This Summer has been unbelievable for so many reasons. I have had the tremendous privilege to spend time with your kids on rivers, up mountains, on mission trips, and at our camp. Each trip serves a unique Gospel-purpose—some being more obvious than others.
It is easy to see the purpose of a mission trip to San Fransisco. I watch as hearts are softened by praying for those who call the streets home. I see spiritual fires ignite when our students share the Gospel over and over again in the course of the week down in the heart of the Tenderloin. We see community form in suffering as they sleep on a cold and damp concrete floor and then eat meals at soup kitchens. God is glorified and made evident in such a tangible way that it becomes more and more clear to me that San Fransisco will always be a destination for our youth group each Summer. However, why do we ask our Mid-schoolers to attend our Summer Camp?
If you know me you know that I am not really the fun-youth-pastor-guy. If you have been to our Sunday school class or a Thursday night you wont see games being played. I just think that the more that we can do to emulate what Church looks like for adults the better. However, at camp, we play a lot. It isn’t the only thing we do, but we certainly have fun together. So, at least for me, I had to wrestle with why we go to camp and why we do our own camp. Here is what I came up with:
Camp is where relationships are strengthened. That may sound cliché, but it is so true. It is also incredibly important. Throughout the school-year, and for the years in which your student is in our ministry, I and our leaders make efforts to be a positive and supportive voice in their lives. However, we have to earn the right to be heard—which means relationships have to be strong. Camp gives ways for that to happen. Some of my strongest relationships with students have come in cabin times with them at camp. It is near impossible to replicate the transparency and honesty that happens in a cabin during that week with them.
Camp is where students are challenged. Watching a student strapped into a harness and then hoisted sixty feet in the air is always fun for me. I get to watch as they push past any fear or anxiety that they are feeling and trust that the cables will hold and that the operators know what they are doing. Then they have to pull the lever and swing freely as they scream with a mixture of fear and adrenaline. That challenge is one of many that they face here at camp. We then use that as a catalyst to ask the question of where God is challenging them to go spiritually. It is amazing how clearly God speaks to them when the distractions of every-day-life are removed. Students shared that they want to be able to share the Gospel with their friends but need us to hold them accountable to stepping out. Others shared that they go to church but really don’t believe it for themselves yet and are desiring to have an authentic and personal relationship with Christ. You can’t get that as clearly on a Sunday morning.
Camp is where community is built. I had epiphany the other day regarding this, it was while listening to one of Pastor Brett’s sermons—there is my shout out to the Big Cheese. Brett was speaking on the church really being a family. I knew that, but I began to think through “what age do we teach that”? Today, I hear some Christians say that as long as they are attending church they are being the “family” that the Bible speaks about. Sadly, I think the fruit of that is people who are disconnected and not looking at the needs of others in the Church.
There was a time that I shared that view. I would attend church on Sundays but would not really invest into the Church like I could have. I had gifts that could have benefitted the body of believers but didn’t see the need to help create this family that God wanted. However, when I was diagnosed with Cancer, do you know who were the first people that came to my aid? The church. They brought meals, prayers, kind cards, and listening ears through those dark and trying times. The church surrounded me and became a great family for me. I, at 30 years-old, saw the need to become that for someone else. Which made me realize that part of my job today is to help our youth see that at a much earlier age. Camp helps with that.
So thank you for sending your student to camp with us this year. I hope you see the impact it has in some of the same ways I have gotten to. I am so blessed to be a part of this family and thankful for the opportunity to serve you and your kids for years to come.
-Dave Williams, UFC Youth Pastor