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News & Events

 

A blog following the travels of Dan Bolin, International Director of CCI-Worldwide.

 

CCI - Ukraine - Truskavets - April 2015

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP12er @ 12:27

God blessed CCI-Ukraine’s April training conference with amazing springtime weather, more participants than expected, and a wonderful atmosphere of unity and joy.

120 Christian camping leaders from throughout Ukraine met near Truskavets for five days of training on topics as diverse as biblical foundations of Christian camping, sports and games, innovation, counselor skills, and marketing and fundraising. 

The conference’s content was surpassed only by the love, fellowship, joy and unity experienced by those who attended.  Singing, skits, games, laughter and prayer filled the days.

The tension in Eastern Ukraine hung over the conference as well. The first night the leaders proclaimed the conference a “politics free zone.” They asked that the focus be on getting to know God and learning how to serve Him despite the turmoil the country is facing. 

The strife has impacted camp logistically and economically. Many camps in the eastern part of the country have halted operations until the current problems subside; others have relocated their camp ministry to safer sites in the western part of the country. Financially, the country struggles for three reasons:

  • The fighting in the east has created many refugees and special humanitarian needs. Funds that might have been available to camps are being diverted to this urgent immediate need. Coupled with that, many camps desire to host the refuge children but find it difficult to fund this effort.
  • The Ukrainian currency has weakened relative to most other world currencies. The buying power has shrunk dramatically, and there is no clear understanding about their future economic situation
  • Support from some Western donors has diminished or ceased. Although some of this has been planned for years, the timing has made this loss of funding particularly painful.

Despite these challenges, the participants at the CCI-Ukraine conference were positive and joyful. One morning we gathered early in the center of camp for a prayer hike.  We walked into a magnificent forest and eventually came to a clearing where staff members had prepared a roaring bonfire.  We spent some solitary time in personal prayer and then came together around the fire for corporate prayer and singing. 

With many reasons to be discouraged, this group demonstrated amazing joy and resolve.  Around the bonfire, one young man observed that the problems of the country are forcing young people to address issues of life and death, and they are asking questions about eternity.  He prayed that God would use Christian camping as a tool to begin a revival in their country and that God would use their problems to bring a great transformation in the next generation of leaders. 

All I could say was amen and amen!

The CCI-Worldwide Board exists to make corporate decisions for its member associations – and a lot more. The Policies and Practices Manual requires that the board members meet face-to-face at least once a year. During the five days together at HeronBridge near Johannesburg, South Africa, there was much prayer, many laughs, deep discussions, significant decisions, and great hope for the future.

Some of the time was spent on rather routine reports and discussions: budgets, fees, schedules, travel plans and performance review. But much of the time was spent thinking about and discussing opportunities and challenges that face the movement.

The board -

  • Explored ideas to advance the educational opportunities. We discussed the possibility of cooperating with the academic community to develop and promote generic courses that would benefit Christian camping leaders throughout the world.
  • Discussed hosting Vision Trips to different parts of the world to expose donors and potential donors to the impact that is being made through Christian camping ministries.  
  • Wrestled with whether or not CCI-Worldwide should endorse products and services. The Board weighed the benefits and possible pitfalls of such arrangements. A policy will be forthcoming. 
  • Discussed the need to update the Policies and Practices Manuel and deliberated on the depth of changed that are needed. A committee was appointed to address these changes.
  • Discussed worldwide marketing options.
  • Explored new funding options that would involve broadening and deepening the financial and prayer support team.
  • Reviewed options for future meeting sites and discussed the value of visiting different parts of the world for the annual board meetings and quadrennial summits.

Major steps are being taken to attain the Excelsior Challenge – to see 15,000,000 campers and guests attending Christian camps and conferences annually by the year 2020.  This year we passed the 11,000,000 camper mark.  We are grateful for the opportunity to serve and minister to every camper and guest.  New associations are being developing and many associations are serving more camps and camping leaders.

The board meeting was much more than a business gathering. The men and women of the board prayerfully and wisely guided the worldwide movement to grow Christian camping in a God-honoring way. 

CCI-Worldwide - HeronBridge Retreat - Johannesburg, South Africa - March 2015

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP3er @ 15:31

South Africa will host the 2016 CCI-Worldwide Summit in April 2016. To preview the site and plan effectively, the board of CCI-Worldwide held its annual face-to-face meeting at the host center, HeronBridge (HB) Retreat, near Johannesburg.  

Next week I’ll share a little about the meeting, but this week I’ll focus on the South African experience we enjoyed.

HeronBridge is a well-groomed, comfortable site less than an hour from the Johannesburg international airport. The HB staff overflowed with hospitality; the food was sumptuous, and the late summer/early autumn days provided a delightful background for our deliberations.

One day we explored the city and spent a few hours visiting the Apartheid Museum.  The tour was inspiring, educational, and troubling. The museum not only detailed the monumental events related to apartheid, it also provided the historical context that led to the racial conflict and oppression.

We spent some time at the Johannesburg Zoo. Although not in their natural habitat, the animals were much closer to home and in large, very well-attended surroundings. I enjoyed seeing rhinos, elephants, lion, hippos, zebra and a host of other African treasures in a cool, green setting within the heart of Johannesburg.

We were joined one day by the board of Christian Camping Southern Africa. These men and women will help host the events of April 2016. One evening we enjoyed a traditional South African Braai. Knowing the joys of an East Texas barbeque, I felt right at home as the grill master worked on the steak, chicken and sausage. Some events are truly international!

The warm hospitality of the staff, the comfortable, accommodating facilities, the pleasant weather, the fascinating African heritage and culture, along with the desire to support Christian camping in Africa and around the world makes HeronBridge Retreat and South Africa a choice location for the 2016 Summit. 

CCI-Russia - St. Petersburg - February 2015

Posted by Dan Bolin on OA9er @ 9:25

The snow, slush and cold of the Russian winter provided a stark contrast to the warm hugs and friendly smiles of the participants at the CCI-Russia training conference. The event was held at Saint Petersburg Christian University and 239 people participated.

Joyful and inspiring singing unified the group. Voices praised God together from throughout the vast country, which spans eleven time zones. One lady from the far eastern part of Russia traveled farther to reach St Petersburg than I did coming from Tyler, Texas. In addition to the Russians, Christian camping leaders from several other countries attended the conference.

I love to teach Biblical foundations of Christian camping, and during that first-day seminar I enjoyed a room full of eager students. My three-day classes on Devotional Writing and Leadership also allowed me to teach on subjects I enjoy and to students who were excited to learn and ready to apply their new knowledge within their camp ministry.

Participants were required to be 18 years old to attend. However, many were not much older. I was delighted and encouraged that the young people could gain skills and training that they could apply in camp and in other ministries for the rest of their lives. I estimate the average age to be in the mid-20s. 

My good friend, Dan DeGroat, the president of the Global Outreach Group, was honored – this is the 20th annual conference he has attended in Russia. His influence and sacrifice, along with the contributions of many others and the grace of God, helped start CCI-Russia.

The conference was entitled “Roots and Fruits.” The roots that were planted 20 years ago have produced much good fruit. But new roots were planted at this conference as well. After the guests departed, about a dozen leaders remained behind to plan for the future and to develop opportunities for CCI-Russia to see a greater harvest in the years to come.  

CCI-Spain/Portugal - January 2015

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP5er @ 17:23

My hopes for a simple smooth start to my trip to Portugal to participate in the 2015 CCI-Spain conference were demolished when my first flight was cancelled - meaning, I’d miss my next two connections and arrive at my final destination of Porto, Portugal who knows when. So we started over the next day and arrived a day late, but none worse for the ware.

Yes, CCI-Spain held its national training conference in Portugal, at a conference center near the beautiful city of Porto. Locating the event in Portugal allowed several of the Portuguese Christian camping leaders to attend and experience the fellowship and training that CCI-Spain provides.

I always enjoy seeing friends I have met on previous visits, but I also enjoy meeting new people - Spanish and Portuguese Christian camping leaders, young Portuguese musicians, American missionaries and participants who had traveled for several days by car from Croatia. 

The site was a 10-minute walk from the beach. The times before breakfast and during the afternoon breaks provided opportunities to watch the power of the surf and the pounding of the waves.

The small group seminars allowed me to teach some of my favorite subjects: Marketing, Philosophy and Practice of Camp Programing, Staff Development and Board Governance. I even got to lead a morning group devotion on one of my favorite Bible characters, Asher.

One afternoon the entire group boarded the local train and rode 40 minutes to downtown Porto. We entered a magnificent city with a rich history and beautiful coastline. The many massive cathedrals, narrow winding streets, fascinating shops, and inviting cafes made the afternoon and evening a rich memory. 

Dr. Rob Ribbe from Wheaton College was the main speaker. He shared the parallels between the literary archetypal pattern of the Hero’s Journey and the lives of several biblical characters.  As I listened to his fascinating observations I couldn’t help but think that CCI-Spain is on a "Hero’s Journey" - their call to a great challenge, the accumulation of companions, the struggles along the way, and the hope of a successful conclusion and the satisfaction of a job well done. 

Spain is reaching out to others, helping Portugal, encouraging Croatia and assisting the Christian camping movement throughout their sphere of relationships. It was a joy to be a part of their conference, and I look forward to seeing how God will lead them in their Hero’s Journey.

CCI-Netherlands - February 2015

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP12er @ 12:23

My friend Gerhard was waiting for me when I landed in Amsterdam. It is always nice to see a friendly face in a sea of international travelers.  Even though the hour was late, we stopped to visit one small but elegant retreat center on the way to Gerhard’s site. 

After breakfast the next morning, Peter Madern, chairman for CCI-Netherlands, arrived and we spent the day visiting holiday parks and campsites throughout northern Netherlands. We also visited the widow and grieving family of one site whose director had recently passed away.

That evening Peter and his family along with Gerhard and his wife arranged for us to dine at a restaurant to make me feel right at home – the Texas Rib House. It was great, but it was odd hearing the English translation of the menu with a distinctly Dutch version of a Texas accent. 

That night, I admit, I set my alarm for 2:30 to listen to the college championship game of American Football.  My beloved Oregon Ducks came in second. 

I slept late, but the next afternoon the members of CCI-Netherlands met, and I was privileged to speak to the group about the value and impact of Christian camping.

None of our associations does group marketing better than CCI-Netherlands. We all have much to learn from their cooperative projects and group efforts.

The next day I was winging my way home. It was a delightful trip, and I enjoyed renewing friendships, visiting numerous sites, hearing of growth and plans for the future, and eating Texas-style ribs.

CCI-UK and European Gathering - January 2015

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP2er @ 14:43

Traveling is not too much fun, but arriving is always wonderful. When I landed at Heathrow Airport in London, I was met by Norman Doney, our CCI-Representative for Europe. He is gifted at driving on the “other side” of the road.

We collected two more friends from the Netherlands and France at another airport and then drove northwest for a few hours until we reached the Hayes Centre. This is a beautiful old estate with stately brick buildings and manicured landscaping. The leadership team had assembled, and the energy that accompanies the day before a national conference was evident.

The conference began the next day. I was inspired by the worship, teaching and the small group interaction and prayer. Rob Whittiker, the leader of Capenwray Hall in the UK, shared insights from the life of Abraham. He is a master teacher who drew principles from Abraham’s life and applied them to our lives today.

Following the teaching, we met in small groups. I was assigned a group that consisted of six women and three men. But I was the only man who showed up. I had a wonderful time interacting about the teaching and learning from the women’s perspectives.  

As always, meal times were choice opportunities to reconnect with friends that I have met over the years and to meet new people who are serving the Lord in Christian centers throughout the UK. These new leaders keep getting younger and younger. 

Camping leaders throughout Europe were invited to attend the CCI-UK conference, and about 20 guests from 10 countries participated. Following the UK conference these leaders spent an additional 24 hours praying, reporting, and planning for the future.

Christian camping is a relational ministry; as efficient and helpful as email and other electronic communication can be, there is no substitute for being in the same room and meeting face to face. 

Following the European Gathering, I spent two days with Norman Doney and his wife Rosslyn in Cranleigh where we celebrated Norman’s 60th birthday. The next morning we attended church and then headed back to Heathrow for my next stop – Netherlands.  

A wonderful conference. Exciting reports from throughout Europe. A joyous 60th birthday party for Norman. A short trip but one packed with wonderful people, encouraging reports and great hope for the future.

CCI-Mexico Conference - Rio Verde - November 2014

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP8er @ 20:22

In mid-November, over 100 Christian camping leaders gathered at Campamento Maranatha near Rio Verde, Mexico, for training, planning, reporting and fellowship.

The group represented a healthy mix of young and old, men and women, those with decades of experience, and some new to Christian camping. Some were pastors, others youth workers, some student volunteers, and most were simply volunteers who used vacation time to serve in camps throughout Mexico.

I spoke four times and, with the help of Guido and Vickey, my interpreters, we explored the Blessing of Association and Strategic Planning.

The worship was inspiring, the morning devotions were challenging, the food was authentic and delicious, the seminars instructive, and I arrived early enough to get a bottom bunk.

One humbling and inspiring moment came at the conclusion of a report on CCI-Mexico’s outreach to train Christian camping leaders in Cuba. After sharing how over 200 Cuban men and women have been trained to lead camps, the participants were asked to volunteer to go again in 2015. Despite the cost of travel and the need to help pay for the conference, hands shot upward all around the room. Within a few minutes, next year’s training team was in place 

One afternoon, buses arrived to transport the entire group to a local swimming hole where several of the younger participants enjoyed the crystal clear, cool, spring-fed waters of the Media Luna. Young and old enjoyed the picnic lunch and break in the training.

Christian camping has been active in Mexico for over 50 years, but new camps are emerging and established camps are growing. They are training the next generation of Christian leaders, and they are reaching out to their neighbors in Cuba. The best years are yet to come.

CCI-Latin America Conference - Honduras - October 2014

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP4er @ 16:18

More than 60 Christian camping leaders from 10 Latin American countries gathered at Campamento Cerra de Luz (Hill of Light) in Honduras, October 23-26, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of CCI-Latin America.  The four days were filled with laughter, learning, meeting new friends and planning for greater ministry impact throughout the region.

The Cumbre (Summit) was anchored by excellent training and strategic planning. Individual members participated in evaluations to discover their individual strengths and to learn how to best contribute to their country’s team.  In small groups each country planned the best way to expand the reach and deepen the impact of Christian camping in their part of the world.

One afternoon a bus ride took the group to a nearby town to learn the history of the area, see the town’s cathedral, plaza and government buildings, and to buy souvenirs. Visiting the town was enjoyable, but the ride there was unforgettable.  Country after country led the bus riders in singing camp songs and doing related cheers. Singing, dancing, cheering and laughing bonded the bus riders into a unified community.

During the conference I heard the stories of several people whose lives had been radically changed through an encounter with Christ at a Christian camp. They now lead and promote Christian camps in their countries.  One man grew up as an orphan; another fought with a communist rebel group. Some were highly educated—medical doctors, university professors and graduate students.  Other were simply committed to using their meager gifts in any way they could help.

A few impressions:   They love to hug – no wimpy handshakes allowed. The food was great and there was too much of it. Lots and lots and lots of pictures were taken. When it rains, it really rains. They sing from the heart. They accomplish a lot with a little. They make delicious ice cream. They know how to ride a bus!

During the past fifty years, God has done an amazing work to establish and grow CCI-Latin America.  The conference was a wonderful reminder of God’s care and provision.  But it was also a marvelous time to dream of what God may do in the next 50 years.  The best is yet to come.  

Australia - National Conference - July 2014

Posted by Dan Bolin on OP1er @ 13:43

Australia’s beauty is magnetic, attracting people from around the world. The Christian Venues Association’s (CVA is the Australian member of CCI) national conference, Connect 14, also attracted people from throughout the Asia Pacific area.  Representatives from Philippines, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh attended along with guests from Kenya, New Zealand and the United States. 

During the conference there were several international presentations. Australia has been very generous in supporting camp work in various parts of the region, and several guests expressed their gratitude for the support provided by CVA members.   

In response to the tragic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, leaders of Australian camp sites (through CVA) provided over $14,000 to CCI-Japan. This money is being used, in part, to provide Christian camp experiences for children displaced by the crisis. 

Philippines shared about the recent typhoon that had smashed through their country. One camp was in need of a chainsaw to clear the many downed trees and limbs that had damaged some building but not injured any staff or guests. Within 24 hours funds were provided to buy two chainsaws, with money left over.

We saw a presentation showing hundreds of children in Bangladesh singing songs, playing games, and hearing Bible stories. They were experiencing camp due to the generosity of people in Australia. 

A Kenyan representative explained how Christian camps are helping develop the next generation of African leaders. 

After the Australian conference, the international visitors stayed for two days of community building, planning, and prayer. Each nation left with plans for growth and the commitment to use Christian camping more effectively to share the gospel in their country. 

One participant learned of CCI by meeting a leader of CCI-Ukraine while at a conference in Thailand. God allowed CCI to connect the dots using people from around the globe. 

There is much to do in the Asia Pacific region, but God is at work. New Zealand is working hand-in-hand with Australia to help grow Christian camping in India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Japan, and throughout the region. These are exciting times, and I am thrilled to see God working in the Asia Pacific area.

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