JEMS Special Camp is a week-long Christian camp, primarily for individuals with developmental disabilities of Asian descent. Sponsored by the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS), Special Camp runs concurrently with the other JEMS summer camps in the Santa Cruz area of Northern California. The mission of JEMS Special Camp is:
To share the message and model the love of Christ to those with developmental disabilities, primarily of Asian Pacific American descent.
The goal of our camps is to provide an opportunity for the developmentally challenged to experience a fun-filled time of activities in an atmosphere of Christian love.
JEMS Special Camp 2024 is scheduled for June 30 - July 6, 2024. Mark your calendars!
This year, JEMS Mount Hermon Special Camp will be returning to Mount Hermon's Ponderosa Lodge, where Special Camp was held in the 1990s and 2000s. As compared to the school campus which hosted Special Camp for many years in the 2010s, Mount Hermon Ponderosa Lodge is a more traditional camp with cabin-style accommodations. As this will be our first year back at Ponderosa Lodge in 15 years, we anticipate many adjustments that will need to be accommodated in order to transition well to this new environment for our camp. As well, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires us to make additional adjustments to the usual set of camp activities that our campers have been familiar with, in order to keep everyone safe and well. Please pray for a smooth transition and that our campers will adjust well to the many changes that they will encounter at this year's camp. Pray for our aides and staff, as they do their utmost to make it as easy and seamless a transition as possible for our campers.
The theme verse for this year's camp is:
I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jer 31:3
This year, we welcome back Mrs. Bev Hoshi as our Bible teacher for Special Camp 2024. To read more about Bev and her call to serve, please click here.
A typical day at camp begins with everyone getting ready for breakfast, followed by morning exercises, worship, Bible lessons, and arts and crafts. After lunch, activities vary daily such as bowling, swimming, a presentation at JEMS Family Camp, a carnival, and Special Camp field games. After dinner, we have a time of worship followed by a special evening activity and cabin time. After the campers go to bed, staff enjoy worship and a brief devotional time, staff meeting, and fellowship. Note that this year (2024), due to COVID-19 precautions, Special Camp will not be visiting JEMS Family Camp; afternoon activities will therefore be modified to accommodate this hopefully-temporary 2024 restriction.
All of these events and activities add up to a fun-filled and meaningful program geared specifically for individuals with developmental disabilities. Special Camp is a place where they can come to learn, fellowship, worship, and grow in the Lord.
This "Special Camp", first started in 1975, originated under the direction of Rev. Saburo and Marion Masada. This couple's daughter who is developmentally disabled, and others like her, needed a camp program designed specifically for their special needs. Over the years, the ministry of this camp has changed the lives of many people - both conferees and volunteer staff. JEMS Special Camp continues under the leadership of co-directors Christine Ito and Stephanie Suzuki and a committed core team who have served as Special Camp volunteers in various capacities for many years.
JEMS Special Camp enlists volunteers primarily through the JEMS-affiliated network of churches across California and the Pacific Northwest. No previous experience working with individuals with special needs is required; aide training will be provided prior to camp. Please click the Info for Volunteers tab (above) to find scheduling information for the upcoming aide training session (attendance at this aide training session is mandatory for new aides). Applicants must be 18 years of age or older to apply.
Deadline to apply to serve at Special Camp 2024 camp is April 1. No applications will be accepted after that date.
If you are 18 years or older, you’ve never served as an aide at Special Camp before, and would like more information on applying as a new aide at this year's Special Camp, you can download new aide information by clicking here. Attending the upcoming Special Camp Informational Meeting (Feb.15, 5:30 PM, online meeting) is another good way to learn more about serving at Special Camp; please e-mail the Special Camp aide registrar at the below e-mail address for further details on how to attend this Informational Meeting.
If you have served at Special Camp within the past five years, you should receive an e-mail containing a link to apply as a returning aide when Special Camp registration opens.
If you are new to Special Camp, or if you have served before but not within the past five years, you will need to apply as a new aide; you may begin the application process to serve as a new aide by clicking here. Please note that if you have not served as a Special Camp aide within the past five years, you will need to apply as a new aide.
Camper registration information will be sent out to returning campers' parents/guardians when camp registration opens. You can expect to receive your camper registration packet shortly thereafter. Please note that the application deadline this year is April 1.
Application information is sent to interested/prospective campers' parents/guardians only on a per-request basis. To inquire about registering a camper to attend Special Camp for a future year's camp, please feel free to e-mail the Special Camp camper registrar at:
Please note that campers must be 13 years of age or older in order to apply.
There are several ways that you can support JEMS Special Camp. The first and most important is through prayer. Special Camp volunteers are sustained by the prayers of JEMS Special Camp supporters, especially during camp week. Please pray that each volunteer would be renewed and refreshed each day, as the Lord reveals Himself in new ways through our Special Campers. Please pray that the Lord would sustain each volunteer throughout camp week, as days are long and can be tiring as the volunteers care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each camper. Pray that our Special Campers will enjoy their week at camp, adjust well to the new site and the COVID-19 safety measures being implemented for this year's camp, and feel God's presence close to them as we worship Him together as one body. Pray that the campers' families and caregivers would enjoy their week of much-needed respite from the care they provide to their loved ones the remaining 51 weeks of the year, whenever we are able to resume in-person camp. And above all, pray that God would glorify Himself through this very special ministry called JEMS Special Camp.