United Church of God

Campers in the Philippines "Remember True North"

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Campers in the Philippines "Remember True North"

Since we now live in a world that increasingly believes that there is no such thing as absolute truth, we wanted to stress that some things remain constant and never do change—God, His Word, His principles and His promises.

There were a total of 84 participants in the Philippine United Youth Camp this year. While last year we had 32 campers, this year two additional dorms of eight boy campers plus eight girl campers were added, bringing the total to 48 campers and 36 staff members (including 12 counselors).

For the sixth consecutive year, the camp was held at Eden Nature Park in Davao City, from May 13 to 20. However, members of the staff came a week earlier for camp setup and precamp training.

Upon arrival and registration, each boy camper was given two royal blue camp shirts and each girl camper was given two royal purple shirts. Each camper was also given a camp ID and assigned to one of six dorms—three boys' dorms (1B, 2B and 3B) and three girls' dorms (1G, 2G and 3G). Each dorm of eight campers (plus the counselor and the assistant counselor) stayed in tents and cooked their own food on two-burner gas stoves.

Each day began at 5 a.m. with quiet time (an hour of prayer and Bible study). Then at 6 a.m., the dorm would shower, get ready and cook their breakfast. During other meals, however, dorms would invite one another, help prepare the food and join hands in cleaning up afterward. Like a family, the campers and counselors in each dorm slept, ate, played, learned and worked together.

After breakfast, the first activity of the day was Compass Check conducted by the camp director, Edmond Macaraeg. At the first Compass Check, Mr. Macaraeg asked each camper to put on a blindfold, stand up, turn and point to the north. Then he asked everyone to remove his or her blindfold and look around to see where everyone else was pointing. It was in every direction! He said this fact illustrates the confusion that exists in this present world because Satan has blinded the minds of people to the truth. He then gave each camper a special souvenir—a carabiner key chain compass. On the back it read, "Remember True North—United Youth Camp 2007."

But there were other lessons that morning. With compass in hand, he demonstrated that even the compass needle can point to the wrong direction because of the influence of nearby materials made of iron or steel that are among the most common metals on earth. This can represent the abundance of people in this world who, if we're not careful or knowledgeable enough, can influence us in a wrong way.

Apart from that, he also demonstrated that even from some distance another strong magnet can change or even reverse the direction of a compass needle. He said this can represent the invisible but powerful influence of Satan and his demons upon humanity, to turn us away from God.

For five mornings, Mr. Macaraeg expanded on the theme and related it to the other major compass directions that many could follow and alter and affect one's true direction or purpose in life. These are: Careerism, Outside relationships, Media (music and movies, etc.), People (peers, popular ideas), Addictions, Sabbath compromise and Sexual immorality. Note that the beginning letters of each topic spell the word COMPASS, and all of them represent seven possible deviations—out of the eight major compass points. But there is only one true north.

After Compass Check, several activities were also lined up for the day: confidence course, dance, first aid, inline skating, orienteering, riflery, softball, soccer, swimming and wilderness skills. In the wilderness skills activity, each dorm hiked to the "wilderness" away from the camp and prepared their food without the regular conveniences and utensils. They cooked their rice using bamboo tubes and baked their bread without ovens. They had to build and maintain a fire to cook the barbecued chicken.

After the wilderness skills activity, each camper got to conquer his or her fears by overcoming several obstacles in the confidence course. First was the wall climb. Each camper had to climb a 40-foot-high vertical wall. After that, campers had to descend by rappelling. Then they went through the monkey bridge, the 50-meter pulley slide and then finally the much-awaited mud tunnel. The last one seemed to be, by far, the most popular. It seemed that the quality of the mud tunnel experience depended on how muddy, slimy and dirty each camper got!

On the sixth day of camp, 14 workshops were offered to pass on a marketable or useful skill. Each camper could choose to attend up to two workshops: art illustration, basic carpentry, basic home painting, basic home plumbing, beading accessories, conversational English training, cooking and baking, envelope making, etiquette and grooming, journalism, LPG/home fire safety, PA system, public speaking and silk-screen printing.

For the other evenings we had orientation night, acquaintance night, fellowship time and a Bible study open forum.

On the fourth day of camp, we had a clear, moonless night, perfect for stargazing. All the campers and staff went to the top of the hill to look up at the sky. Aided by an astronomy program running on a laptop computer and projected onto a screen through a multimedia projector, and with a 2-million-candlepower spotlight, the campers and staff were shown the different visible stars, planets and constellations, including the location of the Big Dipper and the North Star.

The evening of the fifth day of camp was the perfect follow-up to the night before. A video by the Moody Institute of Science titled The Milky Way and Beyond was shown . In just 40 minutes, the video took the viewer through a spectacular trip exploring galaxies and observing pulsars, quasars and mysterious black holes. It featured photography from the Hubble space telescope. It was very inspiring to see how majestic and limitless the universe really is. Both campers and staff had a greater appreciation for the incredible beauty and immensity of God's creation, and the fact that in spite of our present nothingness, we have the promise of ruling over God's creation and inheriting all things!

On the Sabbath, we had a challenging Bible bowl in the morning and Sabbath services in the afternoon. Florante Siopan, pastor of the Visayas congregations, gave a sermonette on "How to Handle Conflicts When They Arise," while Mr. Macaraeg gave a sermon on "Seven Keys to Making Wise Decisions."

For the final evening at camp, everyone was treated to a buffet dinner at the Lower Veranda of the Eden Nature Park. We had a formal dance and each dorm gave their best performances with cheers, yells and dorm songs. Some of the "braver" staff members even did a special dance number! This was capped by the awarding ceremonies. The camp was officially ended at midnight.

The next morning, everyone started packing. It was quite noticeable that many, if not most, of the campers had their key chain compasses hanging from their belt loops… This time, the theme wasn't just an empty phrase or slogan written on the back of their compasses, but a living phrase written in their minds and hearts as well. We hope and pray that when life gets confusing and they don't know which way to turn, they will recall United Youth Camp 2007 and "Remember True North."