Amplify 2023 kicked off on Wednesday 11 January and ran through until Sunday 15 at the usual venue of Silverstream Retreat Centre. After a soggy beginning, the weather played ball beautifully, and the week was nothing short of a summer stunner. You really can’t beat Wellington on a good day—not when you’re at Amplify anyway! Jules Badger reports.
‘There was so much excitement about being able to come back together following Covid-19 interruptions last year. The vibe was so awesome and seeing the young people connecting with one another again was so good. We had a lot of new young leaders and so we just really wanted to make camp fun this year,’ reported Camp Director Jim Downey.
Passing the test
While you might think that after 14 years of Amplify experience nothing would faze veteran coordinator Vanessa Singh, with Covid-19 rearing its ugly head again this summer, precautions needed to be taken. As much as everyone loved Amplify Locals (2022 online), no one wanted a repeat! The result was the shortening of the usual seven-day camp by two days, and the testing of every camper upon arrival.
‘Obviously we were concerned that there would be positive tests, but everyone tested negative—that can only be the power of God! If God wants something to go ahead and to bless something, he makes a way,’ affirmed Vanessa.
Something old, something new
While the shortened camp meant a few things needed to be tweaked, Territorial Youth Secretary Mat Badger said, ‘The spiritual formation that took place was as moving and profound as ever’. The usual major and minor options for campers were combined into a slick line-up of ‘Creative Streams’, with campers choosing just one to focus on. The traditional exhibition night was replaced with ‘the festival’ on the final evening—complete with food trucks and craft stalls, a pop-up Family Store, a mullet hair salon and an open-air stage which had no shortage of enthusiastic performers throughout the evening.
Another new initiative was the regular ‘all in’ games in the afternoon; however, plenty of the annual classics remained like the Explorers Café, small groups, panels and workshops, the Big Game and what’s been reported as ‘the most fun quiz ever’ on Thursday night. And, of course, the never-ending casual games of volleyball and basketball that made up the background of
Night church featured two fantastic speakers—one homegrown and one from across the ditch. Australian Territorial Youth and Young Adults Secretary Aux-Lieut Adam Purcell was powerfully impacted by younger preacher Maddy Lopdell (from Cambridge Corps): ‘When you have a homegrown hero like Maddy step up like that—someone who has been coming to Amplify for years herself? Just wow. Seeing the mechanism of leadership empowerment come through was a special moment for me. Maddy has been developed and activated and here was this moment for her to lead at Amplify, just as she has been led over the years.’
Maddy preached from Joshua and spoke about the building of altars to remember God’s faithfulness and promises:
‘The presence in that Ark of the Covenant has not lost an ounce of its power since it created dry ground in a river that was flooding. And his power, here with us tonight, applies in the very same way to his ability to keep the promises he has made to us: … as I was with Moses, so I will be with you … who I was then, is who I am now. And that hasn’t changed since Joshua. He is still who he was … So, as I was with your youth leader, so I will be with you. As I was with your parents, so I will be with you. As I was with your friend, so I will be with you.’
Adam himself took a well-known Bible story which the Holy Spirit illuminated in a fresh way for yet another generation. He went all out by putting his body on the line which provided a great illustration no one will forget in a hurry; Adam wasn’t prepared for the bullrush battle, but David certainly was when he faced Goliath. Adam pulled no punches as he charged campers with the task of picking up the stones that only this generation of The Salvation Army can wield in the battle. A challenging message for older generations present and those listening in on the livestream.
A new generation of leaders
Olivia Stanton (Sydenham), and Georgia Mellsop (Wellington South), were both not only first timers at Amplify, but first-time leaders. Both were blown away by the Amplify experience.
‘There are so many highlights,’ said Olivia, ‘but now I understand why Amplify is so special. It’s such a safe space for young people to not only have a go at creative things, but also to be vulnerable and honest. The testimonies I’ve heard have been incredible, and to see young people share big stuff because they feel safe—it’s amazing. God is here.’
Georgia observed that, ‘Some of the young people have brought really big stuff with them into camp—heavy stuff. Amplify has massive potential to be such a significant life event. And for me, as a leader, camp has been both stretching and affirming. I have my own stack of rocks to look back on so there’s not so much tension in the stretch and I can be grateful that God has led me to this point.’
Summer Events Intern Annika McLeod was almost lost for words as she formally wrapped up camp:
‘My God moment was seeing what God can do in just a few days. As I looked out across the room seeing people recommitting themselves to God, or choosing to follow him for the first time, or praying for others … I got teary-eyed. I can’t even explain it. God is so good.’
From the campers themselves!
Music Performance: 1st Amplify
Epic Moment: The festival—performing and dancing with everyone up the front and having fun.
Camp Legend: Sophie from Whakatane—she’s so awesome!
A great role model and good to
Personal Challenge: I can be anti-social when I don’t know people, but everyone has been so warm and welcoming and that’s helped me get over that challenge.
God Moment: When Maddy spoke about Joshua, and God said ‘I will be with you as I was with Moses’. Surreal that the same God who was with Moses is with us—with me.
16, Hutt City
Music Performance: 2nd Amplify
Epic Moment: Worshipping with everyone, and singing and dancing together.
Camp Legend: Everyone I’ve met! It’s been so good connecting and hearing about their journeys.
Personal Challenge: It was a bit daunting and weird coming back to camp after such a big break. Covid-19 really affected my relationship with God, so it’s been good to be back with people my own age.
God Moment: One of my friends had their first God moment so that was my God moment!
18, Cuba Street
Dance: 5th Amplify
Epic Moment: Being back at Amplify! It’s always such a great start to the year being able to refresh my faith in God and get ready for the year ahead.
Camp Legend: Anton! When our church all prayed together, he prayed specifically for me and my family. I felt understood and included.
Personal Challenge: I have a whole bunch of anxiety and I find comfort in it because it’s so familiar. It’s not easy to accept that I can be happy. But at the festival night I realised that I want to be happy because it’s
a lot better for me.
God Moment: After Maddy spoke, our church sat in a circle and prayed together. It was so good to feel God’s presence together—to feel safe enough to share what was going on for us all.
14, Hutt City
Sports: 1st Amplify
Epic Moment: After Maddy’s message we all prayed together, and it was so good to feel God like that with people I’d only met two days before—now we are like brothers!
Camp Legend: Eugene Kim. He’s a real inspiration. I look up to him a lot. He’s a very good leader. He was there for me when I was too scared to share my testimony. He gave me the strength so yeah—legend!
Personal Challenge: Times when people were emotional or upset and I had to step up and pray for them.
I felt like Eugene for a minute!
God Moment: The prayer night—I felt God was there with me. I felt free and God lifted me up through the people around me and I felt his presence.
18, Albany Bays
Dance: 4th Amplify
Epic Moment: Dancing in the festival!
Camp Legend: Most of the leaders—
I have been so inspired by how they lead and help us on our journey.
Personal Challenge: Knowing that I can always find my way back to God no matter how much I wander.
God Moment: Friday night church. I thought I had tears on my cheek, and I went to wipe them away, but then it felt like someone was holding my chin. I could feel the warmth of a hand—I’ve never felt anything like that before and don’t know how to explain it other than God. But I felt myself grow in that moment.
Filmmaking: 6th Amplify
Epic Moment: The past few years have been so depressing! Connecting back in and catching up with people—getting involved again. Reconnecting. Yeah. Epic.
Camp Legend: Raymond. Seeing the generations step up and that someone like Raymond is still here—still faithful—that’s legend.
Personal Challenge: The spiritual pathways test we did in small group—my top was ‘contemplative’ and that really does relate because I’m a watcher and observer. A quiet speaker. Yeah. That was reassuring.
God Moment: I have been touched by the talent in the group this year. And whether that’s self-taught or whatever—they’re praising God with their talent.