Author - Alec Catchpole, Echoes International Mission Worker
Alec was born into a non-Christian family in London, and after a life of various forms of rebellion, trusted the Lord at the age of 22. He left for Italy as a mission worker in 1995, where he met his wife Patrizia, with whom he has 3 children.
A bit of background
Italy remains a nation to be evangelised, conservative churches on the whole are relatively few, many are small and too many are divided. Christians camps are an opportunity to enjoy Christ for a week or so in a friendly and relaxed environment, spend some time with like-minded Christians, make new friends and build lasting relationships.
What we enjoy about camps
What my wife Patrizia really appreciates is the opportunity to get to know others, share experiences and minister as well as being ministered to. For her, it’s a bit of paradise on earth where we can sincerely serve and love each other, laugh and cry together as well as hearing good teaching that builds us up in our faith.
Together with us, our boys have been participating in camps since they were born. For them the benefit is in some ways different. Living in a city that is hostile to the gospel and the Christian values that we taught in the home, in many ways they went into survival mode. Cheating, aggression and catholic idolatry surrounded them daily, so camps for them meant being in a safe place where they were loved and cared for, and not being discriminated against because of their foreign surname or their parents’ strange religion and work.
For them to meet and spend quality time with others of their age group, from all over Italy, who faced similar problems (at least as far as their parents’ faith was concerned) was to prove of lasting value to them.
Year by year, they got to meet up with old friends, make new ones and now have a network of Christian friends throughout Italy. By means of social media, they are able to keep in touch and encourage each other throughout the year.
…it’s a bit of paradise on earth where we can sincerely serve and love each other, laugh and cry together as well as hearing good teaching that builds us up in our faith
Our daughter Joy has recently come back from her second camp where she went without us as parents and, like the boys, is reaping the benefits of Bible teaching which is suitable for her age and experience.
For a few years now, our boys have wanted to give something back, and have helped in various summer camps. This year they helped at the children’s camp (where Joy was), then a teenage camp, then at a family camp before being campers themselves at a youth camp. Their duties involved helping with the music, games, in the kitchen as well as, wait for it… cleaning toilets. The groups of helpers were made up of friends that they had met throughout the years on other camps. All this gives them a tremendous opportunity to develop their character by serving together.
This year we had a really special opportunity to serve the Lord as a family. I was asked to preach at a family camp. Josiah and Joseph were helpers, and Joy also joined in. Patrizia helped by listening to the women and seeking to help them spiritually, as well as leading the women’s discussion group. It is the first time that we had such a privilege to work together in a camp as a family, and hopefully we will have the opportunity to repeat the experience next year.
What I didn’t tell you up until this point is that both Josiah and Joseph met their girlfriends at previous camps, and they too helped together with us at the family camp, so you can imagine what a joy it was for all of us.
What about you?
If you are reading this blog, and have never been to a Christian camp, can I encourage you to do so, and maybe encourage others to go along with you. Or if you have never helped at a Christian Camps, why not get involved? Two of the ladies helping in the kitchen were well over 60, on the other end of the scale, there was Joy who is only 9, so all age groups can join in.