The faithful work undertaken by David and Elsie Willcox amongst the assemblies of God’s people in the South of England was, and still is, held in the highest esteem. As long ago as the 1960’s David was exercised about work amongst young people and arranged squashes and holiday Bible study weekends. The first camp was held at Burnham-on-Sea in July 1976. Following the success of this, the late John and Jean Derrick kindly made two fields available near their home in Cheddar and the Kingfisher Camps continued there from 1977 until 2000.
Following the homecall of David in 1988 it was not possible for one person to assume responsibility for the work, however there was strong feeling amongst the many helpers that the work should continue. It was to meet this need that a charitable trust, the Kingfisher Christian Camp Trust, was established.
The overall aims of the Trust are to support actively, prayerfully and materially the Kingfisher Summer Camps at Cheddar, Holiday Bible Study Groups and also a Postal Sunday School and to keep assemblies in the South of England informed of these works.
Because of the need to accommodate more campers the trustees decided in 2000 to approach the Kings of Wessex School at Cheddar and since 2001 the camp has been held on this site. This has proved a great success with all the facilities of a modern secondary school being available, including equipment maintained to conform to the latest legislation. A very good relationship has been achieved with the school authorities. They are pleased to have the camps, as they found that at the beginning of the summer holiday there was often a security problem, with the school being empty. With the camp now occupying the first two weeks, this is no longer the case.
The trustees and all involved have rejoiced over the years to see many young people put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, request baptism and eventually be received into full fellowship in a local assembly. Thanks is given to God for the many believers who have been willing to sacrifice their spare time and come and have a part in the work. These include practical helpers to erect the camp, maintain it and then dismantle it, kitchen staff, commies, child protection officers, sports leaders, craft leaders, crèche leaders, tent leaders, speakers, cleaners, security, etc. for each of the two weeks. Numbers of campers attending have been maintained at approximately 100 and with helpers the total number on site is around 140. The children attending come from various sources, believers’ children, those contacted via the Postal Bible School, Sunday School scholars, others from assembly week-night activities, and even believing and concerned grandparents.
Such a large number of campers need to be kept busy each day to maintain order and to achieve this the day is organized into various activities. This begins with the campers getting up at 8.00 a.m. and then a tent quiet time conducted by the tent and assistant tent leaders. After breakfast a morning Bible study hour is held, then the day’s activities follow. On the Lord’s Day the local assembly at Cheddar welcomes the camp at the Lord’s Supper and then later at the gospel meeting. The normal weekdays are filled with many activities including walks, sports, visits to adventure parks and swimming pools. Two brethren are responsible for conducting the morning and evening Bible studies and the campers are challenged with the gospel and ministry. At the end of the day each tent has an epilogue. Again, these sessions are led by tent and assistant tent leaders and are aptly described as the ‘coalface’ of the camp. It is good too to see the young people who are responsible for these sessions quickly maturing in their Christian lives as they seek to field the many questions raised. Over the years the evening tent epilogue has proved most profitable, leading to many lengthy conversations when many have confessed, perhaps for the first time, their faith in Christ.
Behind the scenes there is a great deal of preparatory work required to ensure the camps conform with the many legislative requirements, including child protection and health and safety. In the world in which we live child protection issues are a major consideration at any camp, as is the constant threat of litigation if something were to go wrong.
The apostle Paul said, ‘a great door and effectual is opened unto me and there are many adversaries’, 1 Cor. 16. 9. This is a scripture which is appropriate to camp work in this present generation. The enemy is active and constant watchfulness is required as the trustees seek to keep this door of opportunity open.
The Postal Bible School is another part of the work started by David and Elsie Willcox and this continues to flourish with more than 400 scholars regularly completing their lessons. A network of teachers mark and return the lessons to Geoff and Iris Pearson who have administered the work for many years. The Lord has blessed the work. However Iris and Geoff now find that bodily weakness is limiting their ability to continue and unless someone comes forward who is able to carry on this work it may have to cease.
In addition David and Elsie started holding Holiday Bible Study breaks for young people. These were initially to assist young people who had made professions at the various tent campaigns in remote Somerset villages to have the opportunity of fellowship and Bible study. These breaks started in 1971 and have continued to the present in various venues including, Caddihoe in Broadclyst Forest, near Exeter, Dewerstone on the edge of Dartmoor, Woodcroft near Chepstow, Menadue Farm near Tintagel and Hill House near Otterhampton. Morning and evening Bible study sessions are held and during the day various recreational activities are enjoyed. These times present the opportunity for the young people to be away from all the unhelpful pressures of the world and to enjoy fellowship together as the scriptures are studied.
Many, over the years, have been won for Christ and encouraged to progress in their Christian lives through the various works of the trust. The trustees hope that this will continue, in the will of the Lord, for many years to come.