Tag Archives: camps

Teens talk about the Beijing Expat Youth Conference

The BICF (with support from CCC) runs two camps/conferences every year for expat teens in Beijing. This year’s Spring Conference happened April 2nd-3rd and involved about 200 people. Mark Oestreicher (Marko) came from the US to speak, and the Joe Aylor Worship Band came in from Texas to lead worship.

Four teens from 3 of the 6 youth groups who attended have shared with us some of their reflections on the weekend and what it meant to them. We hope you are encouraged as you read about how these kids were affected. The time and effort put into running events for TCKs really does pay off.


Mikaela in an Australian 13 year old who has lived in China for six years. She lives in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province – a city of 7 million people located 650km south of Beijing. She joined the OneWay group for the Spring Conference (along with about 20 other teens who live outside Beijing).

Camp has been a fantastic part of my life this past year, as well as a very big part of my spiritual growth. This past Spring Camp especially with the awesome praise and worship, spectacular sermons, and fantastic seminars. I know that the seminar I chose, Forgiveness, really gave me a new perspective on it and helped me understand it much better. I really walked away from camp this April with a sense of understanding the bible better, and a sense of being understood and accepted by the people there.
Hey, being a thirteen year old girl in a city with only three other TCK girls my age (this year) is tough, but having camp there to look forward to twice a year makes me love being here and makes camp that much more special. My favorite part of camp is always opening my eyes during praise and worship, looking around and seeing other kids of all ages, genders, and nationalities together praising God. Some with their hands up, some with the arms around others shoulders, some on their knees, and others praying together. That is always the part that makes me smile and cry with joy the most. I honestly couldn’t have wished for my last camp to be any better.


Elisa is a 15 year old girl from Finland – who has never lived in Finland. She was born in Switzerland, moved to France at age 2, to the US at 7 and a half, then to China at age 12. 

In all the places I’ve lived I’ve never gone to church, never been part of a congregation, never been at Sunday School or had a youth group. Here in China, I joined Crossroads by my own choice, and I love it! Recently, I was a part of the Beijing Expat Youth Conference on the 2nd and 3rd of April and it was amazing!! I consider myself quite a new Christian, and meeting all the other youths was awesome, since we were all there for one purpose: to praise Him and to have fun doing it! The guest speaker, “Marko”, was also super. His funny anecdotes linked his teachings to real life and gave me perspective, which is really important in my opinion. He also used metaphors that I’ve never thought about before when talking about very well-known Bible passages, which really made everything click and made me see just how awesome God’s love is for us! I loved the worship and messages, and it all proved to me once again how amazing our God is, and how our love for Him can move so many to take part in a thing like this! I’m definitely doing it again next year!

Jonathan is a 16 year old from Singapore, and has lived in San Francisco (5 years), Taipei (2 years) and Beijing (3 years). He is in Year 11 (Grade 10) at Dulwich College.

Although I’m leaving Maotown in about six weeks, I’m pleased to say that this last Spring Conference I’ve had in my short run here in Beijing has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life; Mark-O’s eagle and three-stepper analogies were flawless, and the Joe Aylor crew were amazing in leading us into a time of intimate worship- one that I’ve never experienced to such a passionate degree before. The Holy Spirit flooded the room in its awesome power, and struck like a tidal wave, engulfing every young soul in that place in genuflecting cognizance. It was truly a spectacle to behold. My only regret is not being able to spend an additional two days having the time of my life with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ while also growing closer in wisdom and erudition in seeking after and ‘carrying our crosses’, so to speak, towards Jesus. Conferences should be longer! May the future BICF-CCC conferences thrive further and bring new brothers and sisters into the family of the LORD!


Anne is a 16 year old from the USA, but she was born in Hong Kong and has lived in Beijing China her whole life. She is homeschooled and is currently finishing up 10th grade.

At the start of campference this year I was not at all excited or even interested in being there. I kept telling myself that I really didn’t want to go to camp, but I was already signed up. Also, I’m the sort of person who once I start going to an event every fall and spring, I have to go to every one if possible. :) So on Saturday morning I was at the Marriott signing in and getting my camp t-shirt. Once I saw all my friends I began to feel a little better about being at conference. At the start I was also skeptical about the new way of separating by youth group, but I found that I liked it a lot better than I thought I would.

One thing that I always like about camps/conferences is the worship.  I like learning new songs and getting excited about it. Over the weekend I was able to learn some of the songs we sang multiple times. Worship was one of my favorite parts of camp.I enjoyed how Marko (the speaker) looked at the passages we read in a new way. It was interesting to think about the people around Jesus, and how they acted. I hadn’t noticed before in the passage about the paralytic being lowered through the roof that his friends had so much faith. Anyways it was good to hear the stories told in a unique way.

One of the parts of camp where I think I learned the most was Tanya’s workshop. Everything was clear, backed up with Bible verses, thought provoking, and helpful for life. I’m not just saying that because Tanya asked me to write for this blog either, I really mean it. Normally when people hand me papers in a Sunday school class or at youth group I can’t think of anything to write in the blank spaces, but in this workshop I barely had time to finish writing everything I had to say. It was really good think about  how God refines us to develop purity and strength in us. God taught me, and others as well, a lot from that workshop.

During camp God was teaching me (and still is) to depend on him for everthing, especially joy. On Sunday night before dinner everyone had some free time, and some other people and I were standing around talking. Somehow we started tossing a half-filled waterbottle around, and soon we had a little circle of people throwing around this waterbottle. It was really fun, I’m still not really sure why, but several funny things happened and by the end most of us were laughing so hard we were either on the floor or we were crying. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d laughed so hard. So all that to say, that was the happiest time I had at camp, and it made me even more grateful for the friends God’s given me.

I had a lot of mixed emotions about camp, but overall it was a really positive experience.

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Special Events, TCKs


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Great Glowstick Games: Human Pac-Man

An important thing to remember when running games is to work with what you’ve got. Use the unique characteristics of the environment you’re in.

For a few years, the Beijing Expat Youth camps were held at a conference centre in the far south of Beijing. The grounds of the centre had all sorts of odd fields. The most unusual feature was an abandoned maze. It was originally a water maze – cement walls enclosed waterways which little boats paddled along. Higher walls formed the maze, and trees grew all through. By the time we came along, there was no water – just a few half-rotten boats and a lot of leaf litter lying in the bottom of a cement maze. It was dingy and not a little dangerous. So, of course, we used it for night games!

The most famous game we ever ran in the abandoned maze was Human Pac-Man. We created it for our second camp there, with the maze in mind.

Human Pac-Man
4 teams
4 garbage bins
15 large balls
30 medium size balls
200+ little balls (we used pingpong balls)
8 sheets

The kids got a few glowsticks each to light themselves up with. When we arrived at the maze, they were divided into their teams, each of them gathering in a different corner of the maze. In each team’s corner was a plastic garbage bin, which they would use to collect their points.

When the whistle blew to start the game, the kids left their corners in search of balls – the bigger the ball, the more points it was worth. They were human pac-men, in search of delicious dots. Once they deposited the balls in their team garbage bin, they were “safe”. At the conclusion of the game, the contents of the bins were counted and the team with the most points won.

Of course, pac-man has a nemesis: the ghosts! 8 leaders were sent around the maze, each draped in a sheet of some kind. When caught by a ghost, kids had to drop any balls they’d collected and follow the ghost to the “prison” in a large open space at the centre of the maze. Kids were free to collect balls in any section of the maze, not just near their home base, but the farther they roamed, the higher the risk of getting caught.

The prison was run like many we’ve run before and since – kids were required to do all sorts of random things to get free and return to the action. Sometimes they had to sing silly songs, or do silly dances, or perhaps provide profuse flattery to the leader in charge!

And there you have it – a very simple game. Easy to set up, easy to teach, easy to run. No bizarre rules to explain (or get confused), no weird supplies to locate. Running it as a night game meant the balls weren’t too simple too find, and made the ghosts more ghostly.

So why was this game so popular? Why is it still remembered so fondly, 5 years after the fact?

I think there are two main reasons.

1) It captured imaginations

Most people have played the computer game Pac Man. It was easy to relate the simple elements of the game we were playing to the computer game they remembered – making the whole thing seem much more sophisticated than it actually was. We weren’t running around collecting balls and avoiding leaders – we were in a computer eating dots and fleeing from ghosts!

2) Location, location, location

This game only worked because we were running around an old maze. Without those walls, the idea of being in the computer game falls apart. By creating a game that worked with the unique location available to us, we were able to make the game more than a game. It was a special game, one that is forever associated in all our minds with that location.

So why tell you this? I assume it’s unlikely you’ll be running night games in your own abandoned maze any time soon. If you do have access to a maze for night games, keep Human Pac-Man in mind! For the rest of you, though, consider those two points when preparing games for your own events.

Capture Imaginations – instead of running complex games, use simple games with easily understood rules, and make them interesting with a great story.

Location – make the most of the location you have. Choose, or create, games that engage with the environment they’re played in.


Posted by on April 8, 2011 in Games


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Camp themes: some of my favourites and why they rock!

Most youth camps I’ve been involved in have had a specific “theme” for the event. A theme can be simple or complex, can apply just to the messages/games, or be integrated across all parts of the event.

There are many advantages to a theme:

A good theme can lead you to new and fun ideas you wouldn’t have thought on of otherwise. Maybe it started as a theme for the sessions/messages, but then naturally lead you to some great games or a fantastic t-shirt design. Maybe it just sounded like a fun idea for the kids to enjoy, but then you were able to pin a series of great messages to it. However you get started, having a firm theme idea can help guide leaders’ discussions and give you new ideas.

Learning Aide
A good theme can be used to help kids hang onto the messages presented. Themes give kids a picture to “hang” the content on. If you present three messages over a weekend and all three points can be tied in some way to the camp theme, kids will find it easier to remember the three points and refer back to them later on.

Memory Aide
A memorable theme will help kids (and leaders) latch onto memories of the event. If you hold annual events at the same location, having a clear theme for each year helps the experiences stand out, rather than running together into one big camp memory. Themes differentiate one camp from another – one learning experience from another.

It’s just fun!
And you know what? That’s a great thing! It’s wonderful to get together with a bunch of kids and have a blast. Themes can make an already fun weekend even more fun! New in-jokes are created, bonds are created and strengthened – and a theme to connect it all to makes it all the more fun.

When I think back to all the camps I’ve done, I don’t think “Spring of 2006” – although I can work out the timing if I choose. What characterises each camp for me is its theme. So here’s a few great themes we’ve used in Beijing in the past 6 years:


Tanya at Mythbusters Camp in Beijing

About to get twenty pies to the face at the middle school Mythbusters camp.

This was planned around the idea of having an outreach camp. We encouraged kids to invite non-Christian friends to camp, knowing that while there would be worship times etc., the messages would be “seeker-friendly”. Kids had a chance to ask anonymous questions about the Christian faith and we planned teaching on apologetics. Clement, a student who designed (or worked with friends to design) all our camp shirts for several years, came up with a great design. The Mythbusters t-shirt said “God does not exist” which then had a “BUSTED” stamp over it. We also planned a big “mythbuster” event for the last day of camp – dropping mentos candy into coke to see if it would fizz/explode. We turned several big bottles of coke into fountains – a fun sight kids still remember!

While the theme of the camp’s content was “identity” the concept we wrapped it around was facebook and avatars. Each team had an “avatar” (a person-sized animal costume – bunny, lion, tiger, elephant, etc) and the team scores were shown as facebook pages with a number of “friends” instead of a number of points.

Uncharted Waters
We talked about life as new territory to explore, and there being no map explaining how our unique lives will play out – but God can guide us. Although our custom at the time was to keep camp themes a secret until the first session, we previewed this theme by showing a clip from “Pirates of the Caribbean” and invited kids to dress up as pirates for the first night of camp. We gave away prizes like eye-patches and plastic hand-hooks during the first session games, and the big outdoor game involved searching for and actually digging up buried treasure. We even kept a big “treasure chest” on the stage throughout the retreat.

This was my first camp in Beijing. As I said above, our custom was to keep the theme a secret til the first session of camp, at which point there’d be a big hype up and reveal – painting a vision for the weekend. At the “nothing” camp, we finished worship during the first session and the two youth pastors came up to the front to do the intro message. They hyped the kids up “do you want to know what the theme is??” for a minute or so, then said “Okay! The theme for this year’s camp IS…” – then stood there in silence for a minute or so. In the end they explained – we studied three “nothings” of faith, for example, nothing is impossible with God. The camp logo was just a circle with a line through it (like a street sign).

This was the theme of the first Beijing Youth Conference. The whole weekend was styled as a “flight”. As kids arrived and lined up for registration, several leaders used metal-detector style wands to “frisk” them, occasionally making certain kids do silly things before letting them through. Kids got water bottles we’d put our own “Go” labels on them, and stickers. During the first session the youth pastors got up and apologised that the flight had been delayed, but that we had some entertainment planned. When the session finished, they explained that the flight was delayed until tomorrow, so the “airline” had reserved places for them to stay (before bussing kids to host homes for the night). We provided leaders with DVDs which contained video devos and some other fun things – including a track of camp “rules”, set up like an airline safety video – complete with voiceover and a lovely “hostess” (youth leader) showing the “passenger” (another youth leader) what NOT to do. Another highlight was the “Deep Vein Thrombosis” video included for the morning – it was a crazy video with three guys in suits/ties doing insane exercises. It became a youth group cult classic! Kids were doing the DVT dance all day and it was an in-joke that kept up for over a year.

With an amazing double-cabin of girls at the GO09 conference in Beijing.

With an amazing double-cabin of girls at the GO09 conference in Beijing.

That’s just 5 examples from MANY camp themes.

What was the best themed event you’ve participated in?


Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Leading Youth, Youth Resources


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Great Glowstick Games: Building a fire

“Building a Fire” is a game that Joe Jackson, Matt Banker and I cooked up for the Beijing Fall Youth Camp 2010. We were using a Wilderness Survivor theme, and so we created games that would fit that. (We’ll probably write about some of the other games we did in another post – there were some good ones!)

The main reason I chose this for one of our first games posts is that a few months later, Christina and I used it for the Cross Culture 2011 retreat in Cambodia. It was a very different group in a very different location; we adapted it heavily and it worked wonderfully. I love games that are flexible and therefore easy to adapt! Flexibility is important for those of us running games in random places – the traditional models don’t always work, so we change games to fit us.

Building a Fire – original Beijing version

What we started with:

Four teams (total 100 people)
1,000 small red glowsticks
400 small yellow glowsticks
200 small blue glowsticks
Several hundred small green glowsticks for marking
Several large red glowsticks for marking (and some small red ones)
Several large blue glowsticks for “obstacles”

Object of the game

Build enough fires to keep your team warm (and alive). Instead of awarding points for games over the weekend, teams were fighting to survive! Each complete “fire” would keep 5 team members “alive” so teams of 25 people needed to make 5 fires. These “fires” are made by collecting enough of the right glowsticks in the right combination. Each team was required to calculate the number of fires they needed, then collect the right amount of glowsticks and return them to home base before the end of the allotted time.

Adaptation: set the colour/number combinations according to the amount of glowsticks you have available. For our purposes, each complete fire required 10 blue, 20 yellow, and 50 red glowsticks. To fit the narrative, we called the blue “matches”, the yellow “kindling” and the red “logs” – or something like that ;)


Of course, no good game is complete without challenges to overcome. We assigned some leaders to be “Wind” and “Wild Animals” (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!); they were distinguished by holding large glowsticks.  If a kid was tagged by a “Wind” leader they were required to hand over any glowsticks they were carrying; the glowsticks were then redistributed by the leaders (so they could be collected again). “Redistributing” generally meant “randomly tossed over there somewhere”.

If a kid was tagged by a Lion, Tiger or Bear, not only were their glowsticks stolen, but they were mauled. Badly maimed, these kids were required to sit on the ground and not move (they could yell but that was all) until they were carried back to home base (dragged or piggyback or carried by four limbs – anything they came up with) at which point they were magically revived. Every “mauled” kid left out in the field at the end of the game was a life counted against the team’s total.

Setting up the field

The “field” was a wide area full of trees, walls, and low-ropes equipment. There were hills, piles of dead leaves, and random bits of metal. In short, it was rather a mess.

The green marker glowsticks were used to do several things:

  • to mark the trail into the game area (since the kids were making their way out there at night)
  • make the home bases (green circles near four corners of the playing area)
  • mark the boundaries of the play area (where there was no fence)
  • warn of any dangerous areas (i.e. KEEP OFF THE BROKEN METAL THINGS)

That last point is very important for night games – kids who are running around in the dark will often not see danger til it’s too late to avoid. Using a set apart glowstick colour to mark danger helps a lot!

A mix of small and large red glowsticks were used to mark a “safe zone” in the middle of the play areas where the first aid officer and some other available leaders remained throughout the game. When kids had any sort of problem (sprained ankle, clarification of rules) they could find someone to help.

The play glowsticks (blue, yellow and red) were distributed even-ish-ly throughout the playing area. (Some strategy was discussion and used – such as putting certain colours primarily in certain areas, so each team would have to travel away from home base to find them).

Game Play

All game rules were explained to the teams in the indoor meeting room. Kids were released to get cold-weather gear and met out at the playing field, where leaders were available to direct them to the home bases. After 5-10 minutes to strategise, the game was started with a siren. We gave them about 20 minutes to run around collecting, losing and re-collecting glowsticks. A 5 minute warning siren was given, and then a long final siren. (Having a loud, recognisable noise for marking time in night games helps a lot, especially when the group is spread out over a large area).

It sounds simple enough, but it really worked as a game! I was impressed by how it drew in the high school girls in my cabin. One or two were a bit sick, and others just didn’t want to play the game. I convinced them to at least come out and see the glowsticks (the lit up game field is always one of the best sights of camp) and said they could go back to the cabin soon after that. Once the game started, however, they got so involved they never asked to go back to the cabin – they engaged with the game and played the whole time. One big advantage of this game was that there were several different roles – kids could play the game the way they wanted.

  • Strategy – coming up with a way to play the game and instructing others
  • Glowstick collectors – running far away to get what was needed
  • Medics – going out and finding mauled kids then bringing them home
  • Counters – counting up the glowsticks brought home, working out what was still needed, and communicating this to the collectors

Cambodia Adaptation

When we played this at the Cross Culture retreat, we came up with a lot of major adaptations. The game still worked brilliantly.

We started with:

9 kids
4 leaders
20 blue glowsticks
5 pink/red glowsticks
30 yellow/green glowsticks

The kids played as a single team trying to beat the game. Each fire saved three people, and consisted of 5 blue, 7 red/pink and 10 yellow/green glowsticks. Several blue glowsticks were used to mark the “obstacle” leaders. There was one Wind leader and one Rabid Camel* leader patrolling the game field. The biggest change was omitting the home base. Mauled kids were not revived by being brought to base, but by having three team members come to them at the same time. Glowsticks were also not safe until a complete fire was presented to the “safe” leader. The kids were hiding glowsticks under jackets, in their pockets – anywhere they could find!  The play area included a swimming pool and a bunch of glowsticks ended in there (along with several fully clothed kids and leaders). It was mass chaos and thoroughly enjoyable!

*an in joke that was woven through the entire weekend!

I think “Building a fire” is a great glowstick game because it is so flexible! You could even re-story it to fit a different themed camp – have them building something different – not a fire but… <constructing a building/foundation><weaving a carpet><harvesting crops>. Sky’s the limit!


Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Games


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