The Army’s annual creative arts camp was about good times and God times.
‘This is who we are.’ But just what or who is that, you may ask? Well, that was the theme of our annual Territorial Creative Arts Camp, Amplify, held at Silverstream Retreat in mid-January.
Affectionately referred to on social media as ‘#Amplify17’, Amplify was seven days of learning, teaching, hanging out and Jesus. Campers went to classes for their choice of majors and minors, Bible studies, workshops, danced a lot in Night Church, and learnt a heap about Jesus. This was the eighth camp run by the Amplify Team, made up of staff members from the Territorial Youth Department and the Creative Ministries Department.
In the Territorial Youth Department we fondly use the phrase ‘good times and God times’. At the forefront of the Amplify Team’s mind is to create a space where young people encounter God with other young people and have a good time doing that.
Bradley Griffiths says, ‘The best thing for me was hanging out with other Christians on the same journey as me. Our corps is running low on youth, so this was a great time to spend some time with people my age on a similar walk as me.’
From the outset of Amplify way back in 2010, God has been changing the lives of Salvation Army young people in a powerful way. Naomi Tong says, ‘Amplify was an amazing experience that inspired me to truly live my life out loud and use the gifts God has given me for his purpose.’
Night Church challenges
Inspired by Salvation Army youth worship band Bearers’ song ‘This Is Who We Are’, identity and finding out who we are as children of God—created in God’s image—framed the week’s spiritual learning.
Guest speaker Eric Himes from the USA Central Territory (based in Chicago) delivered three challenging messages at camp favourite Night Church.
He explained to campers that they were perfectly loved and known by God as God's child and that everyone had a special part in the body of Christ. Eric challenged us to go into our own communities and show our neighbours what joy looks like. He emphasised that the point of The Salvation Army is to win the whole world for Jesus—and that starts where we are.
Reuben Crowe says, ‘I really dug what Eric says about the potential of a seed (being planted in our communities) becoming a forest, and not just a tree. I had been feeling a bit stale and down, but after the first Night Church God really helped me feel energised and renewed about my faith and my life.’
Captain Kylie Tong spoke one night about being God’s workmanship, created to do good things for his kingdom and how God has put us uniquely together just the way we are.
The idea of ‘identity’ and who we are in Christ spoke deeply into the hearts of Amplify’s young people and their leaders. Anna Christiansen says, ‘One thing that stuck out to me from Night Church was the fact that we are God’s workmanship, we are the canvas and God is the artist. You just need to be you, not anyone else but you.’
This was also evident for Frances Raikadroka, who says, ‘At camp I really felt Jesus telling me that he loves us no matter what we’ve done—we are beautiful because we were made in God’s image.’ The encounter of the Holy Spirit for young people was real, alive and active, sending young people back to their communities and homes with fervour to make the name of Christ known.
Lots to learn
‘I learnt so much through my major and minor,’ says Patrick Bray. Throughout the week at Amplify, campers participated in a major, a minor, Bible studies and workshops. With majors and minors ranging from music performance, to art, to hospitality, to dance, to DIY, to sports and more, everyone’s interests were catered for.
Christina Packer says, ‘I learnt so many new ways of expressing myself through art.’ While Bennett Collings says, ‘I really enjoyed my major, which was sport ministries, as I met lots of new people through it.’
Campers were encouraged that ministry comes in many forms and can be expressed in so many different ways. ‘I enjoyed seeing everyone succeed at finding a unique way to worship God that they enjoyed,’ says Ben Walker.
This is where Amplify really excels—allowing young people to find how they can use their talents and potential, not as copies of others, but as their own special and unique selves. Youth worker Susie Wells enjoyed seeing this in action. ‘It was especially awesome to see the young people embracing and using their
God-given talents for the glory of God,’ she says.
Each day, campers and staff dug deeper into the word of God through Bible studies. Their Bible study groups became a place to meet new people, share testimonies and wrestle with questions of life and faith. Anita White found them really useful. ‘I loved growing in my faith with God through Night Church and Bible studies.’
Saturday evening’s Exhibition Night was the culmination of a week of learning. With hearty cheering and support from campers and staff as well as online viewers via livestream (for the first time!), campers exhibited their talents, gifts and new skills.
Commissioner Andy Westrupp says, ‘I was blown away by the level of talent and self-organisation of our people at Amplify. There was a great sense of encouragement for everyone to contribute on one hand, and honest celebration of excellence on the other.’
Raymond Tuala says Exhibition Night was the highlight of the whole camp for him. ‘The hard work of everyone at camp being shown off at the end of camp was awesome, as well as the aroha everyone had for each other’s work.’
The future is bright
It was a real privilege to have Eric Himes with us for seven days. Reflecting on what Amplify meant to him, Eric says, ‘You truly have an amazing experience in Amplify. I was so blessed to witness such a talented group of youth and staff coming together to grow in their faith, refine their gifts and experience the Body of Christ.
‘I believe that The Salvation Army is an idea, and it belongs to anyone who can make it real. On a personal level God used Amplify to reassure me that he continues to refine and use “the idea” known as “The Salvation Army” to further his Kingdom. I’m not sure you really know how creative and excellent your territory really is, but if Amplify is any indication of God’s work in New Zealand, you are positioned for great things!’
Still true to its founding vision, Amplify creates a space where young people are equipped to meet their full potential and identity in Christ, learn how to serve as God has shaped them, and gain tools to implement these in their own communities.
The Amplify team is stoked to send young people home with lives changed and a sense of excitement and passion for ministry and the future.
Territorial Youth Programme Coordinator Ben Maxwell says, ‘The Army of today is in safe hands with this generation of young people, who know who they are in Christ and what they are capable of. I’m so excited to see what comes into fruition as they go back into their communities and corps ready to engage in ministry.’
There are young people within this Army who are hungry for God and excited to make God’s name known. That can only be a good thing, so please keep praying for all our young people as they grow in their respective faith journeys and ministries.