After two weeks of torrential rain, it was yet another answer to prayer that the official opening of Yorkshire Camps’ new venue — on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 November — was on a dry weekend, even if the countryside was dusted with snow.
About 400 people, including local farmers, councillors, dignitaries and neighbours, as well as Christians from all over the country, came to see the completely renovated hall. The transformation, which had been achieved by volunteers and professionals, stunned those guests who had visited Netherside Hall when newly acquired.
The day after the ‘open day’ came the official opening and service of dedication. Andy Peace, who had previously worked with the Oakes Holiday Centre in Sheffield, explained the need for another Christian camp centre which would reach out to children in North and West Yorkshire.
The situation, with so few children attending any church activities and virtually no teens from non-Christian homes having contact with the gospel, is desperate, and evangelistic camps are proving an effective way to reach them.
Hannah Peace movingly went through several of the remarkable answers to prayer experienced in the last six months. Dan Thaw, director of the Oakes, prayed, committing the work to the Lord, and Roger Carswell spoke to believers and other guests from Ezra 6, on rebuilding the temple so that prayer and proclamation, worship and work could continue.
He likened this rebuilding not only to Yorkshire Camps, but to God’s mission in coming to save us. He shared the gospel in a way that was true to the aims of Yorkshire Camps. Then the Matai family — father, mother and three young children — each prayed for the ongoing work.
Yorkshire Camps is a non-denominational charity that runs gospel camps, where children and young people enjoy action-packed holidays while exploring the Christian message and enlarging their faith.
After two years of earnestly praying for a permanent venue, and diligently searching in West and North Yorkshire, the Lord led the workers to Netherside Hall, near Grassington.
This 72-room building had previously been a hunting lodge and then a private school. Built 200 years ago, it is structurally sound, but needed a lot of internal attention. At auction, it was purchased by a trust and handed over to Yorkshire Camps.
For the last six months, volunteers from churches around Yorkshire and other Christians from all over the country have worked to make ready this beautiful, imposing building, situated in 29 acres of Yorkshire Dales countryside.
While the renovation has been taking place, camps have been held in each school holiday, but now Yorkshire Camps is preparing to hold camps 46 weeks of the year for young people in schools and from church groups. The first camp at Netherside Hall will be held this New Year weekend and is for teenagers.
Paul Gamston, minister of South Craven Evangelical Church, says, ‘It has been so exciting to watch the Lord provide a permanent base for Yorkshire Camps and to watch the site take shape in answer to prayer.
‘It was a privilege to be at the dedication service, where the gospel intentions of Yorkshire Camps were made so clear and passionately. The tale of the physical building has been amazing, but it is the spiritual building we look forward to now’.
As well as a programme of children’s camps for 2016, there is a Family Camp, Dads’ and Lads’ days, and ‘Bible in the Dales’ over the May Day holiday weekend, at which Dr Steve Brady, principal at Moorlands Bible College, is due to speak.
All this is a major development in a part of the UK that is particularly lean as far as Christian witness is concerned. (For more information: [email protected]).