CANADA—For months, prayerful preparations were underway for Canadian teens to attend the Philadelphia Church of God’s Summer Educational Program in Edmond, Oklahoma. Government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions kept blocking international travel for Canadians, meaning that making it to youth camp this year would require intervention from God.
The first challenge they faced was the mandatory three-day stay in a government-approved hotel for anyone arriving in Canada by air. This adds approximately $1,600 in additional costs that these families can’t afford. So they prayed for a solution. And one came.
When the families learned that a Canadian who lives in Florida during the winters arrived back in March by driving across the border, they saw that Canadian teens could fly back to a northern American city and drive home, which was in compliance with regulations and saved them enough money to make going to camp a possibility again.
However, with traveling becoming complicated, the teens would need a parent to accompany them, which meant a significant time commitment, absence from responsibilities at home and work, and a government-imposed two week quarantine upon arriving home. Prayers were offered up again, and another solution came. A member working from home volunteered to accompany the group, while still working “from home” while in Edmond. God had again provided a solution.
Another obstacle arose: A requirement for a pre-departure COVID-19 test for entering the United States, an additional expense of about $140 per person. Prayers again were offered up for a solution to this particular issue, and a free test just happened to be available at Pearson Airport, just happening to expire a few days after the campers’ departure. Members and teens had prayed that a non-invasive test be available, and this nearby, free, convenient test was also a non-invasive one.
Campers and their families said that every time Satan erected a roadblock between them and the road to SEP, God provided the solution. With this intervention and help from the PCG’s Canada regional office and Regional Director John Macdonald and the late Preaching Elder Kirk Macdonald helping and praying, the campers had a smooth and successful trip to Oklahoma, delayed only for 30 minutes at one point when a camper’s vinegar battery science project raised eyebrows at security.
At awards night on the last night of the session, two of the six eastern Canadians gave speeches, four were among the winners of “dorm of the session” awards, two won “camper of the session,” one won “most improved,” and one had enough awards in her luggage to make it overweight by 6 lbs. And the effect of campers on the camp, and of camp on the campers, is seen even more clearly by these teens’ families and the teens themselves.
Preparing for the trip home required faith as well. The pre-departure COVID-19 test had to be scheduled perfectly to ensure it was within the 72-hour time frame, but also allow for the time needed to receive the results. Once again, those involved prayed for the test to be scheduled at the right time, to arrive at the right time and to not be invasive.
With the group scheduled to depart for home on Monday, the chaperone received her test result Sunday evening, but none of the teens had received theirs. Finally getting through to the testing company, they learned that required medical and chaperone consent forms that had been brought to the test appointment had not been provided to the company. The forms had to be relocated, photographed and sent to the company. After waiting half an hour to give the company time to receive and process the forms, getting cut off three times, and a prayer request made at the Canada deacons and elders meeting that was occurring on the same day, the test results were finally released to the chaperone just 15 minutes before the group needed to leave for the airport. Once again, prayers had been answered.
At the United States-Canada border, the chaperone had the group’s test results printed off, but her own test results were not with them. She had a login to obtain them electronically, but her device was connected to a Canadian network that had no data. One border agent told her how to access the U.S. network, but then disappeared. This enabled her to access her test result, meaning that they could continue to the next step at the border.
This involved another COVID test. Lab technicians there found the teens to be well-prepared, joking that they should win an award for “most prepared group.” The teens were applying what their parents and their SEP instructors had taught them, including saying, “Yes sir” and “Yes ma’am,” and it was evident that they left a good impression on the border agents and lab workers.
The entire process worked like clockwork. For example, if the chaperone had a positive test result or other issue, her 14-day quarantine would re-start, and she was due back at work 15 days after returning to Canada. However, even this detail worked out.
Mr. Kirk Macdonald said in his last Bible study that while worldly society tells those in God’s Church what they can’t do, and Church members obey even restrictive laws that do not directly conflict with God’s laws, God’s Church continues moving forward. Even with confusing, changing, restrictive regulations and threats of large fines and jail time, avenues opened for more than a dozen total teens from Canada to attend Summer Educational Program 2021. Those avenues were often unclear until they were absolutely needed, but God opened them, and the teens traveled down them, all the way to Edmond and back again.