Participants at a vacation Bible camp at Holy Family Parish learned last week that church is not a stuffy or scary place to be.
AMHERST – A group of children learned last week that church isn’t such a boring place to be and that being different is not something to be ashamed of.
Holy Family Parish hosted its fourth vacation Bible camp with more than 84 children from the Amherst area attending. The camp included Bible adventures and imagination stations that tied scientific projects into the Bible story of the day.
Participants also played games and watched movies while having discussions about the messages from those movies.
Along with the youth, ages four to 13, participating in the camp, there were 65 volunteers including a number of junior leaders up to Grade 12.
“Our goal is for the participants to come here and learn about Jesus and his love for them,” camp director Glenna O’Quinn said. “This camp is unique because it’s called Weird Animals and the purpose is to let the children know that being different is OK.”
With all the talk of bullying that children face in the schools and in the community, O’Quinn said the camp addresses that by encouraging the children to understand that being different is Ok and that everyone is special in their own way.
“We’ve all been known as weirdoes for one reason or another and this camp helps them to understand there’s nothing wrong with being different or special,” she said.
O’Quinn said bullying is a word that’s too frequently used sometimes in social situations. By participating in the camp, she hopes both bullies and their victims understand there’s a better way to solve disagreements.
“It’s easy to point a finger at someone else, but it’s not as easy to think about what we’re doing ourselves,” she said. “Even after yesterday’s lesson I’ve seen a change in some of the kids and how they’ve interacted with each other and how they were acting before yesterday and now how they’re acting.”
Among some of the Bible stories the camp covered was the Good Samaritan and the Woman at the Well as well as Lazarus.
She said the main message is that children get the understanding that Jesus still loves them. People may make mistakes, or be afraid, but Jesus’ love is unconditional.
“A lot of people say the Bible is boring and there are people who say the only way to entertain kids is by using computers,” O’Quinn said. “The fun the children are having here shows otherwise. These are really thoughtful kids and having someone taking the time to listen to them and be with them, they don’t need all that other stuff. It’s the simple stuff they love and want.”
O’Quinn said the camp has been helped by tremendous community support from groups like the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Women’s League and the Amherst Lions Club. It was open to all children in the community and there were some participants from as far as British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland.
When she lived in Wolfville, O’Quinn said similar Bible camps were available. Unfortunately, in Amherst space was lacking until the new Holy Family Parish opened. The camp was also opened up to the entire community.
She credited Father Vernon Driscoll and Deacon Howard Gotell for opening the doors to the church so the camp could go forward.
“This is a great thing because the children see the church as not this boring place that adults go to, but can be fun as well,” Driscoll said. “ In fact, this Sunday the gospel is about planting the seed and it’s amazing how these things have an affect on children. We all know how the early years are very formative for children.”
Driscoll said the different themes are well received by the children and helps them think about Jesus’ teachings and how he loves them no matter what.
Volunteer leader Leanne Byrnes said the camp helps the children overcome their fears and realize that church can be a fun place to be.
“This is our second year and the kids love it,” she said. “The kids love to interact with each other and they learn that church isn’t such a scary place.”