IS it what one camper described as the “phenomenal” food?
Is it the “contagiously fun” outdoor water activities?
Is it the chance to “openly express” faith in God through prayer and worship?
It’s all of the above and more as high schoolers from Brisbane archdiocese and beyond once again unplugged from social media to connect with the Ignite Summer Camp, formerly known as Zero Gravity.
An initiative of Emmanuel Community since 2007, this year’s January 14-17 camp was enjoyed by 250 teenagers and backed by dozens of generous young adult leaders.
Busloads of campers met in the parishes of Caboolture, Albany Creek, Carina, Indooroopilly, Gympie and Nambour to head to summer camp while others arrived by car to the Mt Tamborine facility, an hour’s drive from Brisbane.
The “Promise” theme was linked into all presentations and activities with quiet moments for prayer, journaling and sharing in small groups as well as Mass and confession and the dynamic worship that Emmanuel are known for.
Ignite high school ministry co-ordinator Kym Keady said she and husband Pat Keady were “ecstatic” with how the days had unfolded.
“More than anything I was inspired by the faith of the young people coming through,” Mr Keady said.
“I was thinking, ‘I was nothing like these guys at 16 (years)’. Here they are, choosing to follow Christ in the midst of a culture that is so more challenging than mine ever was.
“I’m proud of them.”
Artistic “promise boxes” were a take home keepsake “holding great meaning and lasting memories”, the couple said.
Exactly what inspires young people to keep coming or indeed attend for the first time was expressed in the “wrap up” session.
“I’ve been coming to Ignite (initiatives) for a few years but I haven’t had any support with Jesus stuff … and I found it really hard to keep my promise to God to stay faithful,” one high schooler said.
“But when I came back here it was never different, I remembered that I do always have God … and He stays with me no matter what. It feels amazing.”
“I’ve been given the task of school captain and with it comes great responsibility,” another camper, who attends a state high school, said.
“Coming to this camp I take away all these words of wisdom. I will take back what I have learnt, to show the students what it is to love God.
“I am renewed every time I come back to summer camp.”
“This is my first and last summer camp so I’m very upset,” another camper said.
“This is my last chance to be with my (summer camp) friends before I go away. I’m going to a school where I know no one but I know God is with me all the way so I don’t have to worry.
“I want to thank everyone who made me so welcome. You mean the world to me and have made me so happy.”
“God loves me, how beautiful is that? It’s calming and it’s a beautiful phrase … (and) this year I will try and not act out of fear but out of love,” an emotional teenager said.
Ignite Youth are planning a February summer camp reunion as well as a sharing opportunity for the parents of the campers.
Ignite High will be offered regularly this year in Brisbane to keep fuelling the faith-filled momentum.
– Selina Venier