If this picture was presented to a primary school student during an English oral exam, the child might describe it as: An image of 2 children running across neatly patterned black and white tiles, zooming past a lady who is wearing a cap and laughing as she sits cross-legged on the floor.
But is that really all there is to this picture? What if there was more to it?
Cool Camp is FGA’s annual stay-in camp for children aged 4 to 12 years old and it was recently held from 1 – 3 June at Changi Cottage. Every year, the children in Spark Kids, the children’s ministry of FGA, eagerly look forward to Cool Camp as the year’s highlight. With 3 full days of fun games, delicious food and interactive lessons learning more about God, it’s hard to imagine why children wouldn’t be excited!
This year’s theme was “FaceTime! Meeting God through His Word, every day.” Through lessons, videos, games, and an interactive walkthrough of a Tabernacle experience, the children learnt about how people in the past had FaceTime with God as they abided by strict orders throughout the Tabernacle, and how instead, today we can meet with the same holy God all the time, every day, because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.
For all the 20 over years I have been in FGA, this year was my first spending some time at Cool Camp to help out. Before I arrived at the campsite, my expectation of the camp was that it was going to be all about the children. That’s what a children’s camp is, right? Being all about the children?
But after spending the weekend at Cool Camp, my eyes opened to how I had only been seeing the camp in just one dimension. I had only been seeing what was obvious at the surface. Cool Camp really goes so much deeper and is about so many other people of all ages and walks of life coming together as a church to throb in a synchronised heartbeat.
It really is like the picture I started off with. Yes it is true – the picture does show 2 children running across neatly patterned black and white tiles, zooming past a lady who is wearing a cap and laughing as she sits cross-legged on the floor.
However what is also true, but not shown, is when this moment was captured – the time of debrief at the end of day 2 where all the volunteers sat down in a circle, waiting to start going through the next day’s activities; What is also true, but not visible, is one group of volunteers enthusiastically pointing and shouting out creative directions to the 2 kids running about. “One run from the left!”, “One run from the right!”, “Ok wait, don’t run yet!”, “Ok, both run now!”. What is also true, but not displayed, is another group of volunteers giving modelling advice to the lady in the middle as she tried various poses and asked, “Where should I look?”, “Is this ok?”, “Should I put my hand here?” What is also true, but not seen, is the multiple takes that the photographer shot, then checked, then shot again, and the unending runs that the 2 kids had to (gleefully) repeat. What is also true, but not presented, is the proud verdict “it’s a wrap!”, announced by the photographer’s trusty assistant, and the collective praise for this winning shot as the camera was passed around.
Yes, the picture does show 2 children running across neatly patterned black and white tiles, zooming past a lady who is wearing a cap and laughing as she sits cross-legged on the floor, but there were many other people, many other actions, many other conversations that had to work together to create this captured moment in time.
In the same way, whilst it may be the most straightforward to think that Cool Camp is about the children, what is also true but not as immediately thought of is the army of people who have come together from all parts of FGA to create 3 full days of a precious experience for the kids. There was the group from the Nepalese campus, the Filipino campus, and the English campus, constantly in the kitchen chopping and stirring, columns of rising steam perpetually dancing around them as they cooked meal after meal for the children; there was the group of young men and women bent over and huddled out in the heat of the day and dark of the night washing, wiping, drying batch after batch of plates, cups and utensils; there was the group of full-time working parents who came to teach from materials that they had spent time putting together prior to coming; there was the children’s ministry team and volunteers, some of whom had taken leave to be at camp, surviving on a lack of sleep but still wholeheartedly running about their duties; and then there was the team from the Salt and Light ministry who helped in the heavyweight transportation of logistics back from the campsite on a Sunday night.
While it is true that Cool Camp is a children’s camp, I now see that the camp for children is merely a by-product of the church coming together as one, selflessly bringing whatever each can contribute to love the next generation. Cool Camp, when seen for what it really is, presents a picture of the church in all its glorious beauty. It is a picture of a body built on members who give of themselves without expecting anything in return. It is a picture of a patchwork of people understanding that what unites them is stronger than what divides them. It is a picture of overflowing response to what has been done for us at the Cross – that our children will know who God is and the mighty works He has done.
Whilst the above is one of the my favourite pictures from the camp, what Cool Camp is a picture of, speaks greater volumes than what pictures we have captured of Cool Camp.
My heart has been so full watching the church in motion at the camp. I am reminded that the church is truly a beautiful thing, there is nothing like it, and I am so glad to be a part of one.
What other volunteers and attendees have to say about Cool Camp this year:
“I’m really touched to see especially the older guys in COOL Camp have understood and realised through this camp that God is actually working in their lives and calling them for something greater and for one of them, he is almost certain of what God has called him for.” – Zac Toh
“Four words sum up my experience about COOL camp 2018. God Is So Good. He is so good because He brought people from different generations to serve the next generation. Youth rise up to take care of the children and attend to their needs even late into the night. Older kids took care of younger one without anyone telling them to do so. Adults cooked late into the night so that everyone would be well fed the next day. People stepped in and helped whenever they saw a need. He is so good because He brought non-believers to the camp so that they may learn just a little more about Him and experience His goodness. Youths praying over the next generation as lives were touched, hearts were mended, souls were saved. He is so good because when weather forecast says its going to rain, He held back the rain so that kids could go outdoor to play. Everything is under His control. After six COOL camp, seeds have been sowed while some are already bearing fruits. And all praise and glory goes to Him for He is so good.”￼ – Ng Hong Kiat, Camp Commander
“Observing them I learned how to be more childlike, and during the ministry time I felt the fierce jealous love of God for the children.” – Eugene Chia
“Personally, I feel that COOL camp 2018 has been a fruitful one as the teachings have impacted the kids in their own ways.” – Nathaniel Gan
“It was my first time being a volunteer. As a participant of cool camp I never realised how much effort went into planning and preparing it. The team behind it all is very admirable, because they had to devote so much time and effort into the camp, and although they were very tired they still managed to put in all their effort and do their very best in whatever they did .” – Chloe Lee
“I am very blessed to be a part of cool camp 2018 as i have witnessed the kids really learning and drawing themselves towards God! The kids have also lived out their Godly values during the camp which makes it very touching to see them having such values even at a young age! Personally i have also learned even through serving in cool camp that the impact given by the older generation to the younger generation is really important and i am encouraged too see the kids grow up!” – Jeriel Ng