Galilee Bible Camp
George Ferrier, Ottawa, Canada
Its Beginnings and Present Ministry
Galilee Bible Camp commenced in 1956 when a few local brethren had a vision to place a Bible camp near Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Witnessing elsewhere how camps had been used to preach the gospel, they were keen to do the same in the Ottawa valley.
After searching various properties they purchased a heavily wooded pasture land, possessing its own lake, a one hour drive from Ottawa. Since then the Lord has used the camp to lead large numbers to Christ, teach and encourage believers, and challenge many to discipleship and service. The camp site, though only moments from a very busy highway, is a private, secluded haven, which allows those attending the camps an opportunity for respite from their day to day busy lives.
The current dirt-packed, gravel driveway was not the original way into camp but was built through swampland a few years after the camp’s inauguration. This proved very challenging, requiring ingenuity, heavy equipment, and truckloads of material to build and fortify the winding trail. Many other challenges required innovative solutions, hard work and dedication, and the Lord used many volunteers in tree clearing, construction, and teaching. Jim Booker, Fred Shaver Sr., and Alex Kilgour, together with Colin Anderson, Howard Foster, and many others, were instrumental in setting up and directing the camp in the early years. Initially, campers lived in ‘tabins’. Comprised of tents with wooden floors, they accommodated six campers and one counsellor. However, by the third year more permanent cabins were constructed and use of the ‘tabins’ was eventually discontinued.
Naturally, the early days were quite rustic, utilizing outhouses for toilets, the lake for washing and cooking water, employing a large circus tent for chapel, dining, and rainy day activities. Over the ensuing decades Galilee purchased more property, building an eight-room motel and a lodge that, together with the cabins, increased capacity to 120 campers. Further enhancements included a gym, kitchen, and dining hall, gazebo, tuck shop, and lodge addition for chapel meetings.
Galilee opened in 1956 with a boys and girls camp totalling fifty-five campers. In the second year, the camps were split into junior and senior groups; the four sessions increased the numbers to 130. Adding a youth camp, they hosted 240 campers in their fourth summer. Since then, the camp has grown to its ministry today. From June to September Galilee conducts its summer camps, the other months renting its facilities to local churches for weekend retreats. In addition to children’s and youth camps, the summer programme now comprises leadership, senior, and family camps, along with children’s day camps.
Leadership camp promotes spiritual growth in committed Christian young people, encouraging life-long service to Christ and active involvement in their local assembly. Applications require a written testimony and three written references. The first week consists of memorization and six sessions of concentrated Bible teaching each day, while on the second week the students embark on a canoe trip to Algonquin Park in the beautiful Canadian wilderness. Enjoying fellowship and challenged by God’s word they return with lasting memories and friendships.
Day camp, the only summer pro-gramme that does not afford overnight accommodation, provides daily bus service, gospel messages, and activities for the children. A normal year brings close to 200 children to each of the two one-week sessions and, over the years, many have professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to ensure that no child is denied a chance to hear the gospel, Galilee provides financial assistance for children who need support through the Camper Sponsorship Programme.
Occasionally neighbours have spotted black bears in the vicinity. While normally shy and harmless, the camp exercises caution, nightly collecting the outdoor garbage to discourage these unwelcome visitors.
Each year Galilee trusts the Lord to provide the needed volunteers. He never fails. Some serve in kitchen, housekeeping, or maintenance, others in counselling, directing, or teaching. The camp desires that the volunteer’s motivation and attitude be reflected in their motto, Colossians 3. 17, visibly emblazoned on t-shirts worn in the camp. Many young people have forfeited paid summer work, selflessly serving the Lord while learning teamwork and other life skills.
The Camp is a charitable organization, and assemblies are encouraged to become involved by participating on the board of directors that oversee the camp’s direction. Many assemblies also provide volunteers to supervise weekend winter retreats and help in construction and renovation projects.
Only eternity will reveal Galilee Bible Camp’s full impact but it is the board’s prayer that it will continue to be a source for the proclamation of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ until He returns, inviting all to Galilee, to see Him, to learn of Him, to serve Him, Matt. 28. 10.
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