The number of challenges and nuanced tensions that have arisen over the past year have certainly created a context for administration that have been unexpected and sometimes overwhelming.
Last summer the decision was ultimately made to not proceed with summer camps in any of the NCEM facilities. This summer we are faced with difficult decisions once again. No one desires to cancel camp. However, it was brought to my attention very recently that there are still some misunderstandings out there in the ether about Arrowhead and our posture as a parachurch ministry in 2021. It has been my experience that for every concern that is brought to my attention there are ten more in hiding that fester and bubble up in the "later-on". With that in mind I want to take a brief opportunity bring everyone up to speed with respect to our posture as a Gospel ministry in light of Provincial guidances and plans moving into Summer, 2021.
What About Provincial Guidance?
Last summer it was announced early that summer camps would be approved to proceed with programs. However, the guidance for this was not forthcoming until the latter part of May. Because of the logistics of working with volunteers and communities, our planning typically takes place in February and March for summer camps. Once again we have been told we can have camp programs, but no guidance has been forthcoming. Yet we have to make decisions about the ministry right now for July and August.
It was said to me that if non-christian camps are running this summer, then no Christian camp has an excuse for not running a program. I can certainly understand the sentiment of this, especially in light of the idea that the Church is somehow being persecuted in ways that are above and beyond the rest of society. Fortunately, that sentiment is not an accurate picture of the situation in NB. The province has elevated the value of the Church and given extra dispensation to church for gathering. The reality is; the decision to change a program, to operate or not operate—is about the ability of each facility to adequately follow the provincial guidances. It is not a comparison across the table at other camp facilities or other churches, each ministry must determine how they can best honour God and serve the Gospel in their particular context. For example, my friends at another Bible Camp have been able to operate a half capacity camp because they have large cabins and can maintain social distancing for sleeping arrangements. We are not in as favourable a position with our cabin sizes. This is just one example of the multitude of details to be considered with respect to our program.
It is our position at ANBC that we will strive to follow the guidance of the Province with respect to Covid to the best of our ability. We believe this honours God well, and serves the Gospel in a way that rebellion would not. This may mean that our program will look different than "normal" this summer. We will celebrate whatever opportunities God sees fit for us to have and we will pursue those fervently.
No Ministry For Two Years?
It was said to me that public perception of our ministry will not tolerate another entire year with no ministry. I am thankful to say, irrespective of what may be observed by the public, the ministry has continued to grow and function throughout the pandemic. The team at ANBC has been working very hard to develop, launch and facilitate a number of ministry initiatives aside from Summer Camps. The initial vision of the missionaries who founded and named Arrowhead Native Bible Centre was that it grow and flourish in a number of areas. For anyone who has read our Field Notes over the past 2 or 3 years, you will know that we have a variety of ministry arms serving a variety of purposes; podcasting, bookstore, pastoral care, compassionate care, Mission Barrel, these things continue to flourish and fill out the ministry. We are not idle at ANBC.
The fact of the matter is, we have always believed that these ministries belong to God. He provides the staff, He provides the financing, He governs the Government that allow us to operate, He provides safety and camp speakers. This summer is no different. We are diligently striving to plan a program, but ultimately God will see His ministry run this summer as He sees fit. It is our desire to simply follow Him in obedience. In the same way that we have never measured the success of our camps on the number of campers that come, we do not measure it by it’s traditional function — it is not something less if it is done in a different way. The success of our camp is found in the clarity and consistent presentation of the message of the Gospel .
What About Staff?
The reality is that our programs all run on the faithful service of volunteers. Without the loving labours of those who wish to see the Gospel go forward we cannot run any programs. Many of our volunteers in recent years have come from Ontario, which will undoubtedly not be an option this year - and even if it does become an option it will in all likelihood be far too late to find anyone who has not already filled out their summer commitments. We are relying entirely on volunteers from NS and NB this year. This reality has an impact on what programs we are able to run in compliance with our own regulations.
What Does it All Mean?
Certainly, our hearts desire would be to have a "normal" summer and normal camps. We love camp and we want nothing more than to see camps flourish and grow. We value the gospel highly and want to see it transmitted clearly and in a way that brings glory and honour to God. As we pursue the camps for 2021 and seek to follow guidances from the province, our hearts are striving to be settled in obedience to God, not rebellion and bitterness. We would love for you to consider joining us for a week this summer to assist us in running a week of programs. It may be day camps, it may be a micro camp, it might be a full on regular camp, perhaps a family camp or even a camp out. We will know the full nature of what the schedule will look like in coming days.
As you pray, please consider all of the summer bible camp ministries in Atlantic Canada and across the nation this summer as we struggle to make decisions. That we would have wisdom and clarity and that our primary focus would be bringing glory to our Good and Holy God.