The Central Jamaica Conference (CJC) Youth Camp, dubbed CENCONYOUCA, is an anticipated annual summer event but in 2020, like almost everything else, it came to a halt due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Lockdowns and social distancing guidelines relegated the event to a scaled-down, online version for 3 years.
CJC youth director, Pastor Dwayne Scott, notes that campers were happy to return to in-person at Camp Verley this year.
“Using an online platform removed that interactive firsthand experience so people were excited to be back at face-to-face camp. In fact, our theme for this year was ‘Operation Restart’,” he said.
The camp took place in the usual three instalments:
- Teens aged 13-17 from July 18 to 25,
- Juniors aged 6-12 from July 25 to August 1 and
- Seniors aged 18 and over from August 1 to 8.
The 260 attendees at teen camp enjoyed activities such as hiking, worship services, banquet, social, drill and march, driving classes, photography, preaching, swimming, star identification and crafts.
They also participated in fora on topics such as sex, relationships, porn, and the origin of sin and its impact.
The camp made an especially significant impact on the 15 non-Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) attendees who were invited from various communities.
Teen camp chaplain, Elder Theodore Henry, notes that some of them live in circumstances that harden them from a young age. But, he says, camp gave them an opportunity to enjoy age-appropriate activities without fear of ridicule.
“I saw some young men, probably about 16 years old, who looked and acted much older. I also spoke with some 14-year-old girls and heard them using sexualised language. One young man, about 15, seemingly had taken to heart what many (local) secular music artistes tend to do- wear hard facial expressions because ‘bad man don’t smile wid people’. On sports day I saw this youngster run, flick and play football and his smile was so broad. Camp had scraped away the hardened man and brought out the boy God intended him to be again,” Henry shared, underlining that CENCONYOUCA is a tool for witness.
After teen camp, 148 juniors attended the second instalment with chaplain Marvin Pryce and several counsellors.
Activities included movie night, worship services, banquet, social, sports day, drill and march, preaching, swimming, star identification and crafts.
A special ‘playground' feature was organised and included a bounce-a-bout, merry-go-round, trampoline, popcorn and snow cones.
Campers learned about personal hygiene, how to treat the opposite sex and etiquette.
According to Pastor Scott, about 12 youths who do not go to church at all attended junior camp.
There were 72 senior youth at the third instalment including two who were not Adventist. Pastor Teddy Williamson served as chaplain.
Activities included hiking, worship services, banquet, social, a Jamaica independence celebration, drill and march, swimming, public speaking, driving classes, craft and a special display by Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
They discussed topics such as sex, relationships, healthy lifestyle and etiquette.
Over the camp period, four persons who had already been attending church decided to be baptised. Two hail from Portmore, one from Manchester and the other from Clarendon.
All in all, Scott reports, CENCONYOUCA 2023 was well received.
“There is that hands-on experience where persons are able to execute some of the major components of the camp like duties, taking care of their surroundings, spreading their beds, going through hygiene exercises and so on”, he said.
CENCONYOUCA is one of many camp events organised by the global SDA church to engage youth in physical and spiritual exercises that help them develop and interact in a safe and healthy environment.