Since its beginning, the Church of God has often been small (Luke 12:32) and scattered (Acts 8:1, 4; Acts 11:19; James 1:1). Its members find themselves in a similar situation today. Some teens attend congregations in which there are few, if any, others of their age. This is one reason why they treasure the opportunity to attend Living Youth summer camps. They enjoy getting together with their friends and making lots of new friendships, many of which will last a lifetime. This contributes to the success of our summer camp programs year after year. It pleases God when we work together, have fun together, get along with each other (Psalm 133:1–3), and show love for one another (John 13:34–35), and all of this happens at camp. Every summer, young people come together to spend time with others of like mind and escape the world’s pulls for two brief weeks. It is during this time that something special happens—the largest gathering of God’s young people on the planet!
Lessons for Life
However, this is not the only important thing that happens at camp. When surveyed, the campers and staff consistently rate "learning more about God and His way of life" as their foremost reason for coming to camp. Yes, the main attraction actually is "the message"! They consider what is taught in the Christian Living classes, Bible Studies, and sermons to be camp's most valuable part! That is what is placed at the top of the list—not the activities, not the sports, not the food, not even seeing friends and making new ones. Learning more about God and His way of life is number one!
In 2018, ten different ministers presented ten different Christian Living classes, all centered around the theme found in Matthew 7:12: "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them." The Presiding Evangelist, Mr. Gerald Weston, was one of the guest speakers, delivering a Christian Living class entitled "Seven Unshakable Unbreakables," and also giving the sermon on the second Sabbath of camp. Later, Mr. Weston had positive things to say about the messages given by each of the ministers and the impact they had upon those listening. It was evident that all speakers assigned had considered the importance of prayerful preparation, and they demonstrated by the quality of their discourse their awareness of how precious this opportunity was. These men considered it an honor and a privilege to have the chance to reach such a unique audience of young people and staff.
In addition to the formation and strengthening of friendships and the presentation of dynamic messages to everyone in attendance (or listening via a live stream connection), many other extremely important things happened at camp. Let's take a look at a few.
An Activity-Rich Environment
Team sports such as basketball, volleyball, football, water polo, and softball provided ideal opportunities to teach sportsmanship and teamwork. As usual, coaches, instructors, game officials, and counselors strove to emphasize these essential values in their classes and during the games. Players at camp were taught the golden rule of sports—that is, to treat the people they played with and against as they would like to be treated themselves. Campers and staff were instructed to compete enthusiastically within the letter and spirit of the rules. They were taught to respect the judgment of the referees and officials, and to treat their opponents with respect. Players were shown how to handle both victory and defeat with grace and dignity. The benefit of teamwork was especially stressed. Dorm-mates were coached to work together toward a common goal, and to play with all their might. In the process, they built friendships, developed character, and learned important life skills, such as cooperation with others, taking responsibility for their own actions, and encouraging and motivating others to do their best. Instilling these Christian values in young people will have a lasting positive impact on their lives.
Another great lesson of the 2018 Teen Camp's activity-rich environment was that willingness to work hard and do one's best is an essential characteristic of Christians. Camp was hard work! In fact, a number of campers commented that one of their reasons for coming to camp was to get in better physical condition, and that they are more active at summer camp than they are at any other time during the year. Camp has always promoted an active and healthy lifestyle, and if you ask just about anyone who attended summer camp if it was hard work, you will be told that it certainly wasn't easy. It never is. However, you will also be told that it was fun, challenging, unquestionably exciting, and definitely worth all of the work and effort! We played hard and worked hard! Camp's active lifestyle challenged many campers and members of the staff, as it does every year. This is why three nutritious meals and more than a hundred gallons of cold, refreshing drinks were prepared and served daily. It is also why all sleeping quarters and the dining hall are fully air-conditioned, and why we gave great attention to preparing the master camp schedule. Participants burned a lot of calories and often operated beyond their comfort levels in order to be fully engaged in their responsibilities.
The Blessing of Selfless Staff
The camp staff also worked very hard to provide the best possible camp experience to every camper in attendance. When applicants for staff positions signed up to serve at camp, they knew that they were committing to working long hours in sometimes uncomfortable conditions for two full weeks! They also understood that they would have to pay their travel expenses to and from camp, and that only food and lodging would be provided. (Several staff members even provided their own lodging, bringing travel trailers or RVs.) Many took time off from work in order to be there. The result? The campers saw and appreciated the sacrifice, time, and energy that the hard-working staff members put into making camp an exceptional experience for them. In turn, they put energy into their various scheduled activities, and thus attained the maximum benefit from their camp experience. What a fantastic result! Directors from other camp organizations marvel that so many parents and staff members volunteer to work for free, and even pay a small tuition (yes, staff members actually pay to come to camp) in order to assist at the Living Youth camps. These other camp directors simply cannot find enough volunteers who will work without pay, while we have the opposite problem: we often cannot accept all who apply to serve at camp.
Not only did ministers, their wives, and other members of the staff work tirelessly, they did a first-class job. In every department—the activities, the kitchen, the dining hall, dishwashing, the office, media, purchasing, mini-camp, yearbook, airport transportation, campus improvement, laundry, custodial, first aid, and special events—the staff aimed for the highest standards of work quality. It was refreshing to see such dedication and camaraderie. Not only were assignments fulfilled, but from Mr. and Mrs. Weston to the newest and youngest staff members, many volunteered to help wherever there was a need. These servant leaders washed dishes, cleaned the dining hall each night, helped with custodial duties filled many other gaps. They went well above and beyond the call of duty!
Counselors and their assistants served with little rest to inspire, motivate, and care for the impressionable young men and women in their dorms. Their personal examples of loving concern for their campers were evident throughout the camp session. These fine young leaders sacrificed much, giving their full attention to those entrusted to their care. They did a wonderful job of focusing their dorm members on God and His way of life (Daniel 12:3; James 5:19–20). They taught godly values in all that they said and did. They also worked to make camp fun! Camp would not have been such a success without them.
Another summer camp has come and gone, and we will carry many happy memories of it for years to come. We will remember the beautifully decorated dances, the great talent show, the thoughtful comments made during topics sessions, the amazing race, the engaging activities, the excellent food, the inspiring messages, and the friendships that camp made possible. A lot of important things happened at camp in 2018, and many more will happen in the summer of 2019. Plan to sign up to be a part of something great!