For about 30 years, my wife, Shirley, and I directed church camps because we know how powerfully God works at camp.
One camp I led years ago involved another counselor and I taking eight Junior High students in canoes down the Eel River from Collamer to Roann (a small river in north central Indiana). We spent six days on the river, camping, cooking, paddling and drawing close to God. Eight Junior High kids in canoes sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? It wasn’t at all. Being away from the world gave us the great gift of being in God’s presence in nature, and each camper ended the week with a sense of a deeper personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
We directed elementary camps at Camp Lakewood, Jr High Camps at Camp Adventure, led groups to Sr High Institute at Epworth Forest, and directed Sr High Bible Conference for 25 years at Oakwood Park, Epworth Forest and Pine Creek Camp. Over and over again we saw God show up and work mightily in children’s and teenagers’ lives at those camps. Getting away from the world and focusing for a week on the Word of God, on loving Christian community, on worship and games and crafts and swimming and all the other camp activities gave each student (and counselor) the opportunity to hear God in ways the world drowns out. Many, many campers made first-time commitments to Jesus Christ as their Savior at those camps. Even more campers made deeper commitments to Jesus Christ as their Lord.
One of the things we do at Gathering Point Church is send students to church camp in the summer. And as those campers (and counselors) get away from the world and into the Presence of Jesus Christ, grace flows in abundance and lives are changed. This morning in worship it’s Camp Sunday. Students who attended camp this summer will share what God did in their lives at camp. This is one of the highlight worship services of the summer. I’m pumped with anticipation to hear what God did at church camp, because I know the power of getting away from the world to focus on Jesus.
So here is the challenge. Jesus modeled for us a life that regularly went away to lonely places to commune with his Father in prayer.
Yet the news about Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16 NIV)
We tend to cram as much as we can into life. We tend to fill life with work, family, hobbies, events, binge-watching TV, sports, shopping, school and everything else. It can be a huge challenge to get away to lonely places to pray, like Jesus did. The contrast of what God does at church camp or a retreat like the Great Banquet and the busyness and pressure of our everyday lives is stark. We need time away with God. He does His most profound work in our lives when we get away from the world and into His Presence.
I have to ask myself: How can I build into my life more frequent times of getting away from the world and getting into the Presence of my Savior? What would it look like to take a day a month for a personal retreat to set aside the emails and texts and media and schedule to simply be with Jesus? What might God do in my life if I were to make this a real priority and follow through?
I’ll leave it there today. I anticipate an amazing Sunday of worship and testimony as the students share what God did at church camp. I pray it inspires me and all of us to get away from the world and into the Presence of Christ.
Such good words, Pastor Mike! We are thankful for a church of believers who provide growth and connection opportunities for the next generation. We are thankful for our youth leaders and volunteers who make themselves available to bless our teenagers and for the generous members of our church family who invest financially in making sure all can be a part of these experiences!
Mike, I really appreciate what you have written. Thank you.