8 things I learned from being a church-camper, OR 8 reasons you should make your kids go to camp [Part II]

Yesterday I shared about my love of  obsession with church camp. I said that church camp deeply and profoundly shaped who I was as a teenager, and who I still am today. I began sharing the top 8 things I learned from being a church-camper, and what I think are the top 8 reasons you should make your kids go to camp. Be sure to read yesterday's post for the first four. Here are the last four:  

// I learned how to be a mentor. 

I quickly discovered that if having a mentor was so important, then that meant I was also called to be one. And camp provided me the perfect opportunity to take steps in that direction. From the moment the kids were dropped off with their luggage, I was there to welcome them. I was there to appease their homesickness. I was there to laugh with them. I was there to listen to them. I was there to show them the love of Jesus.

You would be amazed at how quickly deep bonds can form when you open yourself up to this role-- when you step into that sacred space of letting Jesus use you. Over the years that I served as a counselor, I held some broken girls in my arms. I prayed with some girls who were meeting their Heavenly Father for the first time. And I learned how to get myself out of the way of the work of Christ.

In the real world, you don't simply sign up, and you aren't simply handed a list of 18 girls that you know you're specifically going to pour into. Sometimes you have to seek this role out. Sometimes it will happen naturally. But, if we are taking the call of Christ seriously, we will be making disciples in some way with our life always. Church camp showed me how to walk with someone into the sacred space of their life, and how to point to Jesus through it all. And that is all that mentoring--that discipling-- really is.

// I learned how to worship. 

I grew up going to church. I held a hymnal in my hand on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. But it was in a little brick chapel building at camp that I learned how to truly worship. I finally understood why people reached their arms up to God while they sang-- it wasn't because they were showing off, or crazy-- it was because they wanted to exalt the King of Kings. When you immerse yourself in Christ and who He is all week, and you surround yourself with people who are doing the same, you start to get a grasp of how truly awesome He is. And when you begin to grasp that, you have to worship. 

The chapel was one of the few air conditioned buildings at camp [back in the day], but I know my goosebumps weren't from the chill, they were from encountering a God who was reaching down to me and rejoicing over me with singing [Zeph. 3:17]. But I also learned that worship wasn't just about music, or lifting my hands, or praying. It was a way in which I lived. Worship was how I could wake up in the morning. Worship was how I could clean. Worship was how I could interact with others. 

When you have a God who is always with you, and in you, worship becomes a part of breathing. And my very breath learned how to worship while I was at camp. 

// I learned about community. 

I mentioned yesterday I was/am social. Friends were and still are important to me. But at camp I learned the difference between friendship and community. I learned what it meant to do life with people. I learned that in community you hurt together and you heal together and you laugh together and you challenge and you encourage.

When you are walking with people in this way, when you are washing each others feet, you constantly are reminded of how faithful your God is. A lot of the people I entered into community with through camp are still in my life today. And when I say "a lot", I mean that. And there are many, many others that are no longer as close, but whom I know I could still call in a heartbeat, and whom I know would still respond in whatever way I needed them to.

And that is community. To live messy with people. And it is something we all ache for and should seek out and find. Since camp I have gone through seasons in my life where I have had really strong community, and other times that I have been thirsty for it. And it is no coincidence that the times in my life I am closest to God are the times when I am doing life with people. I may have never known I was missing it had I not gone to church camp.

// I caught a brief glimpse of a heaven. 

Okay. I know that sounds cheese-ball of me to say. But really, you guys. If you haven't been I can hardly explain. Here is what I think it is: camp is bathed in prayer. I am learning more and more just how powerful prayer is. And I know that every single person who entered that camp ground was prayed for. And I know that every single building and area of that camp ground was prayed over. And I know that every single lesson and devotion was prayed about. And prayer is powerful. And that camp ground is holy because of it.

At camp our minds were constantly being pointed to Christ. At camp we worshipped with our very movements. At camp we didn't worry about social class [or hygiene!], or makeup-- we were the body of Christ. And when everyday you wake up thinking about and worshipping God with others, that's a little bit of heaven, I think. Small scale, I understand, but heaven none-the-less.

When you gather around a campfire under the stars and worship for an hour or more and don't want it to ever end, you begin to understand the lyrics to Amazing Grace that say, "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun." And I think that church camp is the reason that that line of the song is my favorite. God's grace is amazing, and I once was lost and I am found, and grace relieved my fears, and grace will lead me home. BUT, the part I am most excited about? When I've no less days to sing God's praise than when I first begun.

Church camp showed me the beauty of an eternal God, who is not in heaven so that I can have a wonderful eternity, but who is on the throne so that I can worship Him forever. 


I learned a lot more. And there are more reasons you should send your kid to camp, but that scratches the surface. I am so thankful for the wonderful camp I was able to go to, but I know it was not the camp or the people that were ultimately special, because I have friends who have these same stories that lived across the country from me growing up-- It was Jesus. 

And here is a little hint: a small Christian college was like AN ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR OF CHURCH CAMP but with homework and deadlines. It. Was. Awesome. I think during puberty and during college are important times to be immersed in community, and have mentors, and expand your world, and learn social skills, and worship. And I am so thankful I was immersed. 

What did you learn from camp? 
And I hope you have awkward film pictures of yourself as well from that time. [I can't find my big "camp box",  or I would have inundated you with a lot more ;). You're welcome.  ] 

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1 comment:

*carrie* said...

I loved camp as well. I didn't go until I was in the 8th grade, but I had a great experience. I was a camper for a couple years, then moved on to being a counselor-in-training, a counselor, and even a summer as office staff. Thanks for triggering some great memories!