By Melissa Ohden
Editor’s note. Melissa Ohden, the survivor of a “failed” saline abortion, has spoken at the last two National Right to Life Conventions.
Historical. If I had to sum up the first annual Virginia Society for Human Life’s (VSHL’s) pro-life youth camp, Camp Joshua, that was held last weekend, me, a woman of, admittedly many words, can sum it up easily with just that one. Historical. From August 3rd-5th, sixty youth, ranging in age from 14-18, attended this impactful pro-life leadership camp in Staunton, Virginia.
As the Camp Joshua materials (www.campjoshava.org) aptly explain, ”Just as Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho, the young men and women of Camp Joshua will lead their generation in bringing down the walls of the culture of death. They will be Joshua to our world in need.” I don’t think any of us would disagree that in our day and age, we need a Joshua, many Joshua’s.
A project of VSHL, Camp Joshua is a part of the Life & Leadership Camps Initiative (www.prolifecamps.org ), a nationwide pro-life program developed by National Right to Life, Louisiana Right to Life, and Wisconsin Right to Life.
Having sixty youth in attendance at the very first event is exemplary! And dare I say, now historical, setting the standard high for years and years to come. With this great start to VSHL’s foray into youth camps, I have no doubt that the next Camp Joshua will see even greater attendance. Certainly, we know that quantity does not always equate with quality in our world, but I can tell you that the caliber of the heart, the intellect, and the passion for the cause of the life of the young men and women in attendance was high.
From their respect for the speakers and staff, to their thoughtful questions around issues, to the energy and effort that they placed into the work that they did, I think that I can speak on behalf of all of the staff and speakers that were present in saying that we were impressed!
Session topics ranged from introductory information about abortion to in-depth pro-life history, pro-life leaders to abortion alternatives, stem cell research to euthanasia, and everything in between. As a speaker and advocate who travels all across the U.S., I don’t think I’m being out of line when I state that the youth in attendance at Camp Joshua are better educated on the issue of abortion than most adults! Speakers for the weekend included: Dr. David Prentice, Olivia Gans Turner, President of VSHL and Director of the American Victims of Abortion (AVA), and myself, in addition to many other educated and gifted individuals who are involved in the fight for life.
On Saturday morning, Olivia Gans Turner joined me in presenting a workshop about the impact of abortion in our world, from the microcosm of the life of a woman, expanding onto the lives of men, entire families, our communities, our nation and our world. Olivia and I shared through our personal experiences and pro-life efforts just how deep the effect of abortion reaches, and what all of us can do to reach out in love and truth to make a difference in lives and in our world.
Olivia was especially grateful for the tremendous support the camp received from the community around the Staunton area. “Thanks to Mrs. Maggie Wilson and her team, we were able to include many adults from that area in our efforts to make the weekend work,” Olivia said. She also praised our team of dedicated college pro-life leaders that served as camp counselors and staff.” It was a true team effort that made the camp such a success,” Olivia said.
Not to wear out the word, but historic again comes to mind when I think about our workshop. History was made there in Staunton that day, as Olivia shared the perspective of a woman who is post-abortive, and I shared side-by–side, the perspective of the child who is aborted. What an amazing opportunity this session presented for the youth to both see and hear the heart of the issue in ways that highlight the true reality of abortion.
Before you think that VSHL took the “camp” out of Camp Joshua and subjected the attendees to lecture after lecture, please know that in addition to challenging workshops, the youth participated in a campfire, skits, swimming, and interactive games, in addition to watching films with a pro-life message. And from the looks of the attendees, they enjoyed all of the activities of their weekend.
More importantly, thanks to Olivia Gans Turner and VSHL, and Megan McCrum, Camp Joshua Coordinator, sixty of Virginia’s youth were given the knowledge and skills to educate and inspire their peers, save lives and change hearts and minds, and change their communities and our world.
I am so blessed to be a part of the pro-life family we have here in the U.S. and around the world, and although I love all of the groups and organizations that I work with, I will admit to you that youth camps are one of my favorite places to speak (and not just because I am a big s’more fan). There is great joy that comes in knowing that I’ve had the opportunity to help educate, inspire and equip a generation of youth in bringing down the walls of the culture of death, our modern day Joshua’s.
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