Last week I spent a week at church camp with a bunch of teenagers.
While church camp certainly isn’t my number one destination choice for a week of summer, I have to say: it wasn’t terrible.
Truthfully, it was pretty great. There were incredible speakers and music and reflection time and company and conversation and laughter everywhere you went; great doesn’t even begin to describe it, actually. It had all the elements of a good vacation anywhere: plenty of activity and relaxation time, meals that were all taken care of, a clean, dry place to sleep at night.
Yes, there was sleeping. At church camp. Maybe a first.
I wouldn’t know for sure – it was my first time.
By the time I was a teen, I had camped before, usually a night or two away. In fourth grade I went to Girl Scout horse camp that scarred me for life (my horse, Sugar, terrified me after the day she stopped to pee, pinning the toe of my boot under her enormous hoof, but who remembers details like that, never mind, I’m perfectly fine), and I vaguely recall some other camping at a very young age, but a week of church camp was off my radar by the time I was a teenager.
It’s fair to say that I was a little nervous about going to church camp as an adult – after all, it’s a little late for me – and I also wondered if I would be an awful and ineffective leader. I quickly realized that I was surrounded by people I knew who had been there at least once before and were more than willing to answer questions and explain confusing things and were nice enough not to roll their eyes in an obvious way when I asked dumb questions and couldn’t figure out the schedule.
As usual I was mentally unprepared, barely considering that I would be responsible for making sure 11 girls got to and from their various activities on time. Lucky for me my teen squad knew me already, and they were comfortable showing me the ropes when I had no idea what I was doing, and after two days of slinking in five or ten minutes late for everything on the schedule, by the third day I finally knew what was going on and was able to help them stay on track.
But the best part about church camp? God.
It’s a no-brainer that God was present at a camp specifically designed for people to bond over their faith and talk about Jesus and changed lives. It’s why we went, why parents send their kids there: to spend time away from home, for the church camp experience. To grow in their faith with others and to learn who they are according to Him away from the distractions of everyday life.
Every day, the Holy Spirit was present as tears were shed when talking about loved ones who don’t believe, listening to questions about faith, wondering what God expects from us, making decisions for the rest of our lives.
By the end of the week I had heard outrageous stories of what kids do with their friends when away from home at church camp, but I also experienced with them the outrageous love that God has for his children. It was an honor to share these experiences with all the people who were there, to serve God in a way that was a pleasure and despite what most people think, not like a sacrifice at all.
I’m so glad that I finally went to church camp. It was the perfect time.