I am broken, exhausted and emotionally drained as I write to you all. This last week has been both a battle and a joy.
Last year I wrote a blog on my first camp experience as chaplain and the blessings we received. I encourage you to read it if you are thinking of supporting or getting involved in the camps. “Better than the best thing I could ever think of – camp”
This year I am not going to write about all the great activities we did with the campers, as far greater things were done by God.
I enjoyed my time with the campers last year and listened to their pains and anxieties as they struggle to live the Christian life amidst the hostility of our secular age.
I hoped to address these issues this year with the theme of “Assurance”.
I arrived on the Saturday afternoon with my notes and Bible studies prepared.
Every morning and evening we would go through each of the Beatitudes and study how salvation is expressed.
To summarise the weeks teaching;
- Those who know their own spiritual poverty, grieve their sin and hunger and thirst for God are blessed.
- Those who have dealt with conflict at the cross and have made peace with God and who face persecution for living for Christ are blessed.
- Christianity is expressed by inward reflection, outward action and outside reaction (we even had dance moves for this).
The officers seemed encouraged by the notes and came loaded with several questions. I am grateful for how seriously they took the task in hand.
The first service felt lifeless, the wind was heavy on the tent and was distracting those who needed no encouragement. The projector fell mid way through the message and I knew I had lost them.
The first few days were restless, their was conflict, tears and tiredness between the campers. The Devil was clearly attacking! It was going to be a tough week!
This years camp was different in many ways, but the most significant was in prayer.
From the first night we all met as officers and leaders to pray for God’s blessing upon the week, we prayed for each child until the early hours and then we woke and met again to do the same.
Camp leader (Joshua Slade) lead the morning devotions taking the officers through Colossians. We prayed right up to the breakfast bell each morning and could have gone on all day.
Last year I was encouraged by the handful of campers that came to the early morning prayer meeting (comprising mainly of duty bound ministers children), but this year the early morning prayer meetings peaked at 21 souls desperate to see God work.
We prayed as officers again before the dorm Bible studies and at the very end of the day after the officers epilogues, when we were all exhausted, the officers and leaders still all met to pray again until the early hours ……..and the Lord was pleased to answer!
As I have already said, the first couple of days were incredibly challenging (the enemy knew what was coming). But from Monday evening (where we truly felt God’s presence in our late night prayer meeting) things began to change.
I had preached earlier that day on Matthew 5:4, using the illustration of a life boat. “Only those who mourn their sin, know the desperate situation they are in and will accept the offer of rescue.”
This analogy struck a chord with a number of the campers, several stayed after the meeting to pray.
As we continued through the Beatitudes we could see a change in the Spirit of the camp, a number of the difficulties were ironed out, foes became best friends, the restless began to sleep and prayer was being answered.
God was with us!
At meal times, we were not singing dorm theme tunes or popular music, but Hymns to God’s glory.
During the activities, campers were reading their Bibles, whether they were on the beach, or sat on the floor in the crowds at the zoo. They could not get enough of God’s word.
After each morning service half of the campers stayed to pray for the lost, one young girl even wept in utter confusion that there were campers who could leave the service seemingly unaffected. (This challenged me greatly)
Throughout the week we could physically and tangibly see God move through the campers.
In total we welcomed nine professions of faith (compared to zero last year) and several showed clear signs of growth and have gone home assured.
What excited me the most was that each profession was made secretly, personally and reverently.
None of the children were following the crowd, but spent days praying and speaking to the officers to make sure in their own hearts that they were not riding a superficial wave.
One young lady was walking back from the day trip to the farm on her own, praying I would retreat to her so she could discuss her conversion. She was not seeking attention, far from it, she distanced herself from the crowd to speak with me alone. She knew she was saved and had everything in Christ.
One young man who was not in the prayer meetings at the beginning of the week, started coming by the end. I asked him why? To which he proclaimed “Christ died for me”. I would not have known about his conversion if I had not asked.
None of the converts were attention seeking, neither were they appeasing me. They called officers aside individually to share what had happened to them and although humbled in Spirit all were excited to return home to share their good news with friends and family.
Camp veteran and leader Joshua Slade said he had never known a camp like it.
We had all the fun of previous years, but the spirit of unity (that came out from a potentially difficult week) was clear.
God drew these young souls to Him through the entire team on camp, every officer had a significant part to play as commitments were being made. Grace (our ladies leader) spent many hours with our young ladies.
On the last morning a number of the converts (and those who were significantly strengthened in their faith) came to me for an unplanned prayer meeting before they went home. I read from Mark 4.
“You can return home assured, knowing that you are in the lifeboat, but storms will come and Jesus will seam silent, but know that He is in the boat with you, have faith that He can calm the storm”
The reality of the blessing we shared this week has already been evidenced by the storm, with various attacks that I have returned home to. I would value your prayer……
I asked the campers to write where they were at with God on Day 1.
I asked them to answer the same question on the last evening.
Here are some examples.