During this season we talk and think a lot about gifts. Gifts for each other and from each other, gifts to charities in our hometowns and around the world, and of course, the greatest gift, Jesus arrived to Earth as an act of grace. However, I’d like to pause here to consider a different kind of gift—the gift of the land. Sometimes we take a thing like land for granted, but anyone who visits Salem Acres for the first time always comments about how beautiful our property is. The land of Salem Acres gives us many gifts—raspberries behind the staff houses, multiple hiking trails for adventuring campers, Saskatoon berries along the path to The Point, even the hay that we sell to offset costs. And during the summer, everyone gathers at The Point every week to take photos with the stunning cliff view as the backdrop.
The Salem Acres land is not just beneficial in the summertime—staff and volunteers enjoy it during the offseason as well. James and I have spent many happy Sabbath days tent camping by the river. We stay for a weekend to enjoy the arid beauty of the hilly cliff lands by the Red Deer River with its multicoloured soil layers, diverse tree life, and many wildflowers. We also stay on the land to enjoy its sounds—the crackling of our campfire, the myriads of different birdsongs, the distant sounds of cattle from neighbouring ranches, and the howls of coyotes at night. Spending time in nature helps us stay grounded as we unplug from technology and remind ourselves of the important basics of life and faith.
Spending time in nature is important for our campers too. At the annual CCI conference this year, some sessions discussed the gift of nature as a unique advantage of summer camps. In an age where our organizations compete with other extra-curricular activities that are as numerous and available as the apps on your phone, summer camps are one of the few places where children can unplug from their technology and open their eyes to the wonders of God’s natural world. Camp is a place where, with limited distractions, campers can build healthy face-to-face relationships, exercise their bodies, and ask big questions about God while appreciating his creation. In an increasingly technology-driven world, camps offer a place for kids to de-clutter their lives and learn how to relate to each other and God in more personal ways.
As we enter a new year, let’s be thankful for the beautiful land God has given us at Salem Acres and remember all the wonderful times we have spent there. Let’s commit to bringing new campers and return campers onto our land with a sense of anticipation, joy, fun, and demonstration of God’s limitless love. As we enjoy nature together let’s pursue a deeper connection with God, each other, and with creation.
Monica Jenden has been involved with summer camps for the last 13 years and with Salem Acres for the last 4 years. She is passionate about seeing kids gain confidence in themselves and grow their faith in Jesus. She has a loving husband James and works as a registered nurse during the year.