There was definitely an international flavor this year, with representatives from Tonga, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The theme was "Developing Godly Character," with the Christian Living classes and sermons on both Sabbaths focusing on different areas within this topic.
We hit the ground running with activities kicking off just a few hours after all the campers had arrived. Some activities were old favorites, including dance, softball, Christian Living and speech club, but there were plenty of new things to try out such as raft-building, ultimate Frisbee and T-shirt printing.
One of the most popular activities was the challenge hike, which tested not only the campers' physical stamina but also their mental and spiritual strength as they battled against Haman, clung desperately to their entry points into the Kingdom of God and decided whether or not to accept the mark of the Beast!
Hike coordinator Stephen Clark explained the purpose of the challenges: "In some ways, doing something like [this] has more of an effect on our learning than a Bible study or a Christian Living class."
Another great highlight was the ever-popular speech night in which campers addressed diverse topics such as the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, how to have a positive attitude and a hilarious explanation of why everyone should attend the Merimbula Feast site.
One evening saw the culmination of all the teams' efforts in drama classes, with highly entertaining performances of famous Bible stories. Some of these stories took on a new twist, including David telling Saul about the lions and bears that stole his KFC, and Jacob giving Joseph a hat of many colors!
Two of the older campers also had the opportunity to give a sermonette on the two Sabbaths during camp. David Fawcett from Queensland spoke about his experiences at the United Youth Camp in the Philippines, and James Moore from New Zealand spoke about the importance of standing up for the truth.
The last night ended our very successful camp with the traditional formal dinner, awards and dance competition.
The following comments summarize the good things that came out of the Australian summer camp:
"We saw how to apply God's way of life in everyday circumstances."
"As parents, we hear some of the camp stories from our kids. Yet we are only seeing the tip of an iceberg. The lessons taught, the challenges faced, the relationships which are built and the dedication of the staff combine to produce an atmosphere that is memorable, encouraging and heartening."
"For 10 days I was surrounded by peers who held similar Christian beliefs and moral standards to me, and for that I am blessed. One of our Tongan brothers summarized how everyone felt in his final good-bye speech. At camp we are all the same. There are no different races. This is our family. This is God's family."