As the leaves change and begin to fall, the marking of the closing summer season feels anxious, muted and different as the various pandemics that rage across our country and the world have left a tumultuous summer behind.
A season typically full of summer fun for many students at camps, beaches and neighborhood pools ended with many longing for what could have been. One camp that was not able to operate this summer due to the virus was Passport Camps.
David and Colleen Burroughs, the visionaries and engineers of Passport Camps for over 25 years, built from the ground up a camp community that has provided Christian students of all traditions an opportunity to form their faith through missional work and Christ-centered community.
David serves as CEO, and Colleen as vice president of communications.
Their ecumenical and open-minded vision for a Christian summer camp was a dream back in the early 1990s during disagreements that still exist in many facets of Christian life over the inclusion of women in ordained ministerial leadership.
Passport is unique, focusing on an open and living faith centered in Christ that encourages students of all ages to grow in a faith that connects their lives to the world beyond the four walls of their churches by being Christ-like in their communities.
It is also intentional in expanding the pulpit to women.
“PASSPORT was birthed out of a conflict about whether or not women should be allowed to preach or pastor congregations. Passport’s Christian mission is rooted in conversations about justice and mercy and kindness,” Colleen said.
“We have always had women preachers. We want to teach and express a thoughtful theology that intentionally includes all children as beloved by God, who are created to be whoever God calls them to be.”
Colleen and David, the 2020 Judson-Rice Award recipients, deserve a spotlight this year for their Christ-like love to students, which empowers children and youth to be curious and open in their Christian faith as they seek “to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with [their] God” (Micah 6:8).
To celebrate the Burroughs’ work, Good Faith Media wants to highlight two areas of emphasis that Passport is built upon: Curious faith and Christian missional work.
At Passport, campers explore their faith with curiosity, learning new things about themselves, God and the world through the unique offerings at camp.
Three different camp options are offered, each one full of exciting and formational activities.
At PASSPORTkids camp, for third- through sixth-graders, kids engage in four fun days of faith-building and mission education.
Colleen and David say their favorite thing about kids’ camp is the Night Market, an interactive night of missions education where kids learn about a new place in the world.
The market simulates the culture and activities of the country that the mission offering is going to that summer, allowing kids to play a new game or try a new food from that specific place. Through it all, kids learn to appreciate and celebrate people and places that are different from them.
At PASSPORTchoices, students in sixth through 12th grades pick a focus for the week and learn to live faithfully in the world while maintaining their individual interests.
By learning about art, athletics, the environment, leadership and more, students see that their faith isn’t confined to the four walls of a church; it grows and forms with them as they become adults.
All of Passport’s camps offer a special and dedicated place for students to focus on their faith formation.
“Getting away from home, out of a routine, and into a space specifically created to have conversations with and about God is a unique opportunity. That kind of dedicated experience doesn’t happen anywhere else in our lives,” Colleen said. “The decisions about faith and calling that happen at summer camp are foundational markers we carry with us for the rest of our lives.”
Finally, PASSPORTmissions offers students an opportunity to dive into a camp experience focused on mission work, allowing students to do a deeper dive into communities through service projects.
From the camp’s inception over 25 years ago, missions have been a central part of the different camps in teaching, equipping and leading students toward being good neighbors during camp and in their communities back home.
“We are all beloved children of God. Anyone can be nice and do good things in the world,” David said. “Being on Christian mission is about living out our faith in Jesus Christ and trying to love the world and the people we encounter in ways we believe reflect the love of Christ.”
A 2005 service project in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina stands out in David’s mind as a particularly transformative experience.
“That summer all the students were in Hazmat suits in 100-degree weather, cleaning up rows of flooded-out houses in the Lower Ninth Ward,” David said. “Feelings of exhausted accomplishment were replaced by frustration and anger. … The reality we came to was that we actually weren’t helping very much.”
“The Lower Ninth Ward was an impoverished mess before Katrina ever hit and it would remain so after we were gone. We decided it was OK to be mad. … The lesson that summer shifted from whether we were helping to informed questions about why this community was living in such poverty and peril to begin with,” he said. “Micah 6:8 grabbed students’ hearts and opened up their eyes to systematic poverty in ways that will bookmark their understanding of injustice for the rest of their lives.”
What started as an idea for Colleen and David in 1993 sparked an incredible journey.
Over 25 years, hundreds of staffers and thousands of campers have been blessed and changed by this unique camp that seeks to empower students to meet God in new ways.
Campers have collectively engaged in over a million hours of community service, bringing life to David and Colleen’s vision that Passport would be a place where students embrace community and extend grace to the world.
The 2020 Judson-Rice Award is well deserved for these faithful ministers, whose impact can hardly be measured with numbers. The Burroughs have changed the scene for Christian youth camps by not shying away from the tough stuff and seeking justice through missions.
And they do it all with a deep love of kindness and gentle humility in their hearts, living out Micah 6:8, as they do this good work for the world.
Thank you, David and Colleen, for all you do. Your work is so important.