We continue to give glory to God, even in one of the most difficult and trying seasons of Pioneer’s 70-year history. Because of COVID-19, we couldn’t run camp this summer. Without our usual summer camps and guest rental groups, our “business” is down 95%. As a result, our staff have had their hours reduced to 40% and many purchases have been put on hold. Perhaps the most difficult of all though was not welcoming the 800 campers expected for summer 2020; campers that did not have the opportunity to experience camp, explore the Christian faith, and progress on their spiritual journey. Yet, even in this heart-breaking season, we have continued to rejoice, to praise God in this storm, to trust that Jesus walks among us bringing comfort, joy and hope.
While we have experienced some loss in 2020, there is still much to be grateful for. Until recently, Pioneer was able to access the federal wage subsidy to cover 75% of staff salaries, we received a $50,000 provincial grant to help cover some of our operating costs, and donations came in during the summer that (with the help of a few volunteers) allowed us to put new roofs on some of the cabins at the Ranch and on the workshop at the Lodge.
We turned our camper cabins into rental units and were able to offer them to families as places to escape to from the city, allowing their children to have some semblance of a “normal” summer. We had anticipated that many of these families would be from our Pioneer community; however the majority of them were completely new to the world of camp. We had the amazing opportunity to introduce entire families to the joys of sitting around a campfire for the first time, learning the art of marshmallow roasting, S’mores, and hiking on our land; creating life-long memories. There were opportunities to share about summer camp with moms and dads who otherwise would never have known that such opportunities exist for their children. There were the quiet conversations with a stressed-out parent, providing a needed listening ear. Additionally, some small guest groups were also able to be with us on site during the summer and fall. Whether people came as families, individuals, or as a small group, all who have come are so grateful to have been at Pioneer, finding a welcoming and tranquil atmosphere, connecting with others, and enjoying the outdoors.
A key part of Pioneer’s year round ministry is having young adults in our eight month gap year LEAD (Leadership, Experience and Discipleship) program, where LEADs gain leadership skills, experience growth with God, and grow as disciples. This fall we have had three young people join us for LEAD: Euan (from Calgary), Ila (from Cochrane) and Tim (from South Africa). They live at the Lodge, where they go through weekly Scripture studies on the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Timothy. It’s invigorating to have them with us, seeing them learn and grow and grapple with their faith in deep and meaningful ways. Learning to respond to life application questions such as, “What would it look like for Jesus to have your whole heart?” and “What would you need to do to make that happen?” What a tremendous blessing it is to have these young people as part of our community!
Pioneer has a long history of impacting lives through summer camps, guest groups, volunteering, mentoring, and inviting young adults into leadership positions. Please join with us as we pray for the ability to offer retreats and gatherings this winter and, even more importantly, to offer summer camp in 2021. None of us can predict what this next year will bring, but we want to be ready when we are given permission to run camp once again.
There has never been a time when we have relied so heavily on the generosity of our community to carry us through, but that season is here. If you are able, would you make a year-end donation to help Pioneer through this difficult time?
We are reassured when we hear stories of how God has used Pioneer Camp to bless and strengthen people, even in the limited ways we have been able to serve this year. We are committed to offering strong programs through retreats and summer camp in 2021. We need your financial help, your prayers and your encouragement now more than ever. Thank you for your love and support for Pioneer over so many years.
With hope and joy,
Ruth Lewis, On behalf of the Pioneer Camp Staff Team