Hundreds of Salvation Army youth had full hearts, full tummies and were filled-up by the Holy Spirit at this year’s Easter Camps around the country.
Ko Ihu Karaiti e: Northern and Midland Divisions
About 250 Salvation Army youth and leaders considered Jesus’ call to ‘Haere Mai—come follow me’, as part of the 5000-strong Northern Easter Camp, run by Baptist Youth Ministries at Mystery Creek in Hamilton. The Sallies tent was set up like ‘Nana’s Whare’, where ‘Haere Mai, welcome, come as you are’ was the warm invitation to all.
Being part of a 5000 person haka during worship was a very powerful moment, says Divisional Youth Secretary (DYS) Captain Naomi Holt. The rallying cry was:
Ko wai te Kaiwhakaora [who is the Saviour],
Ko Ihu Karaiti e [It is Jesus Christ],
Ko te ihi, te wehi, te wana [his Sovereignty, his Supremacy, whom we fear],
Ko Ihu Karaiti e [It is Jesus Christ].
‘With everyone crying out together the atmosphere shifted, and God really started moving following this,’ Naomi recalls. ‘Seeing our youth groups circle up with arms around one another, praying for each other, was another highlight. One youth group had as many as eight decisions made for Christ.’
‘Tribal Wars’ was ‘an experience like no other’, says Claire Gardner of the Territorial Youth Department. As 10,000 feet stomped in anticipation around her, she found herself thinking: ‘What on earth is going on? The opening bars of the classic 80s anthem “The Final Countdown” began and the whole place erupted with people lifting their chairs above their heads and cheering!’
For Midland DYS Lieutenant Jordan Westrupp, it’s all about the personal stories: ‘I’m excited and celebrating the stories that are trickling in about young people who reached out to God and made decisions to follow Jesus. Youth groups prayed over each other, some for the first time. A young woman proudly boasted on social media that she “met God” at camp! Another posted that they’d “felt peace like never before”. And another young man explained that while he knew hope was real for some people, he’d never experienced that realisation for himself—until Easter Camp.’
Feeling Full: Central Division
‘Experiencing the fullness of Easter means reflecting on what Jesus did for us on the cross, but also considering what that means for us in our daily lives,’ says Divisional Youth and Children’s Mission Director Kate Geddes, who spent Easter with 140 Central Division youth at Silverstream Retreat in Upper Hutt.
This year’s theme was ‘Fullness’ and featured Salvation Army speakers, as well local young adult leaders Maddy Lopdell (Miramar Corps) and Chris and Alannah Moody (Palmerston North Corps) who shared their testimonies. ‘We also had an incredible Creative Team made up of young adults who not only set the scene with their amazing design creativity, but their tech abilities and musical talents inspired us to honour God,’ says Kate.
For her, the highlight was observing God’s deep work in young people over Easter. ‘There was a palpable spiritual intimacy at camp this year with a significant number of first-time decisions, as well as special encounters with God for others.’
Lots of crazy fun was also there in ‘fullness’, of course! Stuart Irwin and the youth services team led the charge on Friday night with a big game that involved pool noodles and (clean) rolled up nappies as weapons of mass destruction!
Waving the Flag: Southern Division
For Southern DYS Alison Moody, a personal highlight was seeing many of the Army’s 150 young people freely express themselves in worship, as part of the 3000 crowd at Spencer Park in Christchurch. ‘Some of our young people who have struggled to express praise to God were dancing and lifting their hands and voices! It was such a blessing to see this freedom.’
When speaker Liam Cadigan of Elim Church quoted Salvation Army founders William and Catherine Booth during his message, ‘our young people cheered and were so encouraged! It was such a thrill to see our flag being waved high and proud in the Camp Big Top’.
A very special formal family dinner took place in the Sallies Marquee on the Saturday night. Beautiful settings adorned the tables, complete with grape juice in fluted glasses. ‘It was a hoot lining up in the usual camp food queues in our best digs with everyone wondering what we were up to,’ Alison says. ‘But it was a special time for us as a Southern Sallies family to share a meal and celebrate being together.’
Alison was especially excited by the four first-time decisions made at camp—one by an Aspire student, signalling the spiritual momentum gained by the programme.
‘It’s such a privilege to serve the youth of the South. I love being “Mum” to so many young people. Each one carries something special—I can see it! My prayer is that they would recognise it too,’ Alison affirms.
Captain Mat Badger was at all three camps during Easter: ‘I was chuffed to observe an experienced youth worker spending time with a new Christian, explaining how to read the Bible and use the resources he’d been given.
‘Youth work is complex, and the needs of young people are diverse and varied, but the opportunity to sit down and pray with a new Christian—to be part of that divine exchange—well there’s nothing like it, and I was thrilled for both parties.
‘The gospel message is timeless and tireless, and still transforming lives,’ says Mat, grinning ear-to-ear. ‘I was tired by the end, but my heart was full.’