Two Briercrest College and Seminary alumni are excited about a new partnership that has potential to change lives.
Briercrest College and Seminary formally signed a partnership agreement with Rick and Elizabeth Geer and their organization, Pathway Camp Ministries (Pathway) on January 31.
Pathway, which started about seven years ago, began as a way to take mobile, faith-based camp programs to Aboriginal children living on reserves.
“We founded Pathway with the central purpose of taking all-day, week-long camps into Native communities,” Rick explained. “We go to seven different communities – we go to the same ones all the time and generally we try and take the same volunteer groups to just build a continuity of relationship with the kids and the community.”
“We also have two youth workers and two interns who choose two teenagers that come to our youth groups to mentor and intentionally disciple,” he continued. “They are in the youth’s life – walking with them, hanging out with them, going to their hockey games, going to their houses, having board game nights and that type of thing.”
The partnership, which is a certificate program called We-chay-win (walk with me in Cree), will provide the Pathway interns with the unique opportunity to serve within the organization while obtaining educational credentials through Briercrest.
“We have developed a certificate program that is really twofold. There is a gap year internship certificate program,” Brian Gobbett, associate VP (Academic) at Briercrest, explained.
“This internship will allow interns, during a gap year, to do ministry with Pathway while taking four classes through Briercrest in order to receive their certificate. At the end of 10 months they will get their certificate.”
Interns enrolled in the gap year program will work alongside Pathway while taking 12 credit hours of biblical coursework either on-site at Pathway, on-campus at Briercres, or via Continuing and Distance Education (CDE).
“And then the second part of this agreement is the existing certificate in biblical studies. So, if the student intern wants to stay for another two years with Pathway they can potentially achieve the certificate in biblical studies,” Gobbet explained.
Rick and Elizabeth said they are excited to be partnering with a place that changed their lives, and are now hoping to help others have the same life-changing experience.
“Briercrest was pivotal in our faith journey as we decided to enter ministry and God lead us to Briercrest. It was life-changing and that is one of the reasons we wanted to partner with Briercrest,” Elizabeth explained.
“Also, we realized the importance of really being grounded in God’s Word. So, with Briercrest and Pathway now being in partnership, our interns will be receiving credit for a lot of the hands-on work they do at the camp and it will give them a leg up in their future. It will help them realize how important post-secondary biblically-based education is in their own lives.”
Pathway was founded by the couple after working eight years at another camp where they continually saw a need among Aboriginal children.
“We were at this other camp and most of our campers each week were 90 to 100 per cent First Nations kids from a variety of reserves from around there. Then we were called near the end by someone from a reserve to provide a day camp, so we went to that reserve, Rick explained.
“Shortly after going we realized that none of those kids at the camp would ever have an opportunity to go to a conventional camp, and this was a huge community in the middle of nowhere, like the elementary school had about six to seven hundred or more kids in it.”
Pathway was started because of situations like this.
Elizabeth explained their ministry works with youth between the ages of seven and 12 during the summer months, but also provides the youth with much needed support throughout the year.
“A large part of our time outside of summer is building into the teenagers who have aged out of our programs because we always felt there was a lack. They would come to camp and then they would hit 12 years old and we wouldn’t have anything for them and that is when life just gets difficult,” Elizabeth explained.
“So we realized our focus really needed to be in the off camp season, building into those kids just as they are hitting their teen years and have so many questions and so many struggles. So we kind of have a two-pronged approach where the camp provides a fertile ground, as it were, for necessary relationships.”
Today, Pathway has three youth programs in reserve schools, two established evening youth groups that are run on a weekly basis, and weekend retreats.
The Greers said that while their ministry is small they are working toward changing the lives of one youth at a time and are excited for Briercrest to partner with them in this journey.
“You look at some of the kids and you see their trajectory change from the relationships formed,” Rick explained. “Their trajectory is shooting up a little higher. God changes them. So much has been against them for so long it’s just systematic all through their cultures.”
Elizabeth agreed with her husband.
“We see the potential in people. We don’t want to give handouts, we don’t want to focus on what’s bad, we want to focus on what God is going to do,” she added.
“So each one of those youth we are working with has the potential to be the pastor of their church, the teachers that influence lives, the Christian that changes historical patterns in their family that may not have been ideal. We just see that God can use anybody.”