Happy Camper: Briercrest students leadership brings new life to Newfoundland camp

Posted: February 11, 2013

When everyone else questioned the future of the aging Newfoundland Adventure Camp (NLAC), Nancy Pike saw the opportunity for a new beginning.

She was only in Grade 12.

“God gave me a vision for the camp when I was in Grade 12,” the second year Briercrest student explained. “I knew I was going to be the camp director for Newfoundland Adventure Camp, but I didn’t know anything about camp. I had only been a camp leader once. The camp was in rough shape then and I knew it was going downhill. God just placed it on my heart, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know what to do with the vision – with the passion that I had.”

Today, seven years later, the Steady Brook, N.L. resident is in her fourth year as the director of the camp, which celebrated its biggest summer ever last year, hosting eight camps.

Getting to this place was quite a story.

Pike spent the first two and a half years after high school gaining some valuable experiences that would wind up helping her in camp ministry. Her first stop was Toronto, Ont.

“I was a missionary there for two years working with at-risk kids and youth in the inner city, which didn’t really have anything to do with camp in a sense,” she said. “But all through that time everything that I learned as a leader I would (apply) it to how I could use it at Newfoundland Adventure Camp.”

“Then when I was done with my two years there, I said, ‘God is it time that you want me to go now to Newfoundland?’ (He said) ‘No, it’s not time Nancy. You still have a lot to learn.’”

Pike’s next task was serving at Crusader’s Union Camp in Sydney, Australia.

“This time I was actually working in a camp setting,” she said. “I ran 16 camps . . . for the six months I was there.”

At the end of six months in Sydney, Pike felt it was time to contact the owners of NLAC, West End Baptist Church in St. John’s.

“So, I called them from Australia and said, ‘Hi, my name is Nancy,’” she explained. “They hadn’t met me. I talked to the youth pastor. I . . . basically laid out the passion and the vision that I had for this camp and the youth pastor said, ‘Well, it’s really funny that you called at this point, because the deacons are meeting in two weeks to decide what to do with the camp – to decide whether or not to sell it or to keep it and start pouring into it.’”

Pike’s vision would require big steps for the small camp. In its history of almost 40 years there had never been a paid director. Any prior leadership had been made up of volunteers. The youth pastor asked her if she could submit a proposal to the church before the deacon’s meeting in two weeks.

Pike was ready for the task.

“So I wrote a proposal to the church and basically laid out my 15 year plan that I’d been planning for the last three years,” she exclaimed. “Then I left Australia and came home in faith that they would hire me.”

Pike wasn’t disappointed. She was soon hired as director of NLAC, but there was a lot of work to do.

“When I came on four years ago . . . it was in rough shape,” Pike said with a smile. “They were running one to two camps a summer, but God gave me a vision for the camp.”

For the last two years, Pike has divided her off-season time between camp responsibilities and being a student at Briercrest College and Seminary.

“God just put it on my heart that I needed to . . . get more Bible training under my belt,” she said. “Just to be in an environment with other Christians – learning about ministry and leadership and Scripture.”

Pike is completing her last semester in Caronport. The growth of the camp demands that she live full-time in Newfoundland.

“I’ll do some distance classes next year,” she said. “Just to keep my mind engaged and to study. Who knows where God will lead me? If He’ll take me back to school at some point, I don’t know.”

Under Pike’s leadership, a lot of improvements have taken place a NLAC. Although activities such as a low ropes course, archery, rocket building and guitar lessons have been added, there’s one main change that the director believes is at the heart of the camp’s successful growth.

“The main change that I made was training up leaders,” she exclaimed. “That’s been my main focus for the past three years – equipping leaders to be able to do a good job. That’s something they’d never done, so I started a leaders-in-training (LIT) camp and really poured into my leaders what I expect from them and how I want them to be an example to the campers. I’ve raised the bar a lot on leadership.

The changes seemed to have worked.

“Last summer was a huge milestone,” Pike beamed. “It was the biggest summer that we’ve ever seen – lots of new campers. We doubled in registration and kids’ lives were changed in miraculous ways. So, next year I have 11 camps planned. God is just opening up doors all over the place for new churches hearing about our camp and all kinds of different things. It’s very exciting.”

Briercrest student Jennifer Emberley grew up attending NLAC. Two years ago she worked for Pike as program director. She is excited about the growth she’s seen at the camp.

“When Nancy began directing in 2010, the level of camping ministry at NLAC skyrocketed,” she said. “God has blessed her hard work as more and more campers are coming to our little camp, which is offering a whopping 11 camps this year, compared with two in 2009.”

Amid all the growth and success, Pike’s vision for the campers is clear.

“I want kids to fall in love with Christ,” she said. “I want Christ to be their foundation – to be their solid rock that they know they have with them. I don’t want camp just to be a fun place to go for them to have a spiritual high for a week. I want them to grow and be discipled and be inspired by the leaders who display a life of living out the love they have for Christ.”