I grew up going to 4-H camp, so I’m familiar with the “camp scene”, but I had never been to a week-long, overnight church camp. I was a little nervous, but these camps turned out to be some of the best experiences of my life. They had all the fun and friendship of 4-H camp, except we got to talk about Jesus a lot! Often, volunteers say that they work to help others, but they are often the ones that learn and grow the most from their volunteer experiences. This was definitely true for me this summer!
First, we traveled to Huntington, WV to work on staff during High School Week at Howell’s Mill Christian Assembly (HMCA). We were very excited, and a little nervous, because it was our first camp of the summer and we had no idea what to expect. Each of us was paired with another staff member with whom we led a family group throughout the week.
family group(n.) — awesome group of teens who you spend most of your time with at camp, get to know really well as you talk about faith and life, learn to love A LOT, and miss terribly after you leave
I have never been more impressed than I was with my family group and my fellow group leader at HMCA! The teens had incredible trust with each other, they constantly encouraged each other, and it was clear they took loving God and loving others seriously.
During Wednesday night’s worship at HMCA, God started to move in the teens in noticeable ways: all of a sudden, teens were opening up about problems and tough situations in their lives, asking questions about faith, and in some cases, wanting to commit their lives to God. I remember one of the other staff members commenting that we had the coolest jobs in the world: leading kids to Christ! Awesome! What could be more important than that?
Next, we traveled to Camp Christian in Mill Run, PA to work with middle schoolers. I’m sure each of you reading this was in middle school at some point and remember how awesome it was…Just kidding! It’s terrible. I’m pretty sure middle school is one of the most confusing times in a person’s life: you’re still a kid, you want to be an adult, your body is at its most awkward stage, and nobody wants to be different, so there’s an excruciating amount of bullying and peer pressure. While it may be more difficult to work with these kids, it just means they need that much more attention and love! I certainly learned a lot about the importance of love and acceptance from my family group that week. Once again, I was blessed with the coolest family group and co-leader I could imagine. I don’t know why God chose to lead so many amazing people into my life, but I’m glad he did!
One of the best things I witnessed at Camp Christian was the transformation of one of the guys in my family group. He didn’t have the easiest family life and he had always felt uncertain about God’s existence. This middle schooler started an infamous Swedish Fish food fight at the beginning of the week, but by Wednesday, he was leading some of the other campers in spontaneous prayer. How many adults are good at that?! I was incredibly impressed by this camper’s willingness to seek God, listen to Him, and put the Bible into action. I was very blessed to witness his growth throughout camp and his baptism at the end of the week.
Finally, we traveled to Wetzel County, WV to help at the Mid-Ohio Valley Christian Youth Retreat. We’ve helped at this camp in the past, so we were a little familiar with the camp and the youth there. It was great to develop relationships with the campers and encourage them in their faith! A large group of campers was baptized during camp, and it was great to see them dedicate their lives to Jesus.
I asked a few campers why camp was important to them. Here’s what they said:
"(Camp) is a place I've always felt I could go and be free. At camp everyone has a sense of purpose, unity, and love."
"I love worship the most because I am worshiping Jesus and I'm with all my closest friends I will ever have and they are doing the same. I love the games and meeting new people and opening up and just letting everything out that I have been struggling with, too. "Family" members who are not judgeful in any way. Camp is camp and I love it!!"
"I like camp because I learned a lot of new things and had fun with my friends and the staff was really nice. And I grew as a better person from it cause I found God."
It’s amazing how much love you can develop for people in just a week’s time. There’s something truly extraordinary about camp, whether it’s the games, laughing, singing, worshiping, bible studies, sharing, or simply the fact that you spend 24 hours a day together; I’ve never experienced more excitement, openness, joy, goodness, or love than at camp.
[written by Julie Adams for the August 2011 Newsletter (pdf)]