Many a new life begins through a youth camp experience. A fond memory for me is of a young man named Van who attended our senior high camp. I didn’t know him well, but at campfire on the last night, he shared how his life had changed during the week. He spoke of how God had been something he said he believed in, but was really nothing more than an abstract idea. Through the week, as he interacted with other young people and the counselors and staff at camp, he began to see that God is real and that faith is more than a belief. It’s a relationship with the God who is real.
I could identify with Van. As a pastor’s kid who lived at a Christian camp, I was surrounded by “God stuff.” I don’t remember a time when I didn’t believe that Jesus died on the cross as recorded in the Bible. But at one point in my youth, God became real to me. He wasn’t just a story in the Bible anymore. He was alive and wanted to be an active part of my life. Kind of like the difference between knowing who someone is versus knowing them personally.
Church camp the year I turned eleven, I felt so grown-up and sophisticated after having come to camp three years in a row. I stood taller. My confidence increased. This year, I would hike to the Ranger station and be Camper of the Year.
On Wednesday night, something happened that dispelled even the anticipation of the hike afterward. The guest preacher, Reverend Pike, told stories and used funny expressions. When he called for ones to come to the front that wanted Jesus in their lives, I bounded up the aisle and fell against the altar.
My prayer was simple, but honest. “Jesus, come into my heart.”
After my tears began to dry, I blew my nose. At that moment, I noticed my friend, Margie, looking up at me. We made eye contact and smiled. Nothing was more important than what we had just done, not even the hike to the ranger station, and not even the graveyard next to the campground that was fast becoming the hot topic among campers, but that’s another story.
Have you had an encounter with the living God at camp? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment and let us know how you met the Lord.