One week every summer there exists a heavenly haven. It is a place where girls escape the constant connectedness of this world to connect with their heavenly Father. It is a place where girls can discover who they are in Christ and the call He has on their lives.
“We want the girls to see the mission of God, the Great Commission, and how they can get involved,” says Ann Lawrence, director of Girl’s Camp in Farmington, Maine. Lawrence has been directing camp alongside her good friend Gail Hallman since 2005.
Learning, Supporting, and Doing
Girl’s Camp has missionaries on site every year. This year, Gwen Williams and Janet Erwin served in the role. Every day the campers had a session with one of the missionaries to learn about her work and hear her testimonies. There were additional times in the afternoon when the missionaries visited the cabins to talk with the girls in a more casual setting. Hearing from the missionaries was a favorite part of camp for many campers.
“I’m inspired by the missionaries telling stories of how God inspired them,” said one camper.
Wednesday night is missions night at camp. Erwin taught the girls about Latvia through a Latvian song and traditional folk dance. Williams told them stories of talking to kids in schools.
As Hallman says, “If the girls know what missions is, they can pray and participate themselves.”
Every year an offering is collected for a missions organization. This year the offering supported OneLink, a collegiate missions organization. In the past, the girls have donated to Voice of the Martyrs; Pure Water, Pure Love; and many others. One year the campers packed care packages for foster children through Project Sparrow. They also made treats for local first responders.
Partnering and Pouring Into
This year, through WMU connections, Girl’s Camp was able to build a partnership with Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana Passaic in Passaic, New Jersey. Two leaders and six campers joined the Maine campers.
One of the campers did not speak English. She was in the red cabin, and I was the only staff member who could speak Spanish conversationally. I was able to communicate with the camper and form a relationship with her. The camper told the leaders at the end of the week that she felt loved and included because one of the leaders spoke her language.
I took a Spanish class last semester. It was a challenging class that took a lot of time and energy. At the time, I wondered if it was worth it. I see now the Lord prepared me during that time for something I didn’t even know about. Though it was hard, it was God’s provision and preparation that enabled me to impact someone else.
“By partnering with other churches to do camp, we spread information about missions and spark interest,” says Hallman. Lawrence and Hallman have discussed sending a team of staff from Maine to help with the camp in New Jersey.
Friendships built at camp continue throughout the year outside of camp. The girls continue to pour into each other’s lives long after camp ends. Retreats during the year strengthen the leadership team, and the staff meet each spring to plan the next summer camp. No matter where the staff come from, they are united by the common mission of spreading the love of Jesus to others. Once they have experienced Girl’s Camp at Farmington, they are forever included in the family.
“The goal of Girl’s Camp is that each staff member and camper leaves with a stickier faith than when they arrived,” says Lawrence.
To accomplish this, Hallman and Lawrence intentionally plan with three things in mind: input, output, and impact.
“Input is how many campers we have and how many staff we need for the number of campers,” explains Lawrence. “Output is teaching the girls how to pray, read the Bible, and have a personal walk with the Lord. Impact is how the campers will impact others. It is the difference each girl will make in her community.”
Impact is what drives the camp forward. This is why there is a staff training program for teenagers, why every staff member contributes to planning, and why the campers give money to missions organizations. Evidence of stickier faith can be seen in the number of girls who began as third graders and now serve as staff at the camp and active Christians in their local churches, schools, and communities.
Gail Hallman started a training track program. Girls completing ninth grade can apply to be a member of the program. They go through spiritual leadership training sessions and develop a servant’s heart by helping wherever needed at camp, working as a team to plan and execute activities.
“The training track is about replication. We want to pour into the next generation so that they can lead this camp someday or start other camps elsewhere,” said Hallman.
Ten years ago, the staff came from other states, but as a result of the training track, 90 percent of the staff is now local. More than that, the training track prepares young women to impact their communities. Current staff member and former camper and training track member, Taylor Garland, knows this well.
In 2019, Garland heard about Fellowship of Christian Athletes from a missionary at Girl’s Camp. An athlete herself, she felt God calling her to start a FCA group at her public high school in North Conway, New Hampshire. Her group hosted motivational speaker Bobby Petrocelli at a school-wide assembly in fall 2021. Garland introduced him and talked about her own testimony in front of 800 students.
“It was the first time I was publicly open about God’s calling in my life,” said Garland. “If it wasn’t for camp building my leadership skills and confidence, I wouldn’t have done it.”
This fall, Garland will start another FCA group at her college.
Friday night arrives and all the campers and staff gather in the dining hall for the last event of the week. After a time of singing and sharing what they’ve learned, the lights go out. Miss Ann holds up a single candle. She reminds the girls they are the light of the world. They must make a difference in the darkness around them.
Then all the women and girls are sent out. They are recharged, reconnected, and called to shine for Jesus in the world.
Anna Kezar is a journalism major at Grace College. She has attended Girl’s Camp for ten years and is passionate about telling stories that encourage and empower people to be active citizens of the world and the kingdom.