CROSSWALK CAMP UPDATE!!!
Hello Brothers and Sisters,
This email is a bit long, but it is important. I wanted to give you all an update on Crosswalk Camp. We held our recent camp at a new facility this year – thanks to Ceeja and Lucas Malmkar who did an unbelievable amount of research to find this facility. It was absolutely beautiful, on a lake with tons of activities for young and old. We were extremely blessed to be the first camp they have ever had use their kitchen without their staff preparing and serving the meals. It was really awesome to see the attitudes change in their camp staff through the camp session. At first, they were very apprehensive about our staff coming into “their” kitchen and doing “their” jobs. But by the end of camp, their kitchen manager and our kitchen manager were fast friends, sitting down to sharing recipes and different approaches to coordinating a camp kitchen. Their camp facility manager eagerly asked us half a dozen times if we were coming back in 2018.
We knew going into this camp that the costs would be higher than our previous camp facility. We were even prepared to go in the hole a bit to provide a camp experience for the campers and staff in this part of the region. However, when it was all said and done we ended up between $7,000.00 and $8,000.00 in the red. This is something we are not able to sustain year after year. Even though we increased the price per camper and staff member to $200.00, we still fell way short. Crosswalk Camp has always been a labor of love for the Oklahoma City congregation and one of our main ministries. We have loved every moment of it and we are forever grateful to our wonderful staff throughout the years many of whom drove great distances to be able to come and serve. We have always been a camp where the staff pay as much as the campers as a gift to the campers to help keep their cost down. Almost every year, for the past 18 years, we have had a one-to-one ratio with our campers and staff members. A number of years I suggested we have half the staff members come to our May camp and the other half come to our November camp, so we didn’t burn anyone out. The reply I got was “even if we’re not officially on staff - we are still going to be here!” You’ve got to love that kind of heart and commitment to touching young people’s lives with the good news of the gospel.
After much prayer and deep discussion, we have come to the decision we will no longer be hosting Crosswalk Camp, at least in its current format. I believe God was moving us in a different direction two years ago when we lost our original camp facility. But we loved camp so much and had done it for so long we started an aggressive search for a new facility. It has now been made clear to us that we are to move in that different direction. I know this will come as a shock and disappointment to some of you, especially our faithful staff and campers. I know how it feels. I was at SEP in Orr, Minnesota when they announced that would be the last year of camp – as they were selling the camp property. Panic and deep disappointment spread across the camp. Five of us got together in one of the classrooms at Orr and before the last camp ended we made a pact that we would carry on the camp tradition and not let what God was doing through the camp environment die. So from that weekend on – plans for 5 new camps were birthed. Over the past 18 years we have grown from 5 Regional Camps to 22 Regional Camps. We are now able to serve more campers and more staff then we ever could at Orr alone. God’s ways are not our ways and His timing is definitely not our timing. With that in mind, I would like to propose a new vision and dream, not just 22 Regional Camps - but 200 local Community Camps across this nation.
One of the big challenges we have had at all of our Regional Camps is how do we connect the campers back into the life of the local church? It’s great to go to camp and have this mountaintop experience, but what happens when they go back home and for the rest of the year? Are they welcomed into ministry opportunities or leadership avenues back at their home congregation? Unfortunately in many cases they are not. Their local church perhaps doesn’t play the genre of music that speaks to them. Opportunities to serve in a ministry are often not available or easily accessible and they do not know how to get their foot in the door. The other challenge is that gathering the campers and staff one to two times a year is just not enough to build deep relationships and to help walk them through life and ministry. It is a hit and miss in way too many cases. Everyone loves camp and God uses it powerfully, because that is what God does when we seek after Him and gathering together to love and serve one another. But we believe there is an even better way. A way to engage youth and young adult leaders on a more regular basis. You see one of the problems is we are so spread out - especially in our region. People drive many hours to come to camp and this precludes us from gathering together more often throughout the year.
I propose that we facilitate a local Community Camp which would take place within the neighborhood around each of our church buildings. A camp where kids can walk to camp and would not be required to pay the high registration fees. A camp that “meets them where they are” instead of asking them to meet us where we are. This format could provide an opportunity to gather the community youth together on a monthly or at least quarterly basis, which would give a much greater chance to love them and impact their lives. I am not talking about a VBS type of event, but an actual camp like we do at Crosswalk minus the overnight stay. It is much more cost effective and greatly increases our opportunity to connect with the young people.
We plan to host our first Crosswalk Community Camp next June in our Surrey Hills community here in Oklahoma. We have already booked an elementary school gymnasium and grounds within the neighborhood of Surrey Hills. The question I have been asked more than anything else is “can people come to this camp even if they do not live in Surrey Hills?” Of course you can!! It will be open to anyone who wants to come, with the understanding you will need to provide your own housing with proper adult supervision. Former Crosswalk staff are welcome to join us as well with the same understanding regarding housing. We are still working on the details, but we are looking at a weeklong camp with the first 3-days being for teens and the second 3-days being for elementary aged youth. The last day would be a celebration service for all the campers and staff with a special invitation extended to the parents from the community. My hope is we can model what this can look like and be available to help others within the region to contextualize it for their community. Each community is unique and therefore each Community Camp will more than likely have its own uniqueness. We are not here to make “cookie cutter” camps, but we are available to assist you if you would like to join this vision in your local areas.
I believe we will look back at the idea of Community Camps and say "why didn’t we start these earlier." Now it’s important to understand if you are a small congregation or even a fellowship group and you have no youth you can still join this movement. All you need are a couple of young people (grandkids or neighbor kids will do) and you host an event locally to love and serve them. It doesn’t have to be big, but it does have to be intentional. Even taking a couple youth camping and having them invite a few friends along. One word of caution though, we do want to have good accountability and supervision at all times at these events. If this life is truly about relationships (and it is) we need to be committed to intentionally building and nurturing relationships, not only with one another, but with young people as well.
I want to conclude with this: THANK YOU SO MUCH to all our former campers and staff! We could not have done it without you. Many of our staff started off as campers and have now moved into leadership positions on staff. Some even started in Junior Camp and have now moved up to staff positions. It has been my greatest pleasure to work next to each one of you and be a part of what God has done in and through Crosswalk Camp! We have truly been blessed with good friends, brothers and sisters over the years and to love one another as we proclaim God’s love and goodness to hundreds of young people – it just doesn’t get any better than that! I believe we will not truly see the impact of our labor until we stand with Jesus Christ in His kingdom and He reveals what He was able to do in and through each one of us. Can’t wait for that day!!! God is good – ALL the time!!!!!
I love and appreciate you all more than you will ever know!
Pastor Mike Rasmussen