BY DAVID KARAMARDIAN
Engrained in Armenian culture and history, Christianity has been central to the countrys identity since 301 A.D., when Armenia became the first nation to officially adopt the religion at a state level. While Armenians around the world take pride in this fact, Camp Arev, an Armenian Evangelical youth summer camp, is seeking to make sure Armenian youths treat religion not just as a nominal formality but as a way to live life.
This focus on Christianity separates Camp Arev, located in Frazier Park, from the many other Armenian youth summer camps, according to Camp Director Razmig Minassian: “All other camps might have more of a cultural emphasis, but ours is both Armenian and Christian. Camps mission is to give an opportunity for each camper to know Jesus Christ and to have a committed relationship with Him.”
Camp Arev holds three consecutive weeklong sessions in July for elementary students (known as juniors), junior high students, and high school students, respectively, as well as a weekend-long college session. The average day consists of worship services, guest speakers, free time, and competitive team games, such as water-balloon capture-the-flag and slip-and-slide kickball.
While campers worship and listen to guest speakers as a large group, they have the opportunity to talk about their faith in a more intimate setting with their cabin after dinner.
“Its really cool to see the campers open up during Cabin Time as the week goes on and really unburden themselves as we become closer to each other,” said Jayna Jamgotchian, a sophomore at UCI who has served as a counselor the past two years. “A lot of them dont have Christian friends back at home, so its really nice to see them opening up and going to each other for advice.”
Berj Chorlian, a senior at UCLA who has served as a camp counselor seven years, stressed the importance of Christianity for the identity of Armenians. “I was in eleventh grade when my teacher told me during class, If it wasnt for Armenia being Christian, we wouldnt have had the genocide, the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians. I responded, But we also wouldnt have an Armenia.”
Raffi Charkhedian, an eight-year camp veteran, agreed with Chorlian. “I think Christianity is a very important part of the Armenian community, but as time goes on, we stray from Christianity even though its a central part of our culture,” said the senior at Ferrahian High School.
After one of Camp Arevs biggest summers ever in terms of camper enrollment, Minassian is confident in the camps success at leading young kids back to a path following God: “Throughout the years, for every testimony that Ive heard coming from young people, Camp Arev has always appeared in their personal testimony on how theyve come to know Jesus.”
Arsine Phillips, a former Camp Arev board member, added, “Camp Arev has been very successful in leading kids to a Christian lifestyle. Each camp session this summer has welcomed hundreds of kids who have grown in their relationship with Christ.”
Established in 1977, Camp Arev did not own a campground until the purchase of the current 45-acre site in Frazier Park in 1992; the chapel, dining hall, and infirmary are all new additions built in 2010.
Phillips said more projects are in store: “We hope to continue expanding the camp by adding a pool and other recreational facilities as well as additional cabins so that we can accommodate all the campers who would like to attend camp.”
Minassian also cited a climbing wall, zip line, and ropes course as possible additions to the camps current basketball blacktop, soccer field, softball field, and mud pit.
To sign up for future summer camps, make a donation, or reserve Camp Arevs site for your own retreat, visit camparev.org. In addition to the summer sessions, weekend-long winter sessions are held in January for all age levels.
David Karamardian is a senior at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and the 2014 Asbarez summer intern.