A group of Wesleyans gathered in one corner of the hotel ballroom with their journal books and pens ready to write reflections. In another corner, a group of Wesleyans were throwing their heads back with laughter listening to the sharing of their friends. For four days and three nights, Wesleyan campers come together to start their day by raising their voices, worshipping God, and praising Him. This is the sight that greeted all who entered the ballroom of the Pullman Hotel in Kuala Lumpur from 10 to 13 June 2023.
First Post-Pandemic Camp by Wesley Methodist Church
The Wesley Church Camp returns with a bang after a three-year pause from the pandemic. Organised by the Family Life Ministry, led by Rev Gladwin Lee and Camp Committee Chairperson Kelvin Wong, this year’s Wesley Church camp saw a turnout of over 500 campers ranging from ages 1 to 80, including 32 participants from the Wesley Mandarin Ministry. Numerous members also invited their pre-believing family members to join this family camp with the objective of getting them to experience the warmth and intimacy of a loving church community beyond the usual Sunday church services.
The sentiment – we can learn a lot from the younger generations – rang consistently throughout this year’s intergenerational services and was likewise carried out over Wesley’s 2023 Family Camp, aptly themed “Becoming A Family of God”.
Pastor-in-Charge of Wesley Methodist Church, Rev Raymond Fong, who was there with his wife Grace, welcomed and encouraged all to take the time to know God and bond with one another as a spiritual family.
This year’s guest speaker Rev Dr Gordon Wong, the Methodist Church’s Bishop, added: “Every church should cater to at least one specific group who feels excluded.” He also reminded the campers, “It is natural to feel anguish and betrayed—but we can still be a great blessing beyond our own feelings of unblessedness.” “Think beyond our physical frailty to spiritual fruitfulness; take our great anguish and find great abundance. We can be abundant in our barrenness,” said Bishop Wong.
The camp’s programmes comprise worship, plenary sessions, smaller discussion group sessions, fun and games, and communal meal times.
Said Aw Meng Yin who was at the camp with her husband: “Through our discussion group, I got to know two new friends. Though we spent only a short time together, our deep sharing made it feel like we had known each other for a lot longer. This was over and above the many others I met at meal times!”
Bishop Dr Gordon Wong’s sermons focused on four adjectives that could describe a family: inclusive, bereaved, godly and happy. He also touched on how a family should help one another deal with loneliness. The messages, such as to extend the ways in which God’s presence can be experienced and encountered, and to wait on the promise of a new heaven and earth, were relevant to all, reminding us that the love of God transcends age, social-economic status, and everything else.
Besides listening to the sermons, there were many other opportunities for the campers to apply what they heard from the sermons and ‘practise’ becoming a family of God, such as through action songs leading by the Childrens’ Ministry, game facilitating by those from BeTween and the Youth Ministry, and more tech-savvy attendees leading the rest of their family or group members to create reels (short videos) of our time at camp to showcase during Agape Night, the final night of the camp where campers ate and fellowshipped together in the ballroom.
Over a few hours, we tested familiarity with the Bible and worship song lyrics, and got active in different team games that required acting, doing arts and crafts, solving puzzles, and much more.
A Purposeful Faith-Forming and Disciple-Making Environment
Campers also had the opportunity to be immersed in a purposeful faith-forming and discipleship-making environment, from the moment they gathered to leave for the camp to the last minute when they departed from the hotel. The activities become a place for campers to rekindle old friendships disrupted by the pandemic, attendance at different services or a long break from small groups. Ongoing spiritual friendships were sustained by spending more time doing life together during the camp. Church camps are not just a time to listen to sermons individually or meet up for 3-hour Bible study sessions. During camps like these, campers can experience a life centred on God’s presence amid the activities of the world.
English and Chinese Congregations but One Spiritual Family
Bringing the inclusiveness of our church family to another level, the Mandarin Ministry led the worshippers in spirit-filled songs that blessed everyone from both the English and Chinese congregations. “We appreciated the opportunity for the Mandarin Ministry to lead a worship item for ‘Agape Night’,” said Justin Ong, who was there with his Mandarin Ministry community. “I enjoyed the time of bonding through the station games that accommodated all skill levels and ages with its main objective of connecting everyone.” Regardless of whether we are from the English or Chinese congregation, we are one big spiritual family at Wesley.”
Another seasoned Wesleyan camper expressed his delight with the celebration of love during Agape Night: “The sumptuous feast and showcase of the different talents in our Wesley family awaited us. Through the songs, dances and games,coupled with a very good emcee for the night, we celebrated our love for each other and were reminded of the Lord’s love for us. We were “shining” in bright orange, perhaps symbolic of the light we must be and the warmth we should bring wherever we go. The verse from Ephesians 5:8 came to my mind during the feast ‘For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.’”
Said Rev Gladwin Lee, the pastor in charge of Church Camp: “It was a beautiful sight to see generations and families coming together to worship, play and grow together. Through the conversations during group time and over meals, I have observed that there is much more in common among the generations than what separates us. I hope that we will continue to embrace and serve each other, regardless of our generation, so that we may become more inclusive as a family of God.”
Missed the Wesley Church camp this year? Look out for it again in 2025! The Wesley Church camp is a biennial church-wide event organised by the Family Life Ministry (FLM). Throughout the year, FLM also organises many activities, such as parenting workshops, how to care for ageing parents, and marriage-strengthening seminars, to help build and strengthen families. Keep up to date with all the events organised by FLM here!