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The 6th graders

One week all 8 of my boys arrived in a mob. That never happened. Typically, they came in groups of one or two as their parents made their way to camp after church. That was my first indicator that this week would be different. Soon I learned their story. This group of 8 boys had come to camp because they had a good time at the camp on their class trip. They had such a great time that they wanted to go back, together, to have a week of camp. Their parents knew it was a Christian camp, were totally fine with that, and wanted their boys to share the experience of the camp together.

I soon learned that most of them had zero church background. They were great kids. Very polite, well behaved, and stoked for everything that happened at camp. At the same time, most of them had only ever attended church with a grandparent once or twice or gone to a wedding at some point.

The first couple of days at camp were very normal. This enthusiastic group of boys did all of the ropes course stuff, went fishing on the lake, shot arrows horribly, and played with the animals at the nature center. But I could also see that the fun, skits, music, and Bible teaching were making their way into these boys hearts. As we walked from place to place they talked about what they heard. They asked me lots and lots of questions. And they thumbed through their brand-new Bibles at meals.

Early in the week the speaker always presented the Gospel. Instead of asking for a response in a public setting, the camp set it up that we asked each camper individually in our cabin time if they’d like to begin a relationship with Jesus. With this group of guys I didn’t know what to expect. They were definitely interested in what was going on, but I didn’t know what that meant.

On the way back to our cabin to debrief that nights talk the boys were a little quiet. But I had run them to the ground so I figured they were just ready for bed. (This was my strategy… make the first 2 days really physical so I could tire them out and they’d sleep at night.) We got back to our cabin and they all sat on their bunks.

So, what did you think about what the speaker said tonight?

One of the boys chimed in, “We’re all ready to give our hearts to Jesus. How do we do that?”

That’d never happened to me. Typically, 1-2 of the boys started their walk with Jesus at camp. (For the first, third, or 23rd time.) But 8 boys from the same small town? Never ever ever did I see that coming.

That was a week full of fun. But it was also a week that changed the lives of 8 boys, their families, and their community forever.

This is Christian Camping

I spent the summer of 1996 at Camp Timber-lee in East Troy, Wisconsin. I made $125 per week. I was at work all but 30 hours per week which basically meant I made less than $1/hour. Each Sunday afternoon a pile of parents placed 8 boys under my care. And then I spent the next 6 days pouring my life into them, in full knowledge I’d never to see them again.

And it was totally worth it. 

Serving on summer staff was intense in every capacity. You’re with people all the time. As an introvert the constant time with my cabin group exhausted me. The repetitive food, constant activity, and humidity helped me shed a lot of pounds. And each week I had to spend time around horses, not my favorite barnyard animal.

More to the point is was intense spiritually. Each week was full of stories. Full of sharing. Full of prayer. And full of lives changed. Each week, unashamedly, the Gospel was shared with the kids. And each week, without fail, kids in my cabin gave their hearts to Jesus.

Camp Week is Over

I dedicated my blog to camp week for a single purpose. It’s been my experience that Christian camping is special. I’ve shared stories of my own experiences and the experiences of my friends. The impact of Christian camping is obvious. Lives are changed, fun is had, and a special bond is formed.

It kills me to know that there are kids who simply can’t afford to go to camp. Will you consider joining me in giving $125 to scholarship a kid to go to camp this summer? Here’s the link.

Photo credit: Chillon Castle by Jaeseok Lee via Flickr (Creative Commons) 

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One Response to The 6th graders

  1. Jason Raitz March 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Absolutely love these posts about camp! I’ve always been a huge proponent of christian camps and it was at a camp were I first felt my call to ministry. I’ve loved being a part of camps for the past 15 years or so as a speaker and I pray my kids head that route too. Thanks for the great post! 

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