His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH’s Remarks at the Dinner to Support the Southern California Deanery Summer Camp Program
June 11, 2005
Garden Grove, California
Right Reverend, Very Reverend, and Reverend Fathers; Reverend Deacons; and beloved Faithful:
This evening we are beginning to launch out into a new phase of our camping program. We are gradually bringing the camp from a local activity to a Diocese ministry. The camping program has a long history, and we must all work together to help people within the Southern California Deanery and the Diocese as a whole understand that this is their camp. This is certainly not an easy task; change never is. But, with prayer and hard work, things will change.
We have good people, working very hard to serve our youth and their parents. I am confident that the Lord is hearing our prayers and, in His time, will grant even greater blessings to this important ministry.
The camping experience is not limited to a week or two in the summer. Those who went to camp in the past, to this day, tie important changes in their lives, to the camp. They made life-long friends from other parishes. Non-Orthodox campers have converted, or at least gained an appreciation for our Faith. Children who doubted or misunderstood Orthodoxy learned about the richness of the Church. God reached out and healed the spiritual suffering of many campers through the love they experienced from the clergy and staff. Who can see these things and think of the camp as trivial?
It is our duty to help our fellow parishioners and even the staff to realize physically being at camp is only a small part of the camping experience. At camp, seeds are sown which can take days, weeks, months, years or even decades to germinate. The power of this ministry is that it does not look like a ministry. Children come to play, not realizing that they will encounter the Living God. Their parents may see camp as a nice activity that gets the kids out of the house during the summer break from school. They are completely unaware that what goes on at camp is potentially more important, than all the studies and schooling that goes on the rest of the year. After all, without a foundation of Christian virtues, all the education in the world is meaningless. Education cannot cure loneliness, anxiety, depression and fear. Only faith in God’s mercy can.
This holy Faith is our only real gift to the children. If we devote ourselves more unreservedly to our Lord, if we seek His will in our lives and surrender to His loving care, then He shall grant us many more blessings.
I want all of you to know that you have much to be grateful for. The work of past generations is paying off, and we are reaping the fruits of their labor. Let us be thankful for what we have, and open to what God has in store for us, as we cooperate with Him in the ministry He is carrying out. Remember that, all things, even trials and hardships, ultimately bring God glory and praise. We have nothing to fear and no reason to doubt. We have come a long way, and so we should be confident there is a bright future ahead.
I would like to thank Fr. John Reimann, Hani AbuGhazahli, and all the rest of the camp staff, both past and present, for their good work and self-sacrifice for the sake of our youth. May God bless you all.