June holidays have not been the same since the pandemic began but that has not stopped CHC’s young people from meeting God at Emerge youth camps this year.
Cheers erupting from dozens of young people wearing brightly coloured team shirts as water balloons fly across the sandy stretches of Sentosa’s beaches. That was what City Harvest Church’s Emerge youth camps used to look like.
June is traditionally the most exciting time of the year for the youths of CHC. It marks the beginning of the exciting Emerge season, and the highlight is the youth camps. Youths would gather in their respective zones for two to three days of close encounters with God, exhilarating activities and the forging of new friendships.
All the activities would then culminate in the Emerge weekend where the young people would get to organise and execute the church’s worship service for the whole congregation, under the watchful eyes of the various department heads.
However, with the ever-evolving and unpredictable COVID-19 situation that the world has now lived through for two years, Emerge youths have been confined to the boundaries of their own homes.
Instead of gathering for camps physically, “camps” were held over Zoom this year. There might have been a stark contrast between online and onsite camps, but there was still a strong sense of anticipation in the air after the total absence of Emerge camps in 2020.
Seven youths from different zones share their 2021 camp experiences with City News.
ET ZONE’S ENCOUNTER CAMP: MAKING ROOM FOR OUR BELOVED FATHER
By Ernest Cheng
My zone, led by Pastor Edmund Tay, held its annual camp from Jun 17 to 18. Instead of the sea and sand at Sentosa, I was greeted by a sea of faces on my computer screen after punching in the Zoom details. Despite that, the camp gave me the same intimate experience with God that the onsite camps had previously brought.
Not only were we still able to play our favourite camp games, but we also had the opportunity to attend inspiring workshops on prayer and activation.
One session that impacted me was the Q&A session held on the second day. We had the chance to get burning issues on Christianity and church life off our chest. The insightful answers given by the different pastors and leaders really helped to clear off some of the doubts that had been clogging my mind for a while.
However, the most memorable part of the camp for me was the two sessions, one preached by Pastor Edmund and the other by a cell group leader, Gwendolyn Tan. The sermons centred around the theme of the camp “Make Room” and they were spiritually nourishing for me.
Prior to the camp, I had been feeling spiritually dry—I felt myself drifting further and further from God each day. I had been so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that I began to neglect that precious time of interacting with Him. That had put a strain on our relationship. The word really touched me—it was as if God was reminding me to be disciplined and to always put Him first.
This fell in line perfectly with the camp song, which was Community Music’s “Make Room”. When we were worshipping to the song, the lyrics, “Here is where I lay it down, every burden every crown” really stood out to me. Again, I heard God speaking to me and this time He told me to surrender all the doubts and worries I had that had been blurring my vision of His promises. This brought tears to my eyes and I began to soak in the presence of God. At that moment, I felt so loved and freed of all the worries that I had been harbouring in my heart for so long.
I feel that camps like these give everybody something to look forward to even during these mundane times when everyone is stuck at home. Aside from the hallmarks of church camps like games and building friendships, the camp element which I am so grateful for is the encounters I had with God even in a virtual setting.
My main takeaway from this camp is this: if we are after Him, the same intimate experience can be replicated, be it in an onsite or online setting. It is the same God we worship, whether in a campsite or at home on the computer—He will lead us into memorable encounters as long as we make room for Him. Who would want to miss out on such precious encounters with our beloved Father?
BKPL ZONE’S CAMP GINOSKO: GOD IS EVER-PRESENT IN OUR LIVES
By Ashly Rowy Bilaro
The Greek word ginosko means to personally know and experience something. Right from the beginning, Camp Ginosko’s aim was to create a space for the youths to have a personal encounter with God, to draw close to Him and dwell in His presence.
Over the two days of online camp, we played games, fellowshipped during meals, and listened to the Word of God over two sessions. The youths also had a discussion about mental health with Pamela Koh, who is the lead counsellor of ThriveSG, Cru Singapore.
One of my biggest takeaways from camp was how much God was willing to be a part of my life. One question that challenged me was whether it was worth having everything I ever wanted but not have the presence of God ever again. These messages confirmed that God has been so present in my life no matter how far I drifted, made me experience God in a way I never imagined.
Prior to the camp, I was worried that without face-to-face interaction, the camp would not be fruitful. I have had great encounters in the onsite camp and was really looking forward to experiencing it again after a year’s break. Recently, I had been having a challenging time and was unsure if I could ever recover from the pain and hurt, and I wondered if God even heard my prayers.
But I was blessed and uplifted after the camp: it had impacted my life in such a positive way. I am confident to say that the camp has not only given my relationship with God a boost but also uplifted my relationships with my cell group, friends and family.
CL ZONE’S YOUTH ACTIVITIES: ON DATING, JOURNALING AND WORSHIP
By Rebecca Ho
Over the month of June, CL Zone conducted three special sessions for the Emerge youth.
First was a relationship workshop conducted by Pastoral Supervisor Pauline Kong. It was a timely message for me. In a world where being in a relationship is “idolised”, I learned the Christian perspective on dating. What struck me most during Pauline’s sharing was her suggestion that “Dating is for someone that is willing to lay their life down for another.” Even though it may seem impossible to do so, it replicates the way Jesus loves. His love for the church shows us what dating should be like.
Pauline encouraged our youths not to rush into dating but to consider how they can instead spend this precious time knowing God more, building pure friendships and reaching out to friends at our campuses.
Another activity we enjoyed in June was a journaling workshop conducted by Cynthia Chua, who is a church staffer and also fondly referred to as a “prophetess”. It was an eye-opener when she revealed to us that she has over 85 journals! Her passion for journaling really inspired me to write down my thoughts consistently. The benefit of journaling is highly underrated: many have the misconception of it being no different from writing in a diary. However, it is a superb way to pen down our journey with God.
Over the past week, I’ve been journaling my thoughts and prayers to God and that has brought greater intimacy between me and the Lord. Even though it’s not easy to keep up the habit , I believe that it is one of the ways to have a breakthrough in our walk with God. When we journal our experiences with Him, it reminds us of His faithfulness and goodness, and of how His hand has been over our lives. In times of trial, we can count on these written experiences to remind us of these God-moments that we have forgotten.
I also enjoyed the workshop “Worship During Quiet Time” conducted by CityWorship’s song leader, Amos Ang. Learning about how Amos would worship God wherever he was, really inspired me to do the same. It was a great reminder that despite our busyness we have to put aside time every day to seek God. It is really in the quiet places that we receive revelations from God and learn to love Him more. Just as we spend time with people we love, it is crucial for us to spend time with God on a regular basis and not take our relationship with God for granted. I’ve learnt the importance of going back to the basics. It is not out of religious duty that we seek God but truly because we love Him and want to know Him more.
VER ZONE’S UNSTOPPABLE VER-TUAL CAMP
By Lau Quanhan
The UNSTOPPABLE VER-TUAL Camp presented an opportunity for the youths from the zone led by Pastor Veronica Tang to learn how to draw close to God in silence and solitude, as well as to develop Christlikeness. Our inaugural online camp took place over Zoom on June 25 and 26. The core programme comprised games and sessions which lasted from morning till night on each of the two days.
The cornerstone of our annual camp is the sessions where the youths encountered God through worship and the ministering of the Word. This online camp was no different, with sessions led by Pastor Veronica Tang and Rhoda Siu, a cell group leader in the zone. During these sessions, the youths learnt about the importance of making time to encounter God individually, and being led by the Holy Spirit. There was also a breakout session where the youths practised reading and meditating on Scripture, making room for God to speak to their hearts.
In addition to these sessions, there was also a workshop by guest speaker, Carol Loi, who shared how youths can navigate culture and use technology while having a biblical worldview. The first day of the camp concluded with everyone tuning in for the Emerge cell group meeting with Pastors Kong and Sun to learn about our church’s heritage of revival, and the need to be the torchbearers for the next youth revival.
On Saturday, the youths gathered for Worship Night led by Cyril Toh and Brannon Cordeiro, where they also learnt about how worship transcends the singing of songs to be a lifestyle, and how to have a keen awareness of God.
Apart from these sessions, there were other segments that were challenging by virtue of the fact this was a digital camp. Instead of the design and painting of physical banners by a committee, for example, each team collaborated online to design a colour-coded Zoom background. There was greater participation for the members in this regard as all had the chance to contribute towards the creation of their team identities.
Games and activities, while notably non-physical, were not lacking from our camp either. The anchor game for the camp, Among Us–Breached! took place on the second day of the camp. Teams were split into their individual breakout rooms on Zoom for them to complete and record tasks which ranged from answering trivia questions to performing TikTok dance routines. There was also an online Bible memory quiz based on 10 verses . The planning committee definitely rose to the challenge to creatively overcome the limitations of having a decentralised digital camp.
WYZ ZONE’S CAMP I AM: AWAKEN
By Rayn Chiang
Some weeks ago, during an online cell group meeting, my cell group leader, Shawn Goh, announced the launch of the WYZ Youth Camp titled “CAMP I AM: AWAKEN”. I was not very excited over it initially, because it was going to be a full online camp which meant that I had to sit in front of my laptop for most of the day.
Regardless, I decided to attend the camp with an open heart and commit my time to the Lord. I believed God for a fresh encounter with Him during the camp and my perspective indeed changed for the better.
On June 26 we started the camp with a morning session. After lunch, we had two activities which many members had been preparing for. The first was “Word Power” where two teams of four participants competed against each other, testing their memory and teamwork as they recited Scriptures as a team. It was hilarious as we watched the teams work together and try their best to deliver one verse at a time.
The next activity was a Preaching Challenge. I was one of the five participants. Since it was my first time writing a sermon and preaching, I received a lot of guidance from Shawn throughout the process. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience, hearing from the other four participants and learning from their preaching.
We ended the camp with Pastor Wu Yuzhuang delivering a great word that was in line with our camp. He preached about crying out to God to teach us His ways and surrender to Him just as Moses did to God.
Throughout the whole camp, the presence of God was just so sweet and tangible, and I truly felt so refreshed as the day ended. I came out stirred in my spirit and hungry for more of God, as if the Spirit Man inside of me had been awakened. Even though this camp took place during the short term-break that I had, I definitely didn’t regret being a part of it as I had more to gain than to lose! Beyond taking a break from a hectic school term, this experience had added more purpose to my holidays. Truly when you make time for God, He will surely bless you back abundantly and exceed your expectations!
LYL ZONE and ZY ZONE’S MOVIE NIGHT: FACING THE GIANTS
By Chiam Zhi Quan
The zones led by Pastor Lee Yilun and Pastoral Supervisor, Ee Zhen Ying came together online on Jun 16 to watch Facing The Giants.
The movie was about a Christian high school football coach, Grant Taylor, who used his undying faith to battle against the giants of fear and failure in his life. The Shiloh Eagles, the football team which he was coaching, had never entered a winning season under his tutorship. He soon found that he risked losing his job if the team did not do well. At the same time, Grant and his wife were facing infertility issues. Faced with insurmountable circumstances, Grant decided to get down to his knees and pray.
He began confessing Matthew 19:26 boldly and inspired the players to trust God and believe in His promises. Grant and his team persisted in conquering fear and doubt and the team won the championship that season. Grant and his wife also found themselves pregnant and praised God for their miracle child!
After the movie ended, we went into breakout rooms to discuss the movie with our cell group members. We talked about issues such as the kind of giants we were facing in our lives, and the lies we tell ourselves when facing difficulties. We also talked about unanswered prayers in our lives and our struggles to love God in the midst of it.
I personally felt greatly impacted by Grant as his first reaction to others talking behind his back was to pray. The movie also revealed to me the reality that things might not turn out the way we want them to, even if we pray really hard. In times like that, we need to let go and let God, trusting that He has our best interest in mind. Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “’For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”
AZ ZONE’S ENCOUNTER FOR UNITE: ONLINE
By Esther Lim
From Jun 18 to 21, the youths in the zone led by Pastor Aries Zulkarnain gathered online to seek God face-to-face in their own homes. We had many exciting segments like Round Table with AZ Division Pastoral Supervisors, Silent Retreat, Zoom Workshops and even a special chat session with Pastor Aries.
One of my favourite moments was the Silent Retreat segment, where we got to pause and intentionally seek God for an hour with no distractions. To me, it was an intimate time where I could be real with God. As I invited God to speak to me about my current season, I felt like He was reminding me not to be afraid of change. God invited me to come into a place of full surrender and trust that He is a good Father that won’t turn away in time of need.
The Silent Retreat was really a great opportunity for the youths to cultivate a habit of seeking God – with no cell group leaders or pastors to bring them into the presence of God.
A highlight of the camp was the intimate and light-hearted “Teh Botol with Pastor Aries”! As Pastor Aries shared the stories of his youth with us, there were so many spiritual insights that we caught onto. We tackled real questions like, “Is it okay if I don’t receive an encounter from God?”. We also had the privilege of hearing from CHC’s founders, Pastors Kong Hee and Sun as they shared with us the importance of being counter-cultural and counter-intuitive as youths in this generation. It was such a personal moment—I felt as if they were speaking to me face-to-face!
I love what one of the AZ Division leaders said in the Emerge post. God’s presence goes beyond the physical limits—His presence is still here and available for all of us. It’s just the delivery method that has changed.
Encounter for Unite: Online showed each and every one of us that it is in Father’s heart to encounter us, be it through a physical camp or an online experience. All He requires is a step towards Him.