Northern Easter Camp
By Susie Vemoa
Over the Easter weekend, we were blessed to journey down to Mystery Creek in the Waikato with some five thousand other young people for Northern Easter Camp. For many young people, this camp is a huge marker on their journey of faith. It’s an extended period of time where they can step away from the pressures of the world and focus on God, surrounded by the love and support of friends. It’s a space of encouragement and learning that often leaves our young people feeling empowered and inspired to keep living for Jesus through the hardships of everyday life. Fittingly, the theme this year was ‘All In’—looking at giving our all, not just shinny-dipping. Through the lens of the Easter story, the speakers showed how Jesus exemplified an ‘all in’ life: a life fully committed to God, to his community and to the broken and lost, even through the suffering of the cross.
Something about this year was particularly special. With travel restrictions in place, there were no international speakers. Instead, the camp sought and empowered local speakers, young adults (and some not-so-young adults) who grew up in Aotearoa, who understand our culture and our spirit and who came through Easter camps themselves. It was powerful. For our rangatahi to see people on stage who have similar stories to them, to hear people who grew up down the road talk about their relationships with God, hits different. The way that the Holy Spirit moved through these stories. The haka and the waiata we sang were breathtaking, and eye-opening for many. God is doing a unique and beautiful thing here in Aotearoa.
It seems fitting that in the ‘all in’ year, us Northern and Midland youth were joined at camp by the awesome rangatahi from Central Division. It was amazing to see how the young people from across Te Ika-a-Māui came together, loosely connected through The Salvation Army, and connected over their joint passions and love for God. This was nowhere more evident than the acoustic night they put together at The Salvation Army tent one evening (only there were so many acts, it went over two evenings). Rangatahi from corps on opposite sides of the North Island performed together, and everybody supported everybody.
It was so cool for long-distance friends who met at territorial events to be able to come together again, and for new long-distance friendships to be made. It’s such a blessing to be able to attend a big camp with the rest of The Salvation Army. It makes our young people feel connected and reminds them that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
Leaving camp, I was overwhelmed by the sense that God is doing a new and powerful thing here amongst the rangatahi of Aotearoa, and specifically within the rangatahi of Te Ope Whakaora. God is bringing about beautiful connection, restoration and renewal amongst beautiful young people who aren’t afraid to follow the example of Jesus and live lives that are ‘all in’.
Southern Easter Camp
By Alison Moody
EC21 is now done and dusted! What a blast, what a ride, what a time to encounter the Holy Spirit! We had around 70 young people, leaders and youth group parents from the Southern Division gather at Spencer Park for a jungle-themed marquee atmosphere as our hangout space. We had fun in the sun setting up our tents and only had a wee bit of rain on Good Friday, which didn’t dampen our spirits.
The Big Top meeting events were a God-glorifying experience where many young people were touched by the Holy Spirit and had breakthrough moments. The mosh pit—or as it was renamed, the worship pit—was an experience. I did a little fist pumping and head banging, if you please!
There were ten first-time decisions made by our young people, so we are grateful to God for them stepping out and accepting Jesus as their personal friend and Saviour. Overall, we had a great time to encounter God, have fun, get to know each other better, not get a lot of sleep, eat Empire chicken and ride the Hurricane.
If you want to know more, ask a young person who went. Here are some quotes from the young people that came to Southern Easter Camp:
‘My first time at Easter camp and I loved it. I can’t wait for next year! The nightlife and the music were awesome, I play it all the time at home now!’—Noah
‘This was my first and last Easter Camp as youth and it was a groundbreaking experience. I could really feel God working through me during camp, especially when I was praying for my friends. It felt amazing to be able to do that for them. Big Top was by far my favourite part (other than naps) and being able to bond with our youth group even more. During Big Top we talked a lot about forgiveness, including a workshop that was held on Saturday afternoon. We discussed how to forgive yourself and how to forgive others. This has always been a hard journey for me to embark on, but Easter Camp really opened my eyes on how to even begin to do this.’—Jade
‘Easter Camp was an amazing time, like always, however this year was an extra-special year for me, as I got the courage to throw away my shame and recover my faith journey with God.’—Junho