By Stan Friedman
IRON RIVER, MI (July 12, 2013) – Covenant Point Bible Camp is offering its first-ever Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Family Camp August 6–10.
“The focus is on an intergenerational Christian formation experience,” says camp director Erik Strom. “It’s about community, sharing God’s word, delighting in God’s creation, and in each other.”
Experiences unique to the camp will include how the camp helps children with autism to make transitions, engage in the program, and how messages are shared.
The speaker for the week will be Steve Burger, director of adult, children, and intergenerational ministries for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Burger has been a leader in helping the denomination become more welcoming to families who have members with disabilities.
“I think the element of mutual understanding of the unique challenges that come with autism is one of the reasons this camp is a compelling opportunity,” says Strom.
“It’s not therapy and it’s not educationally based, but some of that will likely happen,” Strom says, adding that the camp is designed to build community and support among families.
The vision for the camp emerged out of the experience of Kristi and Kurt Barker, who are parents of a child with ASD. Kristi was on staff at Covenant Point in the 1990s and is a student at North Park Theological Seminary. Kurt has served as the worship leader for the annual men’s retreat at the camp.
Parents of children with disabilities often find it difficult to find a place in the church, which often is ill-equipped to deal with special needs. “We want this camp to be a place where the church shows up—maybe in ways that we haven’t yet—and ministers in a practical way to families who’ve felt excluded, or who could simply benefit from an experience of Christian community where they can just ‘be,’ ” Strom says.
The camp has made the experience affordable, Strom says. Cost is $150 for the entire family. The rest of the expense will be subsidized through Covenant Point’s annual triathlon fundraiser, which will be held August 4.
“The event always has been about generating funds to enable our ministries with children and adults with special needs of all kinds,” Strom says.
Strom lauds the guidance of the Barkers. “They’ve really been like consultants, encouragers, and program directors for us,” he says. “They came and led an initial staff training session during our regular staff training weeks, and the day in between our triathlon and the camp’s start, Kurt and Kristi will be back to lead a daylong intensive training for our staff.”
The Covenant provides numerous resources for churches wanting to assist families who have members with disabilities.