Four Decades of National Camps!

The Encourager

There have been so many incredible stories and highlights from National Camps over the years. We only could fit a very few highlights and wonderful stories in this timeline.


Baptism is always a highlight of National Camp

One reflected on the first camp at Matamata “I have many moving memories, but the one which was my real highlight was the afternoon baptismal service with the hot pool ringed by wheelchairs, as nine went through the waters of baptism.” Shirley Roberts, who used a wheelchair, was one of the people who were baptized. The following day as she used her headpiece to type out on her communicator: ‘I am glad to type my testimony. I invited Jesus to be my saviour. I love Him. CFFD helps me. I love you all.’”
People travelled from far away

Clive Kemp a man who was severely disabled and had speech difficulties was very determined to be at camp. He sat in his wheelchair at the back of a van for six hours travelling to camp. One helper said hearing him pray was her highlight. In following years, groups from Christchurch and Dunedin came to camp in Matamata. One year, John travelled 2 days by railway all the way from Gore!
Delwin traveled to Camp in an air ambulance
Delwin Gray was a young mother in Hāwera, Taranaki. She had multiple sclerosis and was admitted to hospital two years after she was diagnosed. Her friend, Colleen, had been praying for her, but realized Delwin needed a touch of God. While she was in hospital, Colleen, heard that Margie Willers was in town. So, she asked Margie to come visit Delwin. When Margie visited, both of them got along very well. Margie told her about National Camp and offered to pay for her fee if she would come to camp.
This gave Delwin a tremendous boost, a new goal, to go to  camp! But how? She could not bear a long car trip. A helicopter would cost $1,800, but an air ambulance cost less $650. Margie wrote to a minister in a nearby town. The church community of the minister generously gave money towards getting Delwin to Matamata. Delwin was transported to camp via an air ambulance.
The message of forgiveness really spoke to Delwin. She was held back by an area of unforgiveness in her life. She dealt with the issue as soon as she returned from camp. People started to notice a real change in Delwin. She became a more positive person and giving to others. National Camp gave her a new zest for life.


Fred went home with a Sparkle
Before Fred Mathews came to his first camp in 1990 he never had any purpose in life, did not want to go out much, and as a result his family mostly left him at home. But his coming to that first camp changed all that. After that camp, Fred’s family said, “he sparkled”. He had more freedom in himself, he tried to do a lot more things on his own initiative, and has been trying to walk, and succeeding. Fred began wanting to go on more outings, and even went in his wheelchair to the marae. A Bible study group started up at his home. The family also changed and were more willing to take Fred out as Fred’s life now had more meaning and purpose in it.

Devine moments between helpers and buddies
“Gary had locked on to me and I couldn’t let go. Emotion moved me to a few tears of deep and sincere love for him. I just longed for the day when Gary would have his wizened body, filled as it is with immense disability, transformed into his new glorious heavenly, immortal, eternal dwelling.
I realised in that moment as we looked at each other that unless a great miracle took place this side of eternity, Gary would not get his new body until he saw Jesus. There was such a quietness in the room. God’s presence was real and I felt He moved me to ask Gary, “How will I recognise you in heaven when you get your new body? You won’t be lying on a wheelchair and you will have teeth and you’ll be dancing and so much more.”
Nick Booth wrote, “It was then that Gary did about all he could do. He raised his left arm, feeble and crippled as it is. (His right arm permanently hangs limp.) I felt invited by him to come closer. I reached down and adorable Gary Hollister took me into his chest and hugged me tight. When I stepped back moments later, in the language of gums and lips, he said “Jesus love you” … and he just kept saying Jesus’ name. My eyes welled with tears. It was such a precious time.”


National Camp changes people’s perspectives about Disabilities

Peter White wrote, “I found that this camp changed the way I see disabilities, and more specifically the people who live with them. It did not take very long before I stopped seeing the actual disabilities and saw the personalities and people and began to accept them as I would a normal person. (I am having difficulties writing this because it seems so condescending to talk of “these” people, “them” or “disabled” as if categorizing them.) Sure they need some assistance to do some tasks or even some of life’s basic necessities, but you quickly allow for this, help as needed, and get on with whatever needs to be done, or both want to do.”


Julian didn’t feel like the odd one out
“This is my first visit to the Totara Springs Christian Camp. Upon arrival it hit me, 18 year’s old, and for the first time ever, I do not stand out in the crowd. Nobody is staring at me. I am just another pebble on the beach. I feel overcome with happiness, and could almost cry tears of joy.”
YWAM Student
Ellen Miller, a YWAM student said, “God is so good. I want to thank God for how His glory shines in so many different ways. This weekend as a first time helper I have had the privilege to serve God and people with disabilities. When I first heard we were coming here I was so excited to see what God was going to teach me. This weekend God revealed to me that He uses everyone, no matter their appearance, to glorify His kingdom. I thank God that He made us all unique in His image so that we can tell all people about Him. Thank you for a fabulous weekend! God bless you all.”
Mandy attended OVER 25 CAMPS!
Mandy Lee used an electric wheelchair and she lived with cerebral palsy. She wrote in the 2018 National Camp magazine, “I have been coming to camp for more than 25 years.
I love coming to camp and seeing people. Some people would be upset if I didn’t come – that I know for sure! I have dressed up as Mary, an Angel and as many other people. I love the Saturday night dancing. This is a special place to have fun, to meet new people and to see old friends and to meet with Jesus! When you come here, you are sure to want to come back!”




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