2022 Ministry Snapshot
December 19, 2022
After the tough pandemic years, we’re looking back on 2022 searching for signs of rebirth, and even more than that, of momentum. We have so much to celebrate and so many stories we could tell! We’ve chosen just a few. As you read, please know it is by your prayers, encouragement, time and financial gifts, that God enables us to continue to grow faith in children, teenagers and young adults.
Teens and Young Adults are Seeking Connection
Of our 65 university fellowships across the country, about 25 are brand new or being replanted, while the rest have come through the pandemic with more stability. As students return, we’re encouraged they are saying yes more often to invitations to grow in leadership, hospitality and witness. Praise God that they hunger for community and connection. This year, we have been shepherds for 200 committed student leaders serving more than 1,000 peers.
Southwest Ontario Campus Minister Tanner Kennedy shares this story of surprising growth:
“Bible studies, prayer, fellowship, games, guest speakers, horses, sunsets, bonfires, 3 hour midnight worship sessions, and the formation of a Niagara College group. These were the highlights in September. It is wild to think that only two years ago we were a group of five students praying for God’s will to be done at Brock University during COVID-19. Now, we are just under 40 students who are eager to see students at Brock and Niagara College discover Jesus! God is building momentum.”
Alan Thorimbert, Campus Minister on Vancouver Island, shares this unexpected connection with an unlikely student:
“A student came by our booth and said he was agnostic. I asked about his classes and he told me he was taking a philosophy course. We talked about his favourite philosophers and discussed Thomas Hobbes for a few minutes before he left to explore other clubs. An hour later, he returned – I asked him if he had found what he was searching for at clubs’ day and he said, ‘I think your community. I think all of you could be a good support for me this year.’”
In Alberta, Campus Minister Melissa Chettle has been planting a new fellowship Red Deer Polytechnic:
Due to the ever-changing rules and regulations, it always felt like starting over each semester, and in August, it didn’t look like anything was going to happen this fall. Enter the Spirit of God, moving in power to call students to deeper mission. Four students [Delanie, Sam, Isaiah and Abi] stepped up, eager to lead a Bible study together. Their vision was to host a Bible study where they could invite their friends and classmates. Much to our surprise, the house we were meeting in was packed out with thirteen students coming! One of these new students was interested not only in Bible study, but also in making other events happen, all with the goal of meeting more students, so that more people could come to know Jesus!
In Halifax, Campus Ministers Matt and Aimee Allen opened their home for a Thanksgiving feast with the help of a local church:
“We thank all our brothers and sisters from Real Life Church who helped in the preparation of the meal for 15 people. As much as home made food served to students is something we strongly value as a couple, we learned from last year that cooking all from scratch for a large crowd of people is exhausting work! So having the family of God share in the hospitality in welcoming students from King’s College, Dal, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia Community College and alumni has been a rich blessing. The evening was spent being thankful, enjoying delicious food, excellent company and board games that brought out a lot of laughter.”
At University of Toronto, Campus Minister Soo-Ah Hong delights in a Bible study specifically for young women:
It has been over four years since UofT KCF had a small group dedicated to women, and it has been a blessing to see them share and grow in their knowledge of the Word and their shared experiences in the Christian life. We studied a series of women in the Bible. From Esther, to Deborah, and Ruth, we have been examining how these women turn to God in their circumstances and how we can do the same.”
Across the country, Workplace Ministry Director James Allaway has been recruiting volunteers to lead small groups of young adults. In Vancouver, the downtown workplace group meets in the eating area on the 8th floor of Vancouver public library. They represent diverse vocations: Human Resource consulting, cancer research and retail. They are hungry enough for connection that they come in for studies in the book of Daniel even on their days off!
Kids are Eager for Camp!
Each of our nine camps were in full operation this summer although we capped our registration at some sites partly because it was difficult to recruit enough staff and volunteers and partly to manage health concerns. After two years of disruption, many of our leadership pipelines have suffered setbacks. That makes us even more grateful for the more than 1,000 students and adult volunteers who served at our camps this summer. We needed them – we hosted 8,000 campers, many of them first timers who were more than a little nervous about camp.
Rachel Schmidt, Summer Director at Pioneer Camp Alberta’s Lodge in Sundre describes this:
My favourite moments this summer were moments of Courage. Each week when we were preparing for our overnight camping trip, kids and volunteers alike would express how nervous they were to spend the night away from the comforts of a warm building and routine. There were moments where campers wanted to call home and leave before the out-trip began. Each Wednesday we would pack up our sleeping bags and raincoats and each Wednesday we would walk the 20 minutes to the creek. And each Wednesday something amazing would happen as the campers and staff ate around the fire, played in the creek, and sang at sunset. When breakfast arrived the next morning, campers would emerge from their tents sleepy-eyed but so excited to tell us how they had the best sleep ever out in creation by the creek. The gift of courage given by the Holy Spirit to our campers and our staff each week was the most beautiful thing to witness. I’m thankful to have been a part of the story of courage for our community this summer.”
At Circle Square Ranch Big Clear Lake (near Ottawa), Campus Minister Deirdre Walters was head cook and recruited five university students to serve with her:
“It was beautiful to see God at work in their lives, preparing them for the year ahead, as they led and served as kitchen help, LIT leaders, videographer, and cabin leaders. My favourite moments with our Carleton University students at camp were seeing them choose to trust God in new ways. David, for example, has moved from a tenuous faith punctuated by intense moments of doubt to saying, ‘’I now feel that there is someone there when I pray. I can now sing to God. I am less impatient when I don’t understand Scripture right away or I have questions about it, because I know that God will help me to get it.”
At Pioneer Camp Ontario, Boys Camp Director Dylan (Duke) Knibbe was grateful to be back on the site after it had sat empty of campers for two years. Our major project, the new Boys Camp Dining Hall, continues to be in process, so camp staff had to be creative in their use of the site. Sometimes it took a camper to help Dylan renew his hope and energy:
“One of the most beautiful moments I had this summer, I was standing on the Boys Camp beach, feeling a little frantic. Lots of staff had questions for me, there were a few issues that we were dealing with, and I was going to be sharing the gospel message to all of our campers and staff shortly thereafter. So there I was, standing with my back to the beach, feeling a little scattered, and trying to prepare to share the good news of Jesus to a bunch of people. Then, a young camper (11 years old) approached me. He stared at me/behind me, with a little smile on his face… looking entirely at peace. I said hi, and asked him how his day was. He replied, with that peaceful smile still on his face, ‘Good’. I asked him a few more questions about his day, but he continued to give me one word answers and to just stand there smiling. He looked entirely calm, and entirely in awe. Finally he said, “Look behind you.” I turned and saw what he had been seeing: the evening sun setting on a calm lake. So there we stood for a while, looking out at the lake, the trees, and the sky. He then said, “Look at the lake… the clouds… the trees… the sky… it’s all so beautiful.” I agreed. He then said, “The sun and the light are like God. The clouds and the darkness are like sin and Satan. But… the light is brighter.” Man, what a beautiful moment. Here I was, standing with my back to something so beautiful, caught up in small issues that can get resolved relatively easily. I almost missed out on the beauty of what was right there behind me. I would’ve, if it hadn’t been for this camper. And what a reminder! Yes, there’s sin, darkness, and brokenness in our world – but the light, our true light (John 1:9), is brighter.”
We are Grateful for Partners
Rebuilding ministry with partners is much better than trying to go it alone. We are grateful for so many churches, organizations and individuals who are providing expanded opportunities for us to reach young people. Here are just a few examples:
In Quebec, students helped run a high school day camp with Montreal Chinese Presbyterian Church and an outreach program with Indigenous Partnership Solidarity. In Saskatchewan, we were privileged to share the land at Circle Square Ranch Wolf Creek with iEmergence so they could hold their Kids’ Culture Camp for a week in July.
Across the country, university professors have given their time and thoughtfulness to our Meet-a-Prof initiative, which allows students to hear from a professor about how they integrate their faith with their area of expertise. As well, we were able to offer two online series of conversations with Regent Seminary Professor Dr. Iain Proven. Director of Evangelism Ian Elliot reflects:
The discussion (on Zoom) of Iain Provan’s book, “Seriously Dangerous Religion,” went so well the first time round (January to March, 2022) that we decided to do it again (May and June, 2022). We invited broadly: InterVarsity staff and students from across the country, friends and supporters from multiple countries, and a few enquiring friends who wanted to know a bit more about the Christian faith, all of which made for a very rich conversation.
Our Southwestern Ontario Staff Team joined with churches and other organizations to host a booth at the Canada Summer Games in Niagara:
“We received prayer from many enthusiastic InterVarsity alumni and Christians from Niagara. Additionally, we had Christian athletes and coaches pray with us. Furthermore, Wine and Beer distillers (who were Christian) prayed with us before the start of their shift. Security guards and EMS staff stopped by and prayed with us that athletes attending the Games would know Jesus. Finally, we also met Métis and Indigenous peoples who shared with us their own stories of encountering the Creator through the love of Jesus. The icing on the cake was that they also prayed for us. Our greatest encouragement from the Canada Summer Games was the sheer magnitude of intercessory prayer from those that we did not expect. Praise the Lord!”
Many of our campus groups host Alpha, which provides so many wonderful opportunities to explore faith. As University of Alberta Campus Ministers James and Anne Siebert share:
“God is bringing 21 students out for Alpha each Tuesday evening. We’re so grateful for the use of a lounge on campus at no charge for these events. Students enjoy supper or snacks. Then we watch a video clip and have small group discussions around tables. Most of the students are not believers so it’s a huge privilege to share the Good News of Jesus during these times.”
We continue to cherish our relationship with Converge Canada, which provides funding for many of our ministry initiatives, including 8 Scripture Study Camps for more than 300 participants. As Manitoba Campus Minister Robin Shugart reports, students were eager to dig into Scripture:
“Six Lakehead students flew to Winnipeg for our Winter Retreat, and it was such a delight to have them with us! A few of those students led us in worship over the weekend, and some even initiated a spontaneous midnight Bible Study on Colossians.”
Converge, along with other partners, has also helped fund a new resource for high school groups that we are freely sharing with churches and other youth organizations. Called Catapult, this video series helps high school students learn more from adult mentors and their peers about what it means to follow Jesus, why read their Bibles, and how to share their faith.
In Manitoba, Circle Square Ranch Spruce Woods was blessed by a new partnership with the Freedom International School in Winnipeg. Camp Director Ingram explains:
“How were we going to find 40+ summer staff and get the camp operational again after 1,000+ days? In my panic, I prayed and heard Jesus promise to provide “more than enough” spring, summer and year-round staff. Well friends, it happened in miraculous ways! An InterVarsity alumnus connected with Freedom International School called out of the blue to ask, “would it be ok for you to train and supervise a group of students if the School paid them”? Seven of our summer staff were from the School along with four other African born students! God was up to something extraordinary! We were able to offer 8 weeks of summer camp where we consistently saw campers more engaged than before the pandemic. The majority of campers were hungry to know Jesus, to pray and to learn the Scriptures. We often found campers reading their new Bibles on their own and asking their counsellors about Jesus. Many campers invited Jesus to be leader of their lives and to shine through them.”
In Alberta, Circle Square Ranch Halkirk Director Kevin Perry underscores the importance of every single individual who helps us with our ministry:
“Our annual trail ride on September 11 was a beautiful day for a ride and we had 73 riders who joined us in raising funds for our camp horse program. They went above and beyond and together we raised just over $31,000.00. The money will be used to feed our horses this winter, for items needed to maintain herd health, and to make sure we have horses ready for camp next summer.”
These stories are but a few of the ways God is blessing our ministry with a tangible sense of gathering momentum. If you are already engaged in our ministry, thank you. If you would like to know more, please get in touch with any of our staff or by emailing [email protected]
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