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  • Fr. Panagiotes Carras
    THE CAMP AT PROPHET ELIAS The Parish of St. Nektarios in Toronto, Canada owns 200 acres of land in the bush country of Ontario, as many of the pictures show.
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 14, 2007
      The Parish of St. Nektarios in Toronto , Canada owns 200 acres of land in the bush country of Ontario , as many of the pictures show.  The parishioners built a beautiful Church to Prophet Elias on one of the hilltops, the fountain of the Life-Giving Spring, a large cabin, a dining area and many cabins at the foot of the hill.  It is here that the children are brought for a week of camping where they benefit physically and, more importantly, spiritually.  They experience the beauty and hardships of nature.  There is electricity, but no phones.  People in the area dig wells if they can find water on their property.  Prophet Elias was extremely merciful to us and the well that was dug near the cabin does not run dry as have other nearby wells.  The children do not have their comfy beds; they sleep in tents. When it rains or there is one of the terrifying thunder and lightning storms, they huddle together for comfort and protection in the big cabin until the storm passes and the tents dry.  Last year, the electricity went out so the pump could not work and there was no water.  Prophet Elias helped and we had electricity in 2 days, while others waited longer. When it is time to wash up, everyone takes turns at the one faucet in the cabin.  The cooking is done outside on a propane barbecue.  The cabin has a wood stove, but it is too hot to use in the summer.  There is no hot water so some is heated on the barbecue for dishwashing.  And the mosquitoes really feast at night!  Yet, all the difficulties become fond memories.
      Everyone keeps busy with the variety of activities.  There is some science, photography, astronomy, sewing, spinning, quilt making, helping with meals, daily writing in a journal, and the biggest hit of all is the afternoon swim with the fun drive over the roller-coaster type dirt roads to get to the lake.  One activity gave them an idea of what life on a farm was like and how the pioneers lived.  Jim and Judy live on another part of the property and have a small farm. There were hens, chickens, kittens and the mother who was protective until she felt comfortable with the visitors, and a horse that often visited to nibble our grass – it’s always sweeter on the other side.  One day, Jim attached a cart to his tractor, filled it with bundles of hay and took everyone on a hayride through a path in the forest.  Judy taught everyone how to spin.  She cuts hair from various animals and makes it into yarn on her authentic pioneer type spinning wheel.  Everyone was excited to show the yarn they had learned to make on the spinning wheel.  They were amazed that she dyes the yarn using ingredients from nature and even makes clothing with the yarn.  She also taught them a craft called corking, which they continued doing back at Prophet Elias. They noticed the difficulty of life and wondered if she had water.  She answered that she does not have a good well and has to buy drinking water.  The children wrote in their journals about their visits with Jim and Judy and commented on everything else that they did.  Everyone wrote about church, food, swimming.  Only four journals were left behind, so here are some quotes:
      My favourite part of being at the Prophet Alias camp was practicly everything, but I’ll tell you what everything was.
      The things that I like most about camp is how good Father Peter cooks and that we go swimming every day.
      Take a look at all the green leaves on the trees and all the green grass.  Take a look at all the flowers you probably wouldn’t see in Toronto .  Don’t you think it’s all so bueituful?
      We went to the farm and learned how to make wool into yarn.  I took a whole bunch of pictures around the farm.
      Father Peter made some hot dogs.  They weren’t as big as last time.
      Did you know the muckus from the nute is really poisonous?  I all ready caught 13 butterflies in the past few days.  And today we all saw a big white horse that belonged to Judy.  We had lots of fun seeing all those creatures but no one had as much fun as me.
      The most important activity was the participation in Church life.  It is a special blessing that camp is always held during the week of the feast of Prophet Elias.  Fr. Isaac from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston comes for the feast.  The children stand together at Vespers and Liturgy and receive Holy Communion.  They see the blessing of waters and the procession around the outside of the church.  They have been hearing and experiencing how much Prophet Elias has helped the church and now they celebrated his feast.  On all the other days, the children took turns reading at the morning and evening prayers in church.  This year, after morning prayers, Father instructed them on the history and meaning of vigil lamps.  Then they lit the vigil lamp that they were assigned to take care of.  Some lamps were outside in one of the four ikon stands on the property.  One evening, Father brought them out to the new Fiali (Fountain).  Years ago, some parishioners dug a pipe underground to bring water from the well up the hill to the Church.  They attached a faucet to the pipe and Father dedicated it to the Life - Giving Spring.  This year, the parishioners built a beautiful Fiali, reminiscent of the Fountains in the Monasteries of Mount Athos.  It resembles a gazebo, with a sink for the faucet.  The panel behind the faucet has a beautiful ikon of the Life-Giving Spring and ikons are being made for the two side panels.  Father explained the miracle of the Life-Giving Spring.  One day, some campers were at the Fiali but when they turned on the faucet, no water came.  One of our wise guys started blessing the faucet and the water came.  Imagine the excitement.  Everyone was shouting it was a miracle, but it was only one of our parishioners who had shut the pump to do something and then turned it back on just as the boy was making the sign of the cross!
      Every aspect of the camp contributes to the main purpose of the camp, which is to help the children stay close to the Faith.  They know that everything they did was because of the Church.  Through the Grace of the services and prayers at mealtime they bonded as a family in Christ.  We pray that as they grow, the camp memories will be one more anchor to help keep them close to the safe harbour of the Church.
      Presvytera Roberta Carras

      For photos of this year's camping season, click on:

      In Christ,
      +Fr. Panagiotes

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