The year 2000 was a year of great change across the world, and marked a new era in the life of Prison Fellowship. In April 2000, the first Camp for Kids in NSW began. A chance for children with a parent in prison to have a break from ‘normal’ life in the company of caring Christian leaders and other children who understand their situation. Archery, swimming, basketball, BMX bike riding, abseiling and bushwalks were a welcome adventure.
“All the children had experienced rejection. They coped in different ways… Yet… over the four days of camp, we noticed them blossom and change,” said one leader at the historic camp.
After the first camp, a grandmother of one of the children sent the following in a letter:
“Many thanks for all the work that went into giving our grandchildren such a wonderful time at camp. They had a great time and got a lot out of the fellowship with Christian leaders and have asked to go again. My husband and I truly appreciated the break with only one child to care for at home. Thank you to everyone involved. PS Thanks for the bibles you gave to the children. They find them easy to understand. Thank you again.”
Twenty years later, Camp for Kids has become a hallmark of the Prison Fellowship year in NSW. This year’s camp had the theme of forgiveness. Camp leader Claire said:
“Our theme, Forgiveness, was a toughie, particularly for young children who have been hurt, bullied, abused, rejected, moved from home to home and sometimes carer to carer. As leaders we had a lot to learn from the yielding hearts of the campers who wrote the names of those they wanted to forgive on paper which was later burnt in a campfire to symbolise letting go and forgiveness.”
As a result, Mia visited her father in prison to tell him she forgives him. A daughter’s forgiveness brought Mia’s father to tears. Mia says she “felt really happy and free”.
Camper Mia* grew up in a family who “didn’t believe in Jesus or God because they were all aboriginals and believed in the Dreamtime.” When Mia’s dad went back to prison, she felt hurt and betrayed. He broke his promise to not reoffend, so Mia decided not to speak to him. After coming on camp and learning about Jesus and his forgiveness, Mia decided “you can’t hold hate; you’ve got to just forgive people no matter what they do.”
This year alone, more than twenty campers wanted to get to know more about Jesus, and as a result have connected with ongoing local kids clubs and youth groups.
– Joanna Mann, Staff Writer