Off to Camp We Go!
by Leora Mazurovsky, Personal Assistant to Eitan Shishkoff, Tents of Mercy

By Leora Mazurovsky

I was 22 years old when we moved to Israel. I was the oldest of six with four very much younger siblings. In the ensuing years, I watched with something approaching envy as they went off to a week of camp each summer. The camps changed as the kids grew. First there was the kid's camp, then "Souled Out" camps and later the Katzir camps. When they were too old to attend as campers they went back as counselors. I was so proud of them and still a little bit jealous. I had never gotten to go to anything like this when I was growing up. My brothers and sisters didn't realize it at the time, but they were part of something much bigger than just a fun few days away from their home and parents. Those annual summer camps, attended by kids from all over Israel were a place where God created a network of fledgling believers who are now in their 20's and are serving God throughout Israel and the world.

Our wonderful volunteers feeding the masses
In 2007 I sent off another little camper - my six year old daughter. She was attending a newly established summer camp - Camp Reshet (Camp Network), set up to provide a week of fun and spiritual instruction for the children of our congregational network. It was the brainchild of Eitan and Pastor David McQueen of Beltway Park Baptist Church in Texas. The hands on administrators were Pastor Randy from Beltway and my mom, Katya (our Shabbat School director). That first year was a success and we've been "camping" every year since.

Katya sees the camp as an extension of our ministry to the kids and families in our congregation. She said, "I knew it would be a lot of work, but I thought that a camp like this would be good because it would give us an additional opportunity to connect to the kids outside of a Shabbat school setting. The kids already know many of their counselors and each other. It creates a more intimate experience, almost like a family outing. I didn't realize it at the time, but the camp has also enabled us to train our teenagers to serve as counselors."

Camp Reshet has a special additional feature. Each year, Pastor Randy brings almost 30 volunteers with him (the majority from Beltway Baptist), some of them returning year after year. These brave and generous individuals serve as handcraft teachers, baseball coaches, English teachers, kitchen staff and much more. The volunteers make our camp more than a congregational network camp. They connect us to the wider body of believers, serving our community with "practical love" and introducing the children to the concept of an international family of faith.

Piling hats on a counselor Playing Twister during "Silly Games" time
This year, instead of waving my kids off to camp, I got to go too. Forty is perhaps a bit old to be a camper, but I enjoyed the experience nevertheless. Katya was unable to come due to health reasons and so she handed the administration baton to me. I was honored and blessed to be able to serve in this unique setting alongside brothers and sisters from Israel and America.

Here are testimonials from some of the wonderful people that I was privileged to work with:

Fellowship around the fire
"I've grown up going to kids camps and I remember looking up to my counselors and how much fun I had. Me being there as a counselor gives me the opportunity to provide that experience for other kids as well." (Camp Counselor)

"I was just BLOWN away by the fact that God used people halfway around the world, from a different culture and that I never expected to meet, to show me things and answer prayers. I feel I was truly blessed by the fellowship between the American believers and Israeli believers. From this I received a greater understanding of the fellowship and unity that God desires for His children and how purely pleasant it is!" (Camp Volunteer)

"I've been a counselor at children's camps all over the world and have never experienced such an overwhelming power from the Spirit radiating from children like I did at this camp - completely breathtaking. It actually made me jealous for the LORD in new ways." (Camp Volunteer)

"I love that language does not have to be a barrier to express and show the Father's heart..." (Camp Volunteer)

Singing the camp song all together
"The reason I come back again and again is because God has given me a charge to love and encourage the future of Israel. When I see these kids, I see leaders that will not only be placed in strategic positions in the Israeli culture, but these are also the people who will be used greatly by God to draw His people back to him through the lives they live. I feel a little guilty as I get so much more from camp than I ever give. I love being a part of something so amazing!" (Camp Volunteer)

"Our children, have returned from the children's summer camp put on for all the network congregations. They were filled with a right spirit and refreshed after making new friends and having new experiences. They had the opportunity to fellowship with one another as well as with other children and youth from believing families throughout Israel. The children experienced an awaking in the area of worship. This is a real answer to prayer." (Guy Cohen, Katzir Asher Congregation in Akko)

These quotes sum up the heart of Camp Reshet. It is our desire that as we serve each other and the kids in work and play, God will fulfill His purposes in all of our lives, creating a true Kingdom Network.

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