History and Location:
Truly, I have not heard of any congregation taking on a foreign mission project such as a camp as a starting object. Yes, some of the Lord’s congregations in foreign countries are owners or stewards of camps, but really only after the congregation was started. And, yes, in the days prior to having sufficient financial support talking to various congregations soliciting support, it was clear that there were very few individuals who thought it would be successful. But just think back, how many of us who have grown up in Christian families were baptized in a camp? I would like to say the majority, and they will count camp experiences as some of the most memorable ones of their lives. So why should it not work in Ecuador, or any other country?
To be sure, the work was not started in a totally new, virgin territory; to the south Quito had 2 solid congregations, today there are more; to the north there are several congregations along the Pan-American Highway; to the east and west is jungle. The camp is located about 1 hour drive north-east of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, in the town of Tabacundo near Cayambe (a combined population of perhaps 65,000) high in the Andes mountains, one mile west of the Pan-American Highway. Even though it is almost directly on the equator the climate is spring-like almost year-round because of the altitude. From the beginning the idea of a camp was conceived with the team of missionaries, especially with the Marcum’s, who had just arrived in Quito in 1989. In 1994 the property was found and bought. The actual acquisition of the property was one of those experiences when you just know that God’s hand was directing things. The construction of the first building, consisting of dining hall, class rooms, kitchen, dormitories and bathrooms, started in 1997. Since, the camp has expanded to include multiple cabins, an assembly hall, medical outreach facility, a playground, and sports courts.
At the same time of construction, a congregation of the Lord’s church was started in the town of Cayambe with the help of students of the Quito School of Biblical Studies (which was just started then by the Mission team in Quito). A student or two came to help every weekend, during summer break up to four students held campaigns to fulfill their school requirement of ‘hands-on’ experience. Even some brethren were found living in this area but had no knowledge of each other. Since this time, the Lord’s church has grown to include the addition of a congregation in Tabacundo. As this work continues to grow, we see God using us and the community of Ecuador to his glory.
As of this time, there are activities at the camp fulltime, that is, five days a week. The camp is not available for rent by the general public; all activities are planned and coordinated by and through the camp administration or by a sponsoring Church of Christ congregation. The past 12 months have been the busiest yet for the camp, especially during the summer months. An explanation and comments on the daily activities first:
The camp has been opened to children of our neighbors. In this daily activity (Tuesday through Saturday) the camp provides an environment of supervised learning and play, modeled on biblical principles. Currently, there is an average daily attendance of approx 40-44 children, Saturday’s attendance averages 70. During the afternoons Tuesday through Friday we help the children with their homework after a devotional and lecture (these 2 activities are mandatory). The 15 minute lecture from various classical books is to instill a desire for reading. For those who finish their homework early, they have to attend classes either in computer instruction, geography, or simply to improve themselves in arithmetic, grammar, English, etc. We also provide a refreshment and one day a week we show a 30 minute Bible movie. The Saturday program is different: it starts at 10am until 4pm. There are Bible classes, English classes, craft classes and games, with children divided into different age groups. Every second Saturday we prepare a full lunch for all children. This program is very appreciated by the parents and a couple of times a year we have an open house.
Of course during the summer months we have traditional camp activities. There are several weekly scheduled youth summer camps for children and young adults from ages 11 to 20. These camps have at their center to instill biblical principles while also providing opportunities to grow in other areas necessary for a successful life. One camp is especially for youth from congregations from all of Ecuador; then there are 2 or 3 weeks of summer camp geared towards youth from outside of the church. Both of these are very successful and popular. In either category the cost is very minimal because we subsidize it.
Another category of activity, not very traditional for camps in the States, is providing a base of operation for groups of young people (and adults) from the States. The purpose is to instill love for mission work in our youth and adults. This past summer we had 5 different groups from various parts of the States. Most of them plan on helping with the ongoing construction of the camp or adjacent children’s home. They also may plan special activities (i.e. VBS, etc.) for our neighborhood children, or even may go on trips for helping other congregations, for instance. We think this is as an important aspect as reaching out directly to the population here.
Lastly the camp is open for seminars and/or workshops which are scheduled throughout the year, usually of durations from 2 to 4 days. There have been groups of over 200 to as small as 15. These seminars and workshops too, have as their main objective growth in life application and spiritual knowledge for the participants.
Oversight, Finances and Contacts
Camp Bellevue is part of the Foundation Operation Ecuador organization. It is primarily financed by the Bellevue Church of Christ, Bellevue, Washington; also by the South Whidbey Island Church of Christ and individuals.
The onsite directors for the camp are Justin and Jauna Reeger; they are working under the direction and oversight of the Mission Committee and elders of the Bellevue Church of Christ.
If you like more information, like to participate in some form, or might want information on sending a group, here is contacting information:
Rusty and Laura Campbell
c/o Escuela Quiteña de Estudios Bíblicos
Eloy Alfaro Apartado 17-21-0217
Quito, Ecuador, South America
- 9 AM Bible Class
- 10:15 AM Service