Friday, May 12, 2017

Camp is God’s Idea

I am always amazed at the level of loyalty that people have to their camp. Everyone seems to think that their camp is the best in the world, and is scandalized at the thought of attending another. As one who has served at a number of camps over the years, I am pretty sure that everyone is right about this—every camp is the best in the world. Here’s why: Camp is God’s idea.

From the Garden of Eden in Genesis to Heaven in Revelation, God shapes a concept that today we call “camp.” He calls us from the familiarity of our homes into a unique environment where he meets with us, provides for our needs and achieves some purpose of his that is best accomplished there. Whether it was at the base of Mount Sinai or the mount where Jesus preached his longest sermon, people had an experience with meaningful and lasting effect. Today’s Christian camp is a hybrid of the revival tent meetings of the 19th century and the outdoor schools of the early 20th, and carries traditions such as chapel speakers and archery instruction. But at its root, camp is still God’s idea.

What makes a week of camp so significant in the life of a child, teen, family or volunteer? Let’s take an ancient example, the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve could have lived anywhere on planet earth (I think Vancouver Island would have been a good choice!). But God placed them in a garden, a place with every condition for their physical and spiritual health. It didn’t go so well—they were the first ones ever sent home from camp—but in the Garden they met with God daily, enjoyed the wonders of his creation and provision, and joined him in his purposes for his new world.

Today’s Christian camps offer that kind of environment, one conducive to change, renewal, good attitudes, fun and release. In a temporary community of love and acceptance, campers meet with God, enjoy his creation and stretch their personal boundaries. For many campers, camp is a positive crisis of self-identity before a loving and holy God, and they make decisions that take them in a whole new direction. Ask any crowd of believers, and a large percentage will say that their most life-changing moments took place at camp.

Through God’s idea that we call “camp,” he removes us from our usual setting, relieves us from the usual pressures of everyday life, isolates us from the distractions and temptations of the world, provides optimum conditions for crisis and change, confronts us with our own condition and our need for him, spends focused time with us, teaches us life-altering lessons and finds response, accomplishes something extraordinary that otherwise would not have occurred, sends us back into the world with new understanding and perspective, and causes us to long for the permanent community of heaven.

To parents who are considering the many opportunities available to their kids this summer, a week at a Christian camp should be top of the list. It is, after all, God’s idea.

(Published in Light Magazine, March 2017)

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