Boost to school ministry means more will hear the good news

25,000 school students a year will get to hear the gospel at a newly-renovated waterfront campsite run by CRU, the new name for the Crusader Union of Australia.

“Lake Mac” Camp and Convention Centre is located on a bushy part of the shores of Lake Macquarie, which is either south of Newcastle or north of Sydney depending on your point of view.

The $25m redevelopment includes ensuite accommodation for 260 people, a 350-seat dining hall, boatshed, state-of-the-art outdoor activities and extensive meeting facilities. This first stage allows the campsite to accomodate 18,500 campers a year, and will generate income towards stage two – 300-plus beds and the 25,000 target.

Last year over 1000 CRU campers indicated they had made a faith commitment, or would like to start attending a church, after camp.

Fifteen-year-old Ashleigh is one of many who had their first genuine encounter with Christ on a CRU holiday camp. She shares:

“CRU is so good at making faith relevant and interesting to young people, and the witness and discipleship of the Crusader leaders helped me to make a decision for Christ and invite Jesus into my heart.”

The larger campsite will allow more than four times the number of children and teens to attend camps. This means that potential Ashleighs will be off waiting lists and into camp. The redeveloped CRU Lake Mac will enable more than one school year group to fit into the site at a time, which is important given that many schools like to send more than one year group to camp during the same week. Large study camps and multiple holiday camps will also be able to take place concurrently.

CRU CEO, Gary Hill, became a Christian as a teenager at a CRU camp, which means he can personally affirm that “life-shaping encounters with Christ occur at camp”.

“Kids who’ve never heard about Jesus before form lasting friendships with those who know him. Faith and values, which may be taken for granted at home, find a testing ground as campers nail their colours to the mast. Camp leaders play a critical role in this process: they become role models, trusted friends, and mentors,” says Hill.

CRU CEO Gary Hill Senator Hollie Hughes and CRU Chair Dr Tim Wright at the opening at Lake MacquarieCRU CEO Gary Hill, Senator Hollie Hughes and CRU Chair Dr Tim Wright at the opening at Lake Macquarie.

Last year over 1000 CRU campers indicated they had made a faith commitment, or would like to start attending a church, after camp.

CRU has been building up its camping facilities for decades since the “Jungle Doctor” Paul White mortgaged his own house to enable CRU to acquire the Galston Gorge Conference and Recreation Centre. Later, his medical partner donated the first part of land at Lake Macquarie in 1946. Major roadblocks to building a much larger camp were overcome with key land purchases, including 40 hectares of bush in 2015.

$25 million was raised for this first stage of development – $5m came from the Federal Government through the “Building Better Regions Fund”; $3m from the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation; and the remainder came from a mix of state government grants, private foundations and individual CRU supporters.

Roger Corbett, Vice President of CRU, who helped lead the fundraising campaign, said, “I love CRU because God works through it to convert young people, build up faith and train leaders. It is a movement which unashamedly serves the Lord Jesus Christ and its work has enormous consequences in the lives of young men and women.”

“We look forward to the day when this fantastic new facility will be filled to capacity, with some 25,000 young people hearing of the hope that Jesus offers each year.” – Timothy Wright

Current Chair of CRU, Dr Timothy Wright, shares, “Whilst we were unable to run holiday camps over Easter, we were very thankful to run camps for over 570 children in the recent winter holidays, albeit with reduced numbers, and we have approval from NSW Health to run spring holiday camps too. We look forward to the day when this fantastic new facility will be filled to capacity, with some 25,000 young people hearing of the hope that Jesus offers each year.”

He joined Senator Hollie Hughes and Hunter region MP Joel Fitzgibbon for the official opening this week.

CRU runs school camps during term, generally for independent schools, and holiday camps, which get a wider range of attendees. The ministry engages with over 100,000 children each year through camping and school-based programs in NSW, the ACT and WA.

“Outdoor education camps, significantly contribute to positive, well-rounded education,” says Pam O’Dea from St Philip’s Christian College Newcastle.

“The growth in school-year group sizes over the last 20 years has meant that the Lake Mac campsite was just too small for most schools, including ours. I am thrilled that the Federal Government has assisted in providing these outstanding new facilities which meet the needs of today’s students, parents and teachers.”

So far there are 32 schools booked for camps in the first half of 2021, ten church groups, as well as CRU’s holiday camps in each school holiday break.

www.crulakemac.com.au (for Lake Mac bookings) & www.crucamps.com.au (for holiday camp bookings)

 

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