Fatherlessness in America and how camp ministry can change the narrative.
The Psalm68Five team just spent an amazing three days on the campus of Wheaton College with some of the greatest minds in the world of academia and great leaders in the field of camp ministry, wrestling with the plight of the fatherless.
We gathered together at the perfectly appointed Harbor House on Monday evening to begin discussions and dissertations. Dr. Rob Ribbe opened the symposium with introductions and an overview of objectives. Dr. Margaret, Provost of Wheaton College encouraged us with her experience of camp and the importance of helping kids recapture their childhood, the wonder of life and gift of creativity. Bryan Johnson, Managing Director of Psalms68five followed this talk with his story; the story of his father and how Wheaton College was a part of it all.
Tuesday morning we were led in worship by Luke Taylor. Dr. Jay Barnes, president of Bethel University then took us through a time of prayer and devotions. Dr. Amy Reynolds kicked off the first morning session. She addressed the issues of fatherlessness in America, providing many statistics and insights concerning the challenges of the culture of fatherlessness. Dr. Rich Butman, along with grad students Dan Barnharhart, Richie Keezer and Michael Agipato, dealt with the psychological impact of single parent and/or no parent family systems.
Dr. Terry Huttenlock shared her personal experience as a widow with two children coping with the loss of her husband and the challenges of developing a support system. Dr. Chris Vlachos took us through the scriptures that deal with God’s heart for the orphan and widow.
Dr. Scottie May, professor of Christian Formation and Ministry shared some practical ways to draw kids into God’s story of love and redemption through story-telling. Historically the church has used apologetics and theology to convince people of the truth of the Gospel. Scottie walked us through a process of asking questions, inviting participants if they can relate to parts of the story she is telling. It was powerful.
After lunch we had a panel discussion around camp ministry models with Bryan and Bruce Johnson, Psalm68five Ministries and Camp Lake Louise; Matt Raines, Frontier Camp; Matt Moecki, Wildwood Hills Ranch; Mark Davidhizer, Camp Beechpoint.
Later in the afternoon we broke up into 5 separate working groups that addressed:
Biblical/Theology Review/Curriculum Design
Casting the Vision across Christian Camping/Building a Network
Relational Programming Elements
Creative Program Elements
Research and Evaluation
Tuesday evening Dr. Rich Butman arranged for an evening session with the Campus Community where Bryan Johnson shared with students and faculty his heart for the fatherless.
Wednesday morning Luke Taylor led us in worship again and taught us a song that he wrote specifically for the ministry to the fatherless. Bruce Johnson shared a moving devotional about the connection and inspiration that he found in the margins of his father’s, Bible. Bruce is the Board Chair at Camp Lake Louise, which was the inspiration and origin of Psalm68five Ministries.
During our final hours together, we had each of the working groups share what they had discussed and Dr. Rob Ribbe wrapped up symposium with an overview of those discussions and how we should move forward with next steps.
It was inspiring and encouraging to be a part of a community whose sole purpose was to address the issues related to fatherlessness; to recognize the vacuum and to help create a conduit that will allow God to fill it.