Off to Camp

Conscription is taking effect as America calls its men to the colors. Already its influences are being felt in the church, in the society and in the home. Some of our young men have already left for camp, others are preparing to go, while still others are awaiting their turn.

A timely article appeared as an editorial in the issue of December 1, 1940, of the Standard Bearer, under the heading, “Our Boys and Conscription”. If any of you have failed to read this article, it will prove worth your while to check back and read it. The editor-in-chief mentions that “when our young men are called, they need have no scruples or conscientious objections”. From certain viewpoints, he goes on to say, the army may even have a salutary effect on many a youth. But he also warns against the many disadvantages connected with life in the camp. Separation from the influence and fellowship of the Church and people of God, the religious atmosphere of the army, the recreation and amusement it offers, are ‘but some of these. Such contact with the “’world” in its worst form, is not to be deemed very lightly. So that the editor concludes with an admonition that the young Reformed conscript seek his strength in prayer. That he take his Bible with him and read it for spiritual strength, comfort and guidance. And that he obtain wholesome and spiritual literature, and “keep in correspondence with his pastor, his former society friends and fellow members, as well as with his home.”

I refer to these things in the confidence that especially those who are personally involved in the conscription will avail themselves of the opportunity of reading the whole article.

But there is another reason for referring to this matter at this time. The question has already been raised, what can be done by those at home for our boy’s in camp? No doubt, these boy’s will need the encouragement of every possible contact with friends. They are separated from their Church, their society, their home and companions, and thrown into the company of men who are no fit associates for them, whose very language and actions irritate and fill with revulsion. More than ever they are experiencing what Christian isolation means, to be in the world and yet not of the world. For how long a time is not even so certain. Although the present plans assure the boy’s that it is but for a year, and although the danger of a foreign invasion is not so imminent, nor yet the possibility of transporting our boys to foreign soil, as long as the war clouds hover over Europe and the talk of war fills the air here, there can be no real certainty. Thus, while these boys are going through an entirely new and strange experience, are putting up a fight for their faith as they never before were called upon to do, must bear sneer and ridicule for righteousness’ sake, everything possible must be done to help them. What can we do?

It has given me great satisfaction to learn that at least some of our young men in camp are regularly receiving their copies of Beacon Lights. That is on way in which the societies can help, simply by sending Beacon Lights to the conscripts of their congregation. While I have also been informed that the Young Men’s Society of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids has made arrangements within the society for correspondence with the boys in camp. That, too, is very commendable. But is it not possible to make our influence much more effective by having the Federation of the Protestant Reformed Young Peoples’ Societies take the matter in hand? I would suggest the following:

First of all, that the secretaries of the young peoples’ societies of all our churches send the name, approximate age, present and former address of each of the conscripts from their congregation to be published in Beacon Lights. This should be done faithfully and regularly as the boys go off to camp. To make double sure, the boys in camp might also forward this information.

Secondly, that the Federation Board arrange a schedule, so that every society is responsible for a certain number of boys in camp. This schedule should be changed sufficiently often in order to give every society the opportunity of writing to almost all the boys. These societies can appoint their own committees of two, who are responsible each month for a part of the correspondence.

The advantage of this arrangement will be that young men from the different churches of our denomination, but in the same camp will be able to contact and get acquainted with each other.

Another advantage is, that no one society will be responsible for the correspondence, but the work will be divided among all, thereby creating an endless variety in the correspondence. While, at the same time, if one society proves to be lax, tire others will show themselves so much more faithful. And thereby acquaintance, if not lasting friendship will be created between our youth from the various parts of the country.

Suppose we put this plan into immediate action. before the summer lull is upon us. Possibly before the next two issues of Beacon Lights goes to press we shall be able to publish a list of names. Do not forget to send the name, the approximate age, and both the former and the present address. And I trust that the ever-alert Federation Board will take this matter into consideration.