Ngaruawahia Easter Convention –
Reflections of Hudson Deane
As a member of NZBTI/BCNZ staff, Hudson was on the Easter Camps Organising Committee for many years under the leadership of College Registrar, Mr Les Rushbrook. Here are some of Hudson’s reflections on the Ngaruawahia Easter Conventions…
What a tremendous blessing the Easter Convention at Ngaruawahia was to many thousands of people over the years, not only to campers but also to the many day visitors who travelled from far and wide. They came from every possible church denomination all united under the banner "All One in Christ Jesus". And they came because the message was about what Jesus did on the Cross at Easter and the challenge to make him Lord of our lives and live for him. The Ngaruawahia Easter Convention honoured Jesus above all. I recently met someone who spoke with such gratitude for it all these years later. Personally, it was a significant factor in the Lord's call to Rosemary and me at a formative stage in our lives and led us to enter full-time work for him. Decisions were made at Easter Camp that set the course of a lifetime for so many. Friendships were made and deepened as people met one another again over many years.
My first contact was as a teenage camper. Like many others, our church youth group went to Easter camp at Ngaruawahia several times. Part of the fun of the long weekend was travelling there by train from Auckland. We camped under canvas in those days on the public domain where the Waipa and Waikato rivers flow together. Meals were catered for in an area a short walk East of the domain where there were dormitories for the women campers. All the campers were rostered on to duties of food preparation and cleaning up. Meetings were held in a huge marquee supplied by LeRoys and erected on the domain to accommodate the crowds of campers and day visitors who came eagerly to hear the Easter 'Keswick' style messages given by speakers, many of whom were from overseas. People like Allan Redpath, and Francis Dixon were supplemented by well-known NZers like Oswald Sanders and Graham Miller. Often a team led by Open Air Campaigners held an evangelistic meeting in the streets of Ngaruawahia on the Friday night.
A highlight of the weekend was hearing missionaries present their experiences at the Easter Sunday afternoon meeting and there was always a life-changing challenge to answer the call for missionary service which many of us responded to. Testimonies of BTI students also led many to enrol for training in subsequent years. The congregational singing from a specially published Song Book was always inspirational and drew from the great message of the Easter event we celebrated. Those times of massed congregational singing where many hundreds joined together, were led by people like Lawrie Pink and accompanied for many years by the gifted Stan Conway on the piano. A sports event was arranged for Saturday afternoon. And there were times in between meetings where people had opportunity for quiet reflection and transactions with the Lord.
One eventful year a storm came through and the huge marquee was almost completely blown down. This precipitated an urgent decision to have talks with Christian Youth Camps who had established their facilities nearby at Waingaro. The outcome was to jointly fund and erect a large building to hold about 2500 people for Easter convention which would serve CYC as an indoor stadium during its camping programmes. This solved many accommodation and other issues and developed a happy relationship between the two groups. The CYC facilities made catering, small group studies as well as separate meeting spaces for children's and specialised youth programmes so much easier. Scripture Union and Youth For Christ with their specialist skills greatly enhanced the experience for families.
If you were a camper you never realised what a massive task it was to organise such an event. A wonderful committee met as a team to do the advanced planning and organisation behind the scenes. Volunteer helpers took the bookings, wrote the receipts for camp fees, arranged the study groups and duty rosters. A team of students from BTI/BCNZ arrived early to erect tents, prepare seating, organise halls, set up the sound system, arrange kitchen catering, or marshall parking for caravans, tents and day visitors (as well as the pack down that followed). Many of the volunteers became 'specialists' in their particular roles and it couldn't have run so smoothly without them. Months in advance arrangements were made for speakers and group studies to be drawn up. And there was a great deal of prayer for the Lord to pour out his blessings on all who would come.
Surely we'll never know until we reach heaven what eternal blessings flowed from those great Easter Camp times at Ngaruawahia. All praise be to the Lord!