Youth for Christ/South Africa was formed 20 years ago in the image of English-speaking whites. Its strength was that it was not a U.S. export, but shaped by strong South African leadership. The other side of that coin was that it mirrored the dominant culture of the land.

Jay Kesler, president of Youth for Christ/USA, recalls visiting the YFC camp back then. The campers were all white, and none pulled kitchen police duty. Instead, black young people their own age waited on tables and maintained the premises.

The campers took an offering to provide tips. The leadership considered the resulting amount too generous and, so as not to “spoil the Africans,” diverted part of it to missions projects. The balance was delivered to the domestic staff in a ceremony in which the campers sang their choruses and the blacks alternately responded with theirs. Then each black knelt, extended both hands, and received his gratuity.

This year Kesler again attended a camp session and observed that all that paternalism had been swept away. The 600 campers were a blend of whites of both English and Afrikaner backgrounds (about 350), blacks (about 200), coloreds (or mixed race, about 50), and a few Indians. Some cross-racial romance was in evidence, and the camp leadership was not uptight about it.

In general, the white youth were more relaxed, their frayed cutoffs displaying the same “sloppy chic” that characterizes North American teens. The black youth, by contrast, obviously felt under pressure to measure up. They rose early to press their clothes and groom.

Mixed camping is a violation of apartheid regulations, which are less rigorously enforced on private property than in public places. Such testing of the limits demonstrates how far one youth movement ...

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