Camp Duffel Interview with Team Leader, Nathan Caldwell
Nathan Caldwell, a Camps International second generation missionary, started implementing the outreach program Camp Duffel in 2012. As his work with Camps International opened his eyes to the need for more camps in the world, he decided to do something about it. He hopped on a bus and went to give hands-on support to a camp that was struggling with activities, program, cabin group sizes, and much more.
As he traveled, word spread that there was training available for people who were interested in starting a camp for their church and community. Camp Duffel is now in its fifth year and will be in 3 countries and running 2 traveling teams this summer, helping multiple camps, and reaching countless children for Christ.
We’ve heard that Camp Duffel isn’t a place, but a strategy. Can you tell us a little more about what that means?
One of Camps International’s goals is to start Christian camps where there are none. Camp Duffel is the mobile outreach piece to accomplish that goal. We go to where there are churches that want to start a camp or a camp that’s already in place, but struggling, and we bring training, activities, and a small group model to that location.
What does an average summer with Camp Duffel look like for a traveling team member?
It will require a lot of giving of yourself and flexibility as you work with a multinational team in a foreign country using, at times, a second language (as you are able).
One goal is to help the young local leaders be able to execute camp themselves, even if we’re not there the next year. We don’t just train staff, we love on the kids, help with activities and in the kitchen and offer up whatever skill or talent we have, like music or jokes or a listening ear. Camp is about more than just having fun or knowing the rules to all the games. It’s about coming alongside young boys and girls and giving them a shoulder to lean on. Some of these kids may have never left their inner city neighborhood, much less spent a week outdoors with some church people. It’s an opportunity to foster a relationship that can last throughout the year. As a team member, we get to step in and help make that relationship possible.
How does a new or needy camp become eligible for a visit from a Camp Duffel traveling team?
It’s not like we have some long and vigorous application process for a camp to go through before we send them a team. As long as we have team members who are willing to go, we send whatever help a camp asks for. As we develop a relationship with these churches and camps, we’re able to help them stand on their own as they prepare for their next summer of camp. 3-5 years later, they’ll be able to host camp without the need for outside help.
You’ve mentioned that Camp Duffel partners with churches. What are the camps like?
These camps aren’t like some summer camps we’re used to here in the States, where we all know the words to the worship songs around the camp fire every night. A lot of these kids may never have attended church or even identify with a particular religion.
Camps International’s camp theology involves running camps with small groups—cabin groups of seven—and skill-based activities so kids can receive practical life lessons while they have fun. Trained counselors relate different activities to the gospel and walking with Christ. Once they go home, their cabin group is their small group; discipleship and follow-up are built right in because they already have relationships with each other.
How could someone become involved with Camp Duffel?
There will always be more camps that need help than there are people to offer that help. If you’re interested in becoming a part of a Camp Duffel traveling team, you can fill out a preliminary application. We’re always looking for able-bodied volunteers to help nurture and build up camps in all sorts of great places.
What if someone wants to help, but they’re not available for travel right now?
Part of what makes Camp Duffel unique is that we don’t only offer knowledge or only offer equipment. We provide activities and the training to use them, program formulas and how to implement them. If you’re not able to jump on a bus right now, consider hosting a collection drive. Help us fill a duffel bag full of activities so we can leave it at a camp we help. For information on how to host a collection drive and a list of things to fill a duffel bag, visit startcamps.com/campduffel
Nathan Caldwell can be reached at nathan @ campsinternational.org but has already begun his journey this summer, so may not be able to respond. Follow along on our Facebook page to keep updated on Nathan’s summer with Camp Duffel.