I just got back from Church Camp. I've been at Old Hickory a little over a year. Last year, within a very few weeks from my arrival, I had to organize VBS and Church Camp. Everything went much better than people were expecting (including myself), but there was a lot I could improve on, and tried to improve on for this year.
I was really blessed to have two youth interns working with me this summer; both of whom have very strong work ethics. I tried to plan as much as I could in advance so during the week of camp I would have more time to spend just being with the kids and enjoying the time, rather than having to do last minute plans for things I had forgotten, being exhausted all the time.
One of the things that moves me most deeply as a Christian is when I get to see God take something that I've tried to contribute, and then make it in to something much better than I could have ever hoped for.
That was how camp was this year. My oldest campers took their power to influence the younger campers very seriously. They were well behaved, they were friendly, and they were encouragers. I felt like I had come up with a strong theme, some solid Bible class ideas, and a decent schedule, but nothing could have prepared me for how strongly the people at camp were affected by this last week.
Not that numbers are everything, but we had 13 baptisms this year. We had the first two on Monday night, and based on my experiences with some of the campers, I knew at least two more were really close. One of my seniors decided to be baptized on Thursday after the devotional (see the picture), and he started a chain reaction. We ended up making four separate trips that night down to the swimming hole. It was so special. We had a grandfather get to baptize his granddaughter's boyfriend (who has grown so much in the last year, and was a very genuine convert). We had a father get to baptize his son. We had older siblings baptizing younger siblings. By the time it was all said and done, there were 11 new Christians on Thursday night alone.
I was concerned about some of the younger ones just getting caught up in the moment, but as I spoke to each of them individually and spoke with many of their parents, I genuinely felt that all of them had been preparing for this for quite a while, and that God blessed us all to be in the right place at the right time with the right people. Just because responses are often emotional doesn't mean that they aren't also genuine. I felt very humbled and privileged that something which began as a few thoughts on paper with a somewhat flawed schedule ended up being an event that has permanently affected the lives of so many people.
We spent so long going back and forth from the swimming hole that we had to completely skip the Thursday night skits, which is a long standing tradition, but no one really cared except a couple of the youngest ones who didn't really understand the gravity of the moment. I wasn't able to do much other than to sit there with my mouth hanging open, amazed that God had blessed us so much in spite of ourselves.
From beginning to end, it was one of the best weeks of my life. And to be completely candid, it's the closest I've felt to God in nearly a decade.