“We see campers – many of whom have no church or Christian family influence – seeking after God,” says Simonhouse Bible Camp director Darrell Janzen. “Children, youth and families are hungry for the good news and desperately in need of hope.”
Simonhouse has a reputation in Northern Manitoba for being a safe place where children feel significant and loved.
To extend the outreach of northern MB churches, the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba purchased Simonhouse Bible Camp in 1976. Situated in Grass River Provincial Park, 90 km southeast of Flin Flon, the camp is completely off-grid: powered by diesel generators, solar panels and a windmill.
Northern Manitoba communities often feel isolated. At camp, young people from different towns and villages meet, and these friendships often last for years. Simonhouse continues to build relationships in Indigenous communities, including Pukatawagan, Cross Lake, Norway House and Red Sucker Lake. The camp provides a place for small Christian fellowships – including MB churches in Flin Flon, Snow Lake and Cranberry Portage – to connect and encourage one another.
And Simonhouse is growing: camper registrations are already double what they were last year at this time. If Janzen finds enough staff, they will serve 380–400 campers in their 2016 summer program (not including weekend events).
However, finding male staff is difficult, and this year, the challenge is even greater than usual. As of May, Simonhouse had only one of the 10 male counsellors they need for the summer. To maintain the necessary staff/camper ratio, if more workers don’t come forward, Janzen may be forced to turn away campers.
Janzen is thankful for the many supporters who build up the camp through work projects and financial contributions. In May, volunteers from Carmen, Winkler, Morden and Winnipeg churches added a veranda to the Camp Centre to keep campers dry.
“God never ceases to surprise me,” says Janzen. The director since 1999 (when he committed to three years) encourages staff to come with one thing: obedience. During training week, staff often express their feelings of inadequacy, but “God always provides us with everything we need when we give ourselves completely to him.”
Simonhouse staff work long days with children and youth from many different backgrounds – some of them heartbreaking. Pray for energy and wisdom as workers face difficult situations, and for safety for all campers and staff. Pray that Simonhouse’s team will allow God to work through them as they grow in their faith.
Written by Angeline Schellenberg
MB Herald copy editor since 2010, Angeline Schellenberg loves to share stories of how God is at work in the church. She and her husband take pictures together as Anthony Mark Photography. Angeline’s first book, Tell Them It Was Mozart (Brick Books), poems about raising children on the autism spectrum, will be published in September 2016. A member at Crossroads MB Church, Winnipeg, Angeline lives with her husband, their two teenagers, and a German shepherd-corgi.