Last night I had the honor and privilege of attending the Victory Circle at week one of Family Camp at Mount Hermon. I’ve probably attended thousands of Friday night (typically the last night of camp) sessions at dozens of camps in my over 30 years of Christian camping ministry.
And as different and wonderfully unique as each camp is, the themes and the feelings and emotions are mostly the very same–and these times of sharing together never cease to amaze and inspire me.
It’s tradition at most camps to gather on the last night to share a meaningful experience from the week. “What happened to you this week?” is the set-up question. There are always the funny stories, the goof ups or mistakes, the silly things done in the cabins or in the dining room.
But there are always the other stories too. “I never really knew who Jesus was until this week” or “I’ve been searching a long time for the love and acceptance I’ve finally discovered this week at camp” or “My life has been a mess but I’ve made the decision to finally change.”
These are stories of redemption, stories of repentance, stories of change…real heart change. The kind of change that starts as the seed of an idea way down deep inside early in the week and grows through careful nurturing and prayer all week long until nights like last night when the seed bears it’s fruit and the feelings are finally put into words and spoken out loud, “I will change.”
Although no actual statistic exists (that I know of) those of us in camping all agree…take a poll of any group of Christian leaders, pastors, missionaries, teachers, writers, etc. and ask them where did they ask Jesus into their hearts or where did they make the decision for full-time ministry and the vast majority will raise their hands and say, “it happened at camp.”
I’m convinced that there is nothing in the Christian experience more powerful, more moving, more life-impacting than a camp experience. And why the training up of young Christians to be camp leaders isn’t more a part of Bible colleges and seminaries is beyond me.
Camp has a way of impacting our lives like nothing else. I’ve seen people who have never had time for God crumble in a heap upon discovering His majesty through His creation at camp. Likewise, I’ve seen people who have attended church all their lives find God in a brand new and very real and tangible way during a week of camp; caught speechless because of a divine encounter on top of the mountain, on the beach, in the woods, in the canoe or around the camp fire.
Almost every Friday night camp meeting I’ve attended has at least one person who stands to speak only to find that they can’t find the words. The silence and anticipation is palpable. What happened to them is too big, too powerful, and too intimate to be able to capture in mere words. They’ll spend the rest of their lives trying to articulate the mystical experience of what a “God encounter” really is.
I’m honored to have been able to spend the majority of my life in this little corner of God’s vineyard doing this wonderful and worthwhile work.
And one more thing…if you want change, real and lasting change to occur in your life, the life of your family or your kids, I would encourage you to get to camp this summer. If you don’t know of a good one, just get in touch. I can recommend several good ones.