“Christian Camps and Conferences, Inc. is a non-profit foundation with the mission to foster vibrant Christian communities in awe-inspiring outdoor settings where young people are spiritually transformed through Christ-centered relationships.”
The place to begin in understanding the distinctive methods of Moose River Outpost is with the Mission Statement of Christian Camps and Conferences, Inc.
Like all of the ministries of CCCI, Moose River outpost exists to introduce people to Jesus Christ, to help them begin a discipleship relationship with Him, and to assist them in building the tools they will need to sustain that relationship. In short, at Moose River Outpost, we are working to build godly men and women. By using the wilderness camping environment we not only build their knowledge of God, but also holistically build their confidence, their ability to operate in community, their respect for Creation, and other skills necessary for the sustenance of their faith away from camp.
As believers and followers of Christ, we recognize that these goals can be reached in a number of ways. However, as a community of believers called specifically to the task of Christian wilderness camping, we are committed to pursuing our goals in ways that make full use of the breathtaking stage of Creation.
With that in mind, we must be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of the wilderness environment. As long as there has been developed land, there has been wilderness, and its basic traits have not changed. Wilderness locations are places where God’s creation remains untouched for all to see its beauty; and for people from developed areas to exist there, their lifestyle must undergo elemental changes. These two truths generate the realities of ministry in the wilderness setting. In nearly every case, they create an environment conducive to our goal of developing godly men and women, but they also dictate a thoughtful and measured approach to ministry.
God’s creation cannot help but declare His majesty, power, creativity, and love (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20). For this reason the many activities campers engage in at Moose River Outpost are designed to generate an ongoing sense of appreciation for, amazement at, and enjoyment of Creation. Coupled with sound Biblical teaching, immersion in Creation is a powerful agent of change in the lives of campers. We must remember, however, that not everyone who sees God’s workmanship recognizes His signature. Our job as ministers of the gospel means we must work with campers to help them recognize God’s touch when they see it. Our job as stewards of this earth is to teach campers to appreciate it and participate in sustaining its beauty for years to come.
Wilderness, by definition, is an untamed place, away from regular human habitation. This means that when campers arrive on site, they are entering into an experience that bears little resemblance to their daily activities at home. This provides an opportunity for instruction that is so key as to form the hinge on which successful camp ministry turns. When campers are living successfully away from home, they have an opportunity to look back on their habits, communities, and lifestyles from a relatively objective point of view, as if seeing their own lives “from the outside looking in.” If, during this time, campers are also receiving sound teaching and being immersed in the truth of scripture, then they are fully equipped to clearly see their need for life change and even salvation. This is a huge opportunity to help campers see and learn for themselves the truths that, in most other circumstances, they can only hear about through spiritual teachers or family members. Of course, if their recognition of the need for change is internal, they are far more likely to find the internal motivation to actually effect that change.
We must be careful as responsible caregivers and leaders to allow any spiritual development that happens at camp to be truly generated by the campers themselves. Because campers are away from the normal support of home and routine, they are certainly open to new ideas. However, staff members at MRO must be sure that campers approach these ideas with their minds engaged. If we press salvation or spiritual growth on our campers, we risk setting up a camper for failure after he or she has left the camp environment. This can result in a bitterness toward camp, or far worse, a bitterness toward Christianity.
To allow the MRO wilderness experience its full potency, we must maintain our camp culture in a way that reflects relevance to the contrasting culture from which our campers emerge, but is not colored by its influence. This is easily and naturally done by simply centering our culture around the very thing that makes us different: our wilderness location. The outdoors naturally generate an atmosphere that is challenging, demands cooperation, and allows for continuous adventure and development. The activities at camp are oftentimes a little strange by normal cultural standards, but this is exactly what makes them effective in building godly men and women while also showing them a great time.
Behind each of these principles there is an underlying need that will define the success or failure of camp at any given time. This is the need for a staff dedicated to Christ and to their campers. Our teaching can be Biblically sound, but if our staff do not put it into action, no camper will follow their lead. Most individuals who have been to camp can name every counselor they have ever had years after they left. The words that we teach are valuable, but it is the lives that we model in front of campers that make the greatest impact. At MRO we do not just teach the truth of scripture, but seek to live according to its direction in every decision, however seemingly insignificant.
MRO is primed for success by the beauty of its setting and the composition of its programming, but without the lead of a staff that honors Christ, serves campers, and infuses love into their every action, it will never fulfill its great purpose.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3