."

"Outdoor ministry provides an opportunity for children, youth and adults to live together in Christian community," continued Ballew, "At camp they learn that being a Christian is supposed to be fun."

"After two years of study and books, it was wonderful to be physically active in the outdoors and do ministry at the same time," said Mark. "This summer was very refreshing for me."

posted 8/29/07