Laurie Salmon is a member of the Board of Directors of The Renewal Fellowship, a dietetic assistant with Hamilton Health Services and an avid camper.
From the time we were married it's been a tent, a Coleman stove and lantern, a cooler full of food and off we go. Our family looks forward to sharing a tent, and returning to the basics of eat, sleep, exercise and exploring creation for one or two weeks each summer. Almost anywhere will do.
First it's just to "get away from it all," but camping is really an opportunity to enjoy our family without the distractions of school, work and church schedules. Recently we have enjoyed these pleasures at Dorothy Lake Family Camp just north of Kirkland Lake.
Our first year I was less than enthusiastic… How many miles?… How long will it take? We'll drive it while the kids sleep? Six a.m., Where are we? Just coming into New Liskeard. Sun's coming up! Tim Horton's ahead… ready for breakfast? No, We're not there yet… just another hour and a half to go.
At Dorothy Lake the beauty of Northern Ontario is enjoyed in the sun amongst the birch and pine trees, in the call of the loons, in the silence of evening as the sun leaves the lake or in "just one more swim" in the lake. Who needs a clock when you have God's creation to bring you to your senses as the sun makes its way into your tent or cabin in the morning and you hear the sound of the loon on the lake?
Family camping at Dorothy Lake is different from camping at a provincial park. Here we find ourselves surrounded with the support of others who are also growing in faith and striving for community in the body of Christ. Here we have found community in love shared between parents, children, grandparents, canoe instructors, study leaders and cooks.
Over the past three summers, we have been able to teach our children camp crafts. Selecting and setting up a campsite, complete with tarps for shelter from the elements (how do you get a rope that far up a tree without a ladder?). Building and controlling a campfire; water safety; canoeing; proving those PFDs really do help you float. Discovering that if we all work together the meal gets on the table faster and somehow tastes better than it does at home. Chores are a part of life and can be fun when we're all doing it together.
The best part is how informal the learning and sharing can be. Morning and afternoon Bible studies or discussion times are decided amongst the participants, leaving the rest of the day's activities subject to weather and ambition. Whether Bible studies are structured to include the children or divided into age groups, capable staff provide valuable instruction, often with the results being reviewed at the evening program. I have particularly enjoyed the insights shared at the intergenerational Bible study, dealing with topics relating to everyday life.
A unique quality of camp life involves the lake where swimming, lying on the dock or canoeing can be enjoyed. For swimmers up to a challenge there is the "Point Swim" across the lake. For others who are more confident the "Three Point Swim" is the highlight of their camping experience. Less than a twenty-minute paddle will find you on the opposite shore and depending on you energy level, you can complete the perimeter in 60-90 minutes.
This past year we enjoyed the benefits of a qualified canoe instructor. Not only did "Canoe Bill" refresh our canoe skills but, he taught the children the parts of the canoe, strokes, canoe safety, how to swamp a canoe and how to right and re-enter a swamped canoe. The canoe swamping became the preferred activity of every session… for the kids. At the end of the week, all ages enjoyed an afternoon canoe expedition that took us across several beaver dams, portages and isolated lakes. The treasures we discovered!
Evening program is an informal time of activities that encompass anything from campfire singing and skits, to board games, puzzles and story telling. Snack and devotions always round out the evening, leaving you with the sense that "Day is done… All is well, safely rest, God is nigh."
For us Dorothy Lake Family Camp has been fun, full of discovery and a time of renewal.
Family Camping Journal
The weeks of planning and waiting are over. We're ready for the highlight of our summer. A week at Dorothy Lake Family Camp, enjoying swimming, canoeing and Bible study. We arrive to warm welcomes from friends we have made on previous camp weeks.
After a good night's sleep, resulting in sleeping in late due to a faulty watch, the entire group of adults and children gather together for our study. Calvin Brown introduced the theme of "Persecuted Christians" in different countries. My heart sinks, I don't want to hear about this, it makes me feel uncomfortable, I feel helpless. Then I feel guilty because I know I should have more compassion for my family in Christ.
Calvin recounts how the communists in North Korea deceive children into revealing their parents own a Bible. The parents are imprisoned and the children are taken away to live with communist families. Families are torn apart and lives ruined. Forty years later this particular child finds the peace of Jesus Christ. My stomach tightens as the story unfolds, my heart aches for the little girl and her parents. I am relieved to hear Christians in Canada have been able to make a difference through Canadian Foodgrains Bank. But what am I doing?
Persecuted Christians may not have a Bible, or be allowed to have a Bible. So they must memorize portions of it, so as a group they have the entire gospel. They meet together to share their portion of the gospel. Our challenge this week is to memorize the gospel of Mark. Each family group has been assigned a chapter to recount to the rest of the group. This morning we share the first 7 chapters. People are feverishly trying to memorize their portion this morning. Nervousness, anticipation and even a little fear fill the air as we assemble. Everyone knows their part and presents it well. There's a certain amount of pride in knowing Scripture by heart.
Each day we have participated in an activity to help understand the trials of Christians. Hiding a Bible while transporting it to other Christians, or hiding a group of Christians from the authorities. Today we are fleeing our country as refugees on our canoe excursion. At least this year there weren't any portages or beaver dams, but there was wind.
We have heard stories from Nigeria, Sudan and now India. Each time the situation is so unfair. Rules are made because a group or government is afraid of losing their power. The oppressed are so faithful, so determined. I feel guilty because I have not had to defend my faith in such a way. Life has been relatively "easy" for me. Yet I fear that one day soon, I am going to meet these same challenges. Will I be strong enough, faithful enough? Will I be a foolish bridesmaid and run out of oil when the groom returns? I don't want to be. I want to serve the Lord (my Lord) well. Have faith. Trust him to provide.
A day of accomplishments. Today, we presented the entire book of Mark to one another. Last night in our tent, we reviewed our chapters whittling our stories down to headlines and a one sentence explanation. This has been a good activity as a family, encouraging one another as we work to accomplish such a beneficial task. Everyone no matter the age was able to participate. As a group we were able to recount all 16 chapters in an hour and 15 minutes.
Earlier in the week we had tried to send words of encouragement from the Bible, by balloon, as South Korean Christians have for North Koreans. But our balloons snagged in the birch trees when the wind changed direction. (Birch trees are very difficult to climb due to their smooth bark and lack of limbs lower down.) This resulted in a week's attempts to free the balloons from their entrapment. One balloon was freed after repeated hits from a tennis ball launched by an elaborate slingshot, those kids sure learned a lot about engineering.