I want to tell others as much as I can about the youth camp (I was a staff member) and I hope it will be helpful.
The Philadelphia Church of God youth camp goes back to the early 1990s. There was an Australian camp and a European camp (I think one year might have been Scotland). The camp is for those who are 13-19, whose parents are members of the Philadelphia Church of God. It is located in Edmond, Oklahoma.1
As anyone can imagine, the camps are strict, and campers and staff members are closely watched by the ministry. The teenagers get up at 5 a.m. with a dorm Bible study before breakfast at 7 a.m.2 Activities follow through the whole day until about 5 p.m. and then they come back for showers and dinner at 6 p.m. They go to bed around 10:30-11pm (6 hours sleep). Teenagers are exhausted, and every year it was expected that at least one or two campers got heat exhaustion or fainted. One year, a teenager was flown to the hospital after collapsing on the sports field. She was so dehydrated and tired and had to be kept in the hospital. One staff had a broken foot and was not taken to the hospital until the next evening because of the orders of the particular minister. The staff, who had been vomiting one night, were still made to continue with their kitchen duties. Everyone was frightened and did what the ministry told them to do.
What really shocked me was the strict menu and the limited food the teenagers were allowed to eat. As a staff member, the teenagers would sneak behind the kitchen area and ask for any more food (some even sneaking out to the shops to buy more food and then being punished for having it in their possession). The kids were very hungry! The ministry told all staff that the kids were only allowed their portion and that was all! Personally I think it is sadistic and a way to exercise and control the kids. I know one minister, Alex Harrison, said he used military techniques in the way he ran the camps. Teenagers were made to do extra Bible study, miss out on activities and go to bed without dinner if they were caught with food in their bags. Their bags were raided every night and children were not allowed to phone their parents in any circumstance.
This is a few of the things that occurred at the camps.
Update 2021: The name of the camp is now known as Philadelphia Church of God Summer Educational Program or SEP.
1 Prior to the building of Imperial College (now known as Herbert W. Armstrong College or “AC” for Armstrong College), there were smaller regional camps in various locations around the country for the youth in PCG.
2 In 2020 they were starting with a “15-minute calisthenics warmup before breakfast.” Read: Brad Macdonald Writes Propaganda Article About Philadelphia Youth Camp.
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