There is something special about being removed from the normal, everyday routine of life and being transported to a foreign environment that is intentionally structured around Christ, who He is, and what it means to follow Him. This was the experience we hoped to foster for students at camp this year. Hartstone Bible Camp hosted us. Located up in the mountains, we were constantly surrounded by nature and free from the distractions of certain amenities, such as cell service. The weekend we spent there was maximized with worship sessions and small group discussions occurring both in the morning and the evening, while still allowing for plenty of free-time and fun events.
The camp offered a pond for fishing, an archery range, gutter ball, rope swings, and river-access, among other fun attractions. Boredom wasn’t a part of this camp experience. Students were split up into four color squads for the duration of camp. Each color squad grew closer together during small groups, completing small challenges and games, creating chants, and promoting team spirit. This, in part, was in preparation for “Squad Wars”, in which students went head-to-head with other squads in a tournament of water games. It was a fun afternoon of competition and team-bonding.
This year’s theme was “Follower”, which centered around what it means to live as an authentic follower of Christ. Students were encouraged to step out of their comfort zones during worship. The gospel and the response it elicits in a believing heart was clearly communicated. Students were challenged in their understanding of the gospel. They were challenged to take stock their own relationship with Christ and to own it as their own, not to assume the faith of their parents or mimic Christian behavior as a means to gain approval from others. Students were also challenged to count up the cost of following Christ. The difficulties that a life lived for our Savior entails were not sugar-coated or glazed over. Instead, they were recognized and discussed, and students were prepared in how to deal with them. It was also pointed out that any suffering or hardship we may experience is both completely worth it because of the immense joy of knowing God and spending eternity with our beautiful inheritance and it completely pales in comparison to how our Savior suffered and sacrificed in order to reconcile us to God. Lastly, encouragement was given in that Christ overcame. He is our strength and in the end, JESUS WINS. He has commissioned us to go out into the world, share the good news, and live a life according to His commands. The LORD blessed us to see genuine change, both big and small, in the lives of our students. We now hope and pray, and invite you to join us in doing so, that this change will not be limited to their camp experience, but will infiltrate every aspect of their lives. We pray that this camp will have been another step of many towards a Christ-centered life and a vibrant relationship with Him. We pray that the effects of camp will spark a more unified and engaged youth group. We know that many of you were upholding us in prayer during camp and thank you for your faithfulness.
For me, this camp allowed me to see the other side of things. I’ve been the student before, but this time I was a leader. My eyes were opened to just how much goes into preparing for a camp. From sorting our t-shirt sizes and cabin arrangements to constructing set-lists for worship and preparing for small groups, a lot of careful thought went into preparations. I had the opportunity to wear a lot of different hats at camp. I served as worship leader, camp counselor, red squad leader, small group facilitator, and the second-hand man to Pastor Brian. Leading worship is one of my greatest passions. Preparing set-lists for five different sessions which would coincide with five different messages, leading and preparing my band so as to lead students to the best of our ability, and overcoming several technical difficulties made this one of the biggest and most rewarding experiences I’ve had. This was my first opportunity to be a camp counselor, and I absolutely loved it. It allowed me to spend more time with them in several different ways, from just chilling in the cabin to having deep talks about their struggles and fears. Leading small group was just an extension of this. What a joy it was to open up and share my heart with my girls and see them opening and engaging in turn. By the time “Squad Wars” rolled around, red squad pride ran deep through all our veins. It was so fun to see my girls, decked out in red, encouraging each other as we competed.
My report of camp is just a small window into what’s happening in the lives of our students. It is a glimpse into the love I have for this internship, the students, and this church. I have fallen in love with Evangelical Free Church of Oroville. The LORD is at work here. He is alive and well in the people and the ministry. I have found a community here; one that surrounds me with the love of Christ, upholding His Word and encouraging one another in it. I cannot describe to you the joy of serving here. There is a new appreciation, love, and sense of unity and belonging that results from service devoted to Him. I encourage you all to look for ways that God may have you serve in the church. I am so sad to be leaving at the end of this month, but know that I will do so with a heart that is brimming with love and gratitude. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so at home in a church before. Thank you.