(1) Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp and Retreat Centre

Source: (1) Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp and Retreat Centre

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The Search for Abundant Living

The Spring Seniors’ Retreat at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp and Retreat Centre focused on addressing the spiritual hunger evidenced in our culture today. Arthur Boers, the retreats’ speaker, noted a broader malaise in society reflecting patterns of distracted busyness. He suggested that we have less time to engage in meaningful ways with family or with friends. Also, there is an increasing reliance on technology when communicating with others. In the institution where he teaches, faculty often text or send an email to other persons who may be only a few doors down the hall. He suggested that this way of communicating tends to distance colleagues with the loss of the face to face engagement. This pattern is common in society as well which has the effect of creating distance between persons. This way of living contributes to feeling empty, unfulfilled as well as feeling isolated from others.

In the Christian community he sees an increasing desire for abundant living to respond to the feelings of emptiness and lack of meaning or lack of focus in life. Boers went on to talk about his search for personal and spiritual fulfillment.  In 2005, he walked five hundred miles on a pilgrimage route in northeast Spain, the Camino de Santiago. (Camino in Spanish for “way” or “path” and Santiago simply means Saint James), its destination is the city of Santiago de Compostela. There, a cathedral houses the purported relics of James the Apostle, the patron saint of Spain.

He stated that there is an increasing interest in pilgrimage. In 2005, there were 95,000 persons who walked this trail. He suggested that there are three types of persons who go on this pilgrimage through the centuries. The largest group are those who take the walk for religious reasons, searching for a deeper relationship with God. It is an occasion for contemplation and prayer. The walker can identify with a long Christian tradition of Christians who have made this pilgrimage through the centuries.

The second group are characterized as spiritual, desiring to reflect on their life and possibly realigning their priorities. For some it resulted in a vocational change. He met several persons for whom this became a reality.

The third group are secular persons who view it as being an intense physical challenge. Others see it as an inexpensive vacation.

In the midst of the pilgrimage, Boers learned to listen to others particularly those characterized as spiritual but not religious. The group members were interested in making a new acquaintance which resulted in an openness and trust. There was no rivalry seeing who would get to the destination first, rather there was an awareness that group members needed each other to complete the pilgrimage.

He quoted Albert Borgmann, a philosopher, who talks about the need for focal places in our lives. Places that inspire us and become significant for us as settings to encounter the divine. Boers said that our society is characterized by the geography of nowhere, everything looks the same. Communities all have the same appearance. We should find our sacred places which inspire us and open up the possibility of an encounter with the divine as revealed in Jesus Christ.

He asked, what happens when we live differently than our neighbours? For example, are we less busy than those around us or do we all live very busy lives? Do we take the time to engage others at a personal level? He encouraged us to examine how technology isolates us or brings us together in our families. Is the TV located in a central place interfering with normal family sharing? He talked about the need to create focal places that become natural places for conversation. In biblical times the well became a focal place for conversation.

We need to find ways and places to bring people together. Church gatherings such as worship services and fellowship meals are venues for people to engage meaningfully with others. Following these practices will hopefully lead individuals in the direction of abundant living.

He suggested that we develop focal practices such as having a disciplined prayer life by setting aside regular times for contemplation and reflection on the scriptures pausing to allow God to speak to us. Speaking personally, I find this practice to be the most challenging to carry out on an ongoing basis.

The retreat opened with a time of worship led by Nelson Scheifele, chair of the retreat committee. Abner Martin led the singing both in the opening worship as well as in the extended hymn sing prior to the afternoon presentation.

For those interested in learning more about the pilgrimage, read “The Way is Made by Walking”. A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago. IVP Books 2007.

Ralph Lebold

Arthur Boers holds the R.J. Bernardo Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary, Toronto. He previously taught at AMBS, Elkhart, Indiana. He has pastored churches in the US and Canada, including Windsor and Bloomingdale, Ontario. He is the author of more than a half dozen books.

 IMG_8526pictured is Arthur Boers talking to retreat participant Cecil Wagler

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Why Invest in Camping?

Why invest in camping?

By: Tina Wheaton
As published in the Canadian Mennonite Volume 17, Number 5
March 4, 2013

As Hidden Acres prepared to introduce and inform our many supporters about our new Camper Subsidy Fund at our 50th anniversary benefit concert I had a few butterflies in my stomach.

Would people get it? Would our supporters understand why it is so impor-tant that any camper who wishes to go to camp should not be denied because of finances? Would they realize what one week away at camp can mean for a low-income single mother and her family? Would they be moved to contribute, or would it flop?

Fortunately they did get it, contributing $15,000 towards the fund that evening. However, this made me reflect on why camp is so important. Why, when there are thousands of causes to contribute to, should camps make the cut? Here are just a few reasons why we know that a camp experience can make a real difference:

Kids’ reasons

  1. You can run around cheering and yelling with your face painted and no one will look at you funny.
  2. You will meet a whole cabin of new friends
  3. You can eat your pudding without a spoon. (Shhh . . . . Don’t tell your parents).
  4. You will leave with lots of songs that will be stuck in your head for the rest of the year!
  5. Nothing beats hitting a bulls-eye in archery, reaching the top of the climbing wall or finishing the perfect “gimp” bracelet.

On a more serious note

  1. Risk-taking. Campers will learn to step outside of their comfort zone in a safe environment and be encouraged to grow into their potential.
  2. Campers are given a chance to grow in their faith, develop socially and experience independence in a supportive space.
  3. Campers have the opportunity to build relationships with positive young-adult role models.
  4. Being active. After a whole day of climbing, canoeing, sports, games, swimming and more, campers realize how much fun it is to be outdoors and active!
  5. Taking a break from technology . . . something we could all use. Camp is a great time to unplug ourselves and connect with nature.

How churches and individuals can help

  1. Churches can consider providing subsidies to campers in their congregation and providing financial support to staff who choose to work at a Christian camp, instead of taking a higher-paying job elsewhere.
  2. Consider making a donation towards camper subsidies at a camp in your province.
  3. Encourage the children and youth in your life to give camp a try!
  4. Encourage youth and young adults to work or serve at Christian camps and recognize the valuable role this experience can play in leadership development.
  5. Pray for the camp ministries in your area.

One particular e-mail we received after last summer has really stuck with me. Matthew, who attended our Supported Young Adults Camp thanks to a camper subsidy, reflected on his experience to his grandmother: “He had nothing negative to say about camp at all. He thought the leaders were great and he said, ‘They all like me.’?”

All of the points listed above boil down to Matthew’s statement that camp is a place to be liked, to experience God’s love and to belong. That is why it is so important.

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2012 – A December Reflection

As the year 2012 draws to a close, I count it a privilege to reflect on this very special year in which we have celebrated Hidden Acres’ 50th anniversary. I am truly thankful for all the people who have made this ministry what it is today. This includes the founding pioneers, who had a vision of what could be accomplished with an old stone farmhouse and 22 acres of rolling hills, and it also includes year-round and summer staff and counselors-in-training, who are excited to be part of something that perhaps seems to them to have “always been there”.

Even though we are a small camp in comparison to others, Hidden Acres has left some big footprints. We keep hearing more and more stories from people who have passed through this place and remember it as a milestone in their lives. Stories from the earliest days, along with the camp’s own written records and hilarious and poignant recollections from past and current staff, are all part of what makes our anniversary book a good read. “Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp & Retreat Centre 1962 – 2012: Fifty Years of Sowing in Faith, Growing in Service” is far from a dry recounting of history. The 274-page book, rich in story and pictures, would make a great Christmas present to give your loved ones a glimpse into some of what you value and have invested time in!

This year’s annual meeting on November 20th began with a delicious meal provided as a service from the Avon Mennonite Church youth. Afterwards Chris and Amanda Pot, my wife Chris and I led a few songs of worship, which were followed by the annual reports describing the work of the camp this past year. A PowerPoint presentation put together by board member Donna Bentz depicted highlights from our various 50th anniversary celebrations. Much of the visual content was from the Celebration Weekend, while the audio came from our October Benefit Concert.

We had set a goal to raise $50,000 in our 50th year, and we’re excited to report that we did reach that goal! God provided in ways that we could not anticipate. We continue to be a place of blessing for many, both through the programs we offer and by making our facilities available to others.

At the concert, we promoted a new self-restricted Camper Subsidy Fund and also invited people to donate towards the completion of the lower level of the new staff house. With generous support, $30,000 was raised that night to be shared between these two projects. We need to continue to raise funds for both of these endeavors. While it is our desire to see the building project completed in two years, our goal for the Camper Subsidy Fund is to grow it so that the interest can eventually supply the approximately $15,000 per year required for these programs. Please consider supporting this fund in your giving this year.  Any donations to the camp postmarked on or before December 31, 2012 will qualify as tax deductions for the 2012 income tax year.

May your reflection on the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas season bring you great joy!

Campbell Nisbet

On behalf of the Hidden Acres Board of Directors

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Hidden Acres: Celebrating 50 Years (as published in the Baden Outlook)


In the snowy winter of 1962 five men trudged through the snow, following their guide over a hill and pausing to look over a section of farm-land. From their vantage point they could see an uninhabited stone farmhouse, being used to store grain, the remnants of an old barn foundation and acres of open farm land bordered by bush on the east. Their guide, Laverne Lichti, pointed out some low-lying swampland that had the potential to be dug out, forming a pond. This group of men, the camping committee, had been commissioned by the Amish Mennonite Mission Board to start a new children’s camp. This camp, meant to serve children from urban areas such as London and Stratford as well as children from the local community, was later named dubbed Hidden Acres by the first summer camp director Ralph Lebold.

With dedication, determination and faith that God was at work these pioneers along with their wives and other community members worked tirelessly to prepare the camp for the first camping season. 105 campers attended the 4 weeks of camp held the first summer, paying a camper fee of $5.00/week and sleeping in canvas bell tents. It was from these humble beginnings that Hidden Acres continued to grow and flourish.

Now thousands of people visit Hidden Acres each year for summer camp, single moms’ camp, retreats, school trips, to rent the facilities and for special events. This year we are thankful for the volunteers, staff members and supporters and most importantly for God’s provision in creating this place that has touched so many lives over the past 50 years.

Please join us in celebrating on October 14th for our 50th Anniversary Benefit Concert. To reserve tickets please email info@hiddenacres.ca or call 519-625-8602. A history book and Anniversary DVD are now available, documenting the story of Hidden Acres and celebrating 50 years of “Sowing in Faith, Growing in Service” at Hidden Acres.

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A Reason to Celebrate…

A reason to celebrate…

50 years of Hidden Acres: 1962 – 2012
Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp

As we reach the 50th anniversary of Hidden Acres, it is abundantly clear that we have reason to celebrate!

A camp still surviving would be reason enough, but a still-thriving, growing facility and program is more than the brave founders 50 years ago could have dared to hope for. God’s generosity is tangible in the many buildings, climbing wall, pond and towering trees that dot the nine hectares of what was once farmland located amidst pig farms in Perth County.

We can celebrate the thousands of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make our camp possible; the hundreds of young adults who have chosen to serve as summer staff, instead of finding higher-paying summer positions; and the thousands of people who have been impacted by God in this place.

We will celebrate with a history book, an anniversary DVD, a celebration weekend in July and a benefit concert in October.

Beyond just the anniversary of Hidden Acres, there is greater reason to celebrate. As we finish a five-year span in which three Mennonite camps in Ontario alone have crossed the 50th-anniversary mark, we can celebrate the fact that summer camping is still recognized by parents and congregations as a valuable ministry.

In the age where you can play sports with the help of a gaming system, communicate with friends over the Internet and experience the wonders of nature on Blu-ray, there is still something unique about a hands-on camp experience. The friendships formed, skills gained and memories made cannot be replicated in any other setting.

After all, the ability to build a fire, whisper late night stories to new friends or eat pudding without using your hands are not gained by watching a YouTube video. As the stresses and distractions of the “real world” fall away, it can also be easier to experience God in the notes of a song, in the “magic” of a forest lit with fireflies, in the crackle of a campfire or in the blaze of stars in the expansive void above.

The excited memories of campers on their way home from a week away are more than enough reason for us to celebrate. So, amidst this year of celebration, we will also take a moment to recognize the powerful ministry that Mennonite camping has been for generations, and pray that it will continue to be for many years to come.

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Nurturing Creation Connections @ Camp

As published in the Canadian Mennonite Focus on Summer Camps Edition. March 2011.

Nurturing Creation Connections @ Camp

Camps are places of friendships, adventures, funny songs, campfires and mosquito bites. One commonality that ties most camps together is their natural setting, exposing campers to wildlife, nature and ‘wilderness’ that kids aren’t often exposed to for any extended amount of time as school, organized sports, computers, social networking and other activities fill their days. Camp is the perfect place for environmental principles to be brought to life. An Arctic glacier slowly melting may be too far removed for children to fully grasp the significance of, but, a caterpillar in hand, a hike in a forest or a camp-out under the stars are real and immediate demonstrations of the importance of caring for God’s creation.

Besides simply being exposed to nature, camps are places that can teach about the concept of stewardship on a level that goes beyond secular pleas for sustainability. Faith-based camps can teach campers about caring for the environment not only out of obligation for future generations but because God has entrusted us with this land to “work its ground and to take care of it” (Gen. 2:15b). Leading by example, incorporating hard facts about the environment with faith concepts and simply reviving (or creating for the first time) a connection between children and nature are all ways camps promote Stewardship.

Although we would like to think that we can be motivated to do something simply because of a biblical mandate or the ultimate goal of saving the earth, this is easier said than done. It is all too easy to simply go along with the status quo environmentally- especially for children and youth who are growing up in a consumer society.  Creation Care becomes a little less difficult when a genuine interest, love and connection to the environment are cultivated. The more nature is woven into our lives the less willing we are to stand by and watch it disappear. Summer camp, church outings, family trips, or a Sunday stroll through a forest are great ways to nurture this connection. Simply telling children and youth to: “go play outside” may not do the trick. As adults it will begin with leading by example and creating meaningful but relaxed encounters with the outdoors. With God’s help these experiences along with the mandate God has given us to be good stewards will help children and youth to question their choices and work towards a greener future.


By: Tina Ashley


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December Reflections

December 2010

“December reflections from a camp directors window”

As I look out my office window at the ground newly covered in white, it reminds me how quickly an outlook can be changed. In the short-lived, transitory life of a snowflake, overnight may seem very long indeed. For us humans, a year might come closer to the time-passage of the snowflake’s overnight.  This past year at Hidden Acres seems to have come and gone as quickly as the first snow, yet so much was accomplished.

As programs and facilities have expanded over the years at Hidden Acres, it became increasingly clear that we needed to add more on-site staff to share the load. The board approved this direction, and this year God supplied both a new house and the people to fill it. As many may be aware, Chris and Amanda Pot have joined our staff roster as managing directors. My wife Chris and I are very thankful to have them as part of the team giving leadership to this ministry. We are also excited to be able to back off from the 24/7 responsibility that had become necessary here. Chris and Amanda are doing a great job scaling the learning curve, serving the many user groups and needs of this multi-faceted facility.

This year some of our facilities- Stonehouse, old staff house and Pineview, underwent some energy efficiency upgrading, resulting in a smaller environmental footprint and reduced utility costs. We hope to be able to complete this initiative within two years.

Our summer camp program also underwent a few changes. We were excited to start two new camps both of which ran from August  29th to September 1st.  One of these was for children aged 6-10, our youngest overnight camp ever. We had quality staff and more excited campers wanting to attend than we had room for!  At the same time, we offered a camp program for young adults aged 15-23 who had special needs. We’ve known for a while that there were not many summer camp opportunities for this demographic. We also knew that many of these young people who were HAC alumnae were sad to not be able to come back to Hidden Acres when they got too old for the regular camp programs. With some adjustments to the rest of the summer schedule, we were able to offer this new opportunity. Both camps ran at the same time, yet because of our increased facilities and exceptional staff we were able to program and accommodate them separately. The response from children and parents in both new ventures was extremely positive. We look forward to running these camps again next summer.

It is now late in the day. The Mennonite pastors who were here for a day of quiet prayer have gone home. The sun is setting, and now much of the snow is gone. Who knows what stories the snowflake will tell of its brief life in these environs, but as for me, “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

May you know God’s Love and be a channel of blessing to others in the year ahead.


Campbell Nisbet

Executive Director

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Summer 2010 @ HAC

Another summer has now come and gone @ HAC. Like each other summer this summer had it’s special moments, relationships and challenges that are sure to never be forgotten by the staff and campers.

STAFF- Once again things fell into place for the summer staff at Hidden Acres. A great mix of veteran staff, CITs from the previous year, University of Waterloo co-op students and new staff melded together almost instantly (or so it seemed anyways) during our week of staff Orientation. Having a few summers under my belt I can say that this was a great summer for staff teamwork and cohesion.  Several weeks before camp starting we were still scrambling with no real prospects for a head cook (with a LOT of campers signed up who needed to be fed). Then one Saturday Campbell received applications from not one but TWO candidates who ended up working together to create nutritious and delicious meals! God was looking out for us! The staff this summer showed a great amount of creativity, patience and love for the campers and we really can’t thank them enough!  Way to go team!

CAMPERS- Our camper numbers were up from 2009 with 314 campers attending our kids’ camps alone! From the shy campers to the rambunctious each camper brought their own personality to the mix this summer with amazing results. FUN, FRIENDSHIP and FELLOWSHIP are three Fs that might describe the campers this summer and sometimes FRENZY might be added to that list :). Camp without the campers would be somewhat like Campout Cookies without the Chocolate Chips – nothing special. Each Friday at the end of camp as everyone said their farewells and sang the closing song a real sense of the community that had been built throughout the week could be felt. Some staff seemed a little lost at our closing staff campfire finding themselves not surrounded by kids to take care of!

SINGLE MOM’S CAMP- This year we had 12 families attend the July week of Single Moms and 19 families attend the August week. As always this was a week of fun, relaxation, laughs and peace and renewal for many. Many of the moms expressed their appreciation for all of the staff who took such loving care of their children.  Moms and kids alike had fun participating in the carnivals, being chased by water clowns or watching the funny campfire skits!

BASKETBALL CAMP- With the two basketball camps every summer comes a change in pace for Hidden Acres with an intense basketball packed schedule! Our basketball courts get more of a workout then they see for the rest of the year all together! The director of Watsa Basketball Camp @ Hidden Acres Mano Watsa always bring inspiring talks and has a true gift and passion for sharing God’s love with athletes. The coaches, counselors and support staff come together for just a couple weeks as one united staff team which makes for an amazing camp experience. Highlights always include: the epic egg olympics, campfire songs, skits and stories, bump competitions, playoff friday and of course Capture the Ball!

SYAC and Mini-Camp-

It is not every year that we try a completely new program @ HAC. In fact, it had been a while so we decided to try TWO new programs (I know what you’re thinking, and yes, we are a little crazy). Not only did we decide to try two new programs but we decided to try them at the SAME TIME. Once again God was faithful and both weeks were a hit! Mini-camp was a new partial week camp for campers ages 6-10 who wanted their first(or second) taste of overnight camp with all the great activities but not quite as long. Our SYAC (Supported Young Adults Camp) was a partial week camp for young adults (ages 15-23) with special needs.  Mini-camp hosted 32 campers while SYAC had 16 (our first camp besides Single Moms to get to stay in the Woodhouse bedrooms).  The mini-campers taught our staff truly what it was like to be kids again with their never ending energy, enthusiasm and overall excitement. The SYAC campers also blessed the staff with the many priceless memories, beautiful smiles, positive attitudes and a spirit of friendship. Thank you to everyone who helped us to make these new weeks a success! We hope to run them again next year! Here are two pictures that perfectly capture the weeks:

In closing THANK YOU to everyone who was at HAC this summer or who kept us in their prayers. I think all the staff would agree that this summer was ridiculous and by ridiculous we mean PURE AWESOME :). God truly blessed this place once again this summer!

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Spring Has Sprung @ HAC

As spring starts to roll in @ Hidden Acres we are gearing up for spring and summer 2010!

Here are some events/important dates that are coming up!

-April 15- Staff Application Deadline

-April 30- Early Bird Deadline for Camp Registration

-May 8- 15th Annual Road Hockey Tournament

-May 10- Spring Seniors’ Retreat “Volunteering: Making a Difference”

-June 8- Hidden Acres Chicken BBQ

Also we have a couple new camps starting this summer!

Mini-camp- for campers ages 6-10

SYAC (Supported Young Adults Camp) for campers ages 15-23 with special needs.

We are excited for everything that is coming up and we hope to see you here at some point this spring/summer season!

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