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Adventure training built on a Christian foundation
By Hugh Wesley
Traditional camps love God's country, the land of lakes and trees and rocky outcrops in the Canadian Shield. Medeba Summer Camp, on Grass Lake near West Guilford in Haliburton, loves the country, too, and takes the opportunity to get closer to God.
On the Gull River, Jason Kuruc, 21, a year 2000 graduate of Medeba's Leadership Development Program and now the boating director, slams his kayak into a mountainous wave's deafening roar. The kayak stands on its nose, then pops up and snaps Kuruk round to face his gaggle of fledgling kayakers paddling upstream. His smile is white-water bright and ear to ear.
Adventure camp and a Christian camp? Fear not.
"Everybody's welcome," says Medeba summer-camp director Steve Archibald. "The camp is non-denominational. Lots of our repeat campers have no real church affiliation; they come for the camping experience. There's no brow beating."
So what's different? Wander through Medeba's 119-acre site and you see high-rope and low-rope courses, indoor and outdoor rock-climbing walls, a giant slide, waterfront activities, archery and rifle ranges, mountain bike trails and craft cabins. You hear about off-site adventures -- caving, white-water adventures, tripping, rock climbing -- but you won't see why it's different.
Stay a day or two. Epiphany. You'll feel it.
Part of Medeba's mission is to develop a continuous supply of specially trained staff, who, in addition to camping skills, have been taught how to treat campers and each other with sensitivity, acceptance, love and encouragement. It isn't always easy. "Camping and adventure learning is more than relating to the woods. It's inter-personal dynamics relating to everyday life," Archibald says.
Medeba is a biblical word meaning waters of quietness and, although each day is jammed with activities, 45 minutes a day are set aside to slow down and look inward.
"We encourage each camper, so they come away with positive growth, not only in physical skills but in morals and self awareness," says Archibald, who started at Medeba as a camper in 1978.
"Our key is mentoring campers with highly motivated staff, hand-picked and trained not only for camping expertise and leadership, but for spiritual inspiration."
That kind of super leader doesn't fall out of the trees.
In 1994, Medeba introduced a 10-month-long Christian Adventure Leadership Development Program as an addition to its two-summer Leaders-In-Training Programs. The leadership development program separates the logs from the twigs. Students come from the United States, Europe and Australia as well as Canada to take the course. No more than 10 students are accepted.
Medeba aims to develop spiritual leaders who can use outdoor adventure as a ministry tool. Applicants are carefully screened and moral behavior guidelines are adhered to. The program lasts from September to June and includes outdoor education expeditions to challenging locales in Ontario, Quebec, Tennessee, New York State and the Carolinas.
Adventure training includes ice and rock climbing, mountain biking,whitewater and flat-water paddling, Nordic and Telemark skiing, and wilderness survival skills.It isn't just about bravery and skinned knees. Equally important are written and practical agendas involving leadership, teaching and camp administrative skills. Threaded throughout the program are instruction in life management, personality profiling, spiritual disciplines and group Bible study.
The course parallels "off-season" camp activities run at the camp. Outdoor education programs from September until June and organization retreats throughout the year give leadership students valuable practical experience. Graduating in June, newly minted leaders are ready to staff Medeba's summer program or move on.
The leadership program graduates are a solid, core group who generally stay at least for the first summer. By osmosis, their leadership charges the camp with a special caring energy as they follow Medeba's mission to change peoples' lives through specialized adventure experiences with a Christian perspective.
That's what you feel after a day or two in camp. That's what you feel in God's country.
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