New playground for kids’ summer camp in Jordan

Improvements at Christian Summer Camp:  Each year the Religious Freedom Coalition helps to improve the environment of this summer camp for Christian children in Jordan.

Children gather for sunset service at Camp Gilead. The children sit facing Israel, just across the Jordan River behind the cross.

Christians are only six percent of the population and most Christian children are in the public schools where the study of Islam is mandatory. Only at their churches can Christian children talk and act like Christians.  But in the summer, for a short time, they are immersed in a very Christian environment at Camp.

The Camp  for children was founded by a dear friend of mine more than 30 years ago.  Constant maintenance and updates are required and each year the RFC works with Camp administrators to help repair and update the camp.

A few years ago, the Religious Freedom Coalition replaced the rusted steel water tanks on the roofs of the buildings with modern PVC tanks.  The old tanks were so corroded that insects could fly in and lay eggs.  The system is now sealed. We replaced all the mattresses some years ago and replaced them again this year.  We also helped to remodel the kitchen and bought new commercial refrigerators.

Last year, the police refused to allow the camp to reopen unless new security measures were taken.  While additional security was needed, the majority Sunni Muslim nation often makes permits for Christian institutions very difficult to get.  The Religious Freedom Coalition helped to repair and extend the fencing and paid to install a state-of-the-art security camera system.  Our help allowed the camp to open on time.

This year our goal was to rebuild the playground for younger children and somehow provide protection from the sun during the hot summer days.  First, the rocks were removed, and the dirt leveled.  Sand a foot deep was then placed to level the area and two sets of slides, swings, and other playground equipment were added.  Most importantly, heavy poles were installed to support canvas covers over the area to protect the younger children from the hot summer sun.

About one-third of the play area is shown in this photo. Slides, swings and other playground equipment is now installed, and other improvements are on the way. The area is now covered.

During my recent trip to the Middle East, I traveled to Jordan to inspect the new playground.  OK … I admit that I really just like going to the summer camp and watching and hearing the children having fun, learning more about Jesus, and praising the Lord.  The area for prayer and praise is an amphitheater built in the side of the Jordan Valley.  As the children worship, they look at a large cross with Israel visible on the other side of the valley.

The camp, in one form or another, has existed since 1974.  It was first called Camp Emmanuel.  The founder and his wife lived at the camp for 30 days each year.  He led the camp and his wife cooked for the children.  They’re a lot older now, but they still visit the camp almost daily each summer to be with the children.  This year, over 6,000 children, including Syrian and Iraqi refugees, will visit the camp in the summer — and all will hear the wonderful Gospel message.

Three-day camps are scheduled for July just for Iraqi Christian refugee children whose parents cannot afford any payment at all, not even for food.  The Religious Freedom Coalition will sponsor summer camp for those children.

A mosque for a Christian youth camp?  The Camp we support  is located quite far from Amman and there is no nearby residential community.  That did not stop Sunni Muslims from building a large mosque with the highest tower possible, as close to the Christian camp as possible.  No one actually attends the mosque, but five times a day the call to prayer goes out over loudspeakers in hopes it will disturb the children and their counselors.

The mosque built near Camp Gilead features a tall “prayer tower” that lights up bright green at night. The loudspeakers are the most powerful that can be bought.

Approaching the Camp  this year, I was surprised for about two seconds to see the new mosque less than 50 yards from the entrance drive. My surprise did not last long because I am aware   that Muslim believers are taught to always impose Islam on others.  Christianity spread in the 600 years after the Crucifixion by evangelism, not the sword.

Then, the Christian nations of Egypt and the Levant (that is Syria, Iraq, Israel and Lebanon) were all conquered one-by-one with the sword of Islam. Murder and rape were the main means of forced conversion to Islam.  The Eastern Roman Empire did not fall until May of 1453, as the Ottomans used cannons they had bought from France to bring down the walls of Constantinople.

The spread of Islam by violence — particularly the Sunni version of Islam preferred by Saudi Arabia — continues to this day, except now we call it “terrorism” and don’t mention Islam.

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