The summer of 2019 saw another exciting Living Youth Teen Camp! At the Lone Star Camp in Athens, Texas, we hosted more than 320 people, including eight from Australia, a few from Europe, several from Canada, and even some from the Philippines, Mexico, Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, and other parts of the Caribbean. The majority in attendance were from the United States, but our many international visitors truly enhanced the experience for everyone.
Dozens of young people were able to come to this camp—and attend other LYP camps around the world—thanks to the assistance they received from the Morgan Montgomery Memorial Fund. We also anticipate sponsoring several additional young people later this year to attend one of the upcoming international camps scheduled to take place in late December and early January. We are extremely grateful for the donations that have been made to this fund and have witnessed the joy it has brought to so many young people since its inception. These generous contributions have made it possible for many to attend camp who otherwise would not have been able to do so.
The Light We Need
Every winter, months before summer camp, we carefully select a “camp theme”—one that will serve as the basis for all of the camp’s daily Christian Living classes. It is chosen to reflect an important message at the heart of God’s way of life, which the Church seeks to promote through the Living Youth Program. The theme in 2019 was “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Feet and a Light to My Path,” taken from Psalm 119:105. All ten of the ministers who spoke to the campers and staff at the Lone Star Camp this past July covered a topic relating to this central message.
What did we talk about? What does this verse mean? The Hebrew word that is translated lamp means just what you think it might—a light, lamp, or candle. The idea is that the word of God is like a torch or a lamp to a person on a dark night. It shows them the way. It prevents them from stumbling over obstacles, falling down steep cliffs, or wandering off into paths that would lead them into danger or would turn them away altogether from the path of life. The word light is similar in meaning. God’s word is a light that casts out darkness as it shines on the road ahead, so that we might see any hazards that lie in our path.
Those who make the word of God their guide and follow its teachings will be able to maintain their course in the right way. They will clearly see the path. They will be able to identify the road they ought to choose, avoiding all the byways that diverge from the main path—often at such a slight angle at first that there seems to be no divergence at all. As Christians, we need such a guide to cast light upon our path, and the Scriptures are that guide. Not only does the Bible inform us of God’s will, but as a light on a path in darkness, it very specifically reveals the right way and shows us how to avoid the wrong.
The world is in spiritual darkness! It is spiritually blind. The whole world has been deceived by Satan the Devil (Revelation 12:9). Most people’s minds have been blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:3–4). The Apostle Paul was inspired to write:
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:9–11).
And he concludes: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (v. 14). This is why those whose eyes have not yet been opened are in spiritual darkness. They do not—they cannot—understand spiritual matters. They have no lamp to light the path. God has not given them His Spirit, which one must have to understand the things of God.
It is God’s goodness that leads one to repentance (Romans 2:4). God the Father opens the minds and hearts of those He calls, and He draws them to the Son, Jesus Christ (John 6:44). Initially, God’s Spirit works with them (John 14:17). Later, He places His Spirit in them after baptism for the remission of sin, the laying on of hands, and prayer for the receipt of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:6; Acts 19:6). It is this same Spirit that guides one into all truth (John 16:13). God knows who His people are, as they have His Spirit and are led by it (Romans 8:9, 14).
A Special Status and Opportunity
Young people who have one or both parents in God’s Church have been extended a calling—an opportunity to know and walk in truth. When a believing parent rears a child in the faith, that child is exposed to the truth in a special way. The child also receives instruction from God’s ministers on the Sabbath and Holy Days, and through other means of God’s design. Paul explained the benefits associated with living in a home with even one believing member. In his first letter to the Church in Corinth, he wrote: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14). To be sanctified means to be set apart, such as for holy use. The last part of this verse shows that a child with even one believing parent is no longer considered “unclean” to God. “Holy” in this context does not mean sinless, but rather that the child is sacred to Him—possessing a special status before God. Such children have an opportunity to know the Father and Jesus Christ, and to benefit as they learn to walk more fully in the path of righteousness.
Our children have the advantage of access to God and His guidance. They are in the light and they can clearly see the path they should travel. They can understand the truth. Satan’s lies are exposed to them! They can avoid the consequences of sin as they choose to do God’s will. But just as parents can cast aside their sanctification, so too can children choose to cast aside the special standing God has given them. Even though our children may not yet be converted, they are still accountable for what they know (James 4:17).
We would not know the Way—or how to walk in it—if God’s word, acting like a lamp, did not reveal it to us. We are guided by its instruction. A life lived in accordance with the laws of God is filled with peace and happiness—an abundant life (John 10:10). How valuable is it to know right from wrong?
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7–11).
The value of knowing God’s word and understanding it cannot be compared with any other desirable thing—even fine gold! It provides the key to wisdom, joy, and—most importantly—eternal life!
Physically speaking, we often take light for granted because it is everywhere, or at least nearly everywhere. When we find ourselves in its complete absence, we are deeply unsettled. Thankfully, we don’t have to live in the darkness. This was the message we wanted to convey to this year’s campers.
Our camp theme for the summer of 2019 was an attempt to paint a true picture of our path through a dark world to a better one, and we seek to exemplify that better world at every one of the Church’s camps. At the Texas Teen Camp this year, many campers and staff members commented that they enjoy coming to camp because it lets them come out of the world for two weeks, and because they enjoy spending time with others of like mind. Camp surveys also revealed that the daily Christian Living class was once again the highest-rated activity at summer camp!
Quite a Storm!
In addition to learning some valuable lessons from these classes, we experienced the excitement of a powerful storm one evening. While campers were engaged in the Camp Olympics—which included events such as ladder ball, cornhole, Frisbee golf, a soccer goal challenge, and balloon-launching—the storm began its approach. Quickly, staff decided to end the Camp Olympics a few minutes earlier than planned and to gather everyone into the large outdoor pavilion in preparation for Evening Reflection. Shortly before 8:30 p.m. the skies began to darken. Almost immediately, the storm knocked out our power. The power flickered on and off intermittently several times within just a couple of minutes, so we decided to cancel Evening Reflection and the Hymn Sing that normally follows. Moments later, the wind picked up, and the rain began to blow horizontally. Several people scrambled to cover sound and video equipment and to secure items that might be blown away. At this point, intense lightning, high winds, and heavy rain kept us from leaving the pavilion safely on foot. However, within minutes, staff members with vehicles began to line up to provide rides back to the dorms and houses. A parade of cars, trucks, and vans whisked away the campers and their counselors first, followed by the rest of the staff. Within 30 to 45 minutes everyone was safely back in their accommodations for the night.
When the storm began, several staff members had quickly secured or taken down tent structures and awnings on the travel trailers, so they would not be blown away or broken into pieces. Even so, some tent poles were bent, a few awnings were damaged, and a couple of small pop-up tents were destroyed. One of the pop-up tents ended up on top of the dining hall, while the other could not be broken down quickly enough to prevent it from being twisted into a pile of junk. In addition, a large tree was downed at the swimming pool. The tall pine took out a section of the fence surrounding the swimming area and crashed onto the deck, reaching entirely across the pool. Yet, during all of this, no one was hurt.
This exciting event taught us several lessons. It caused us to be thankful for the protection God affords His people and reminded us of how powerful God truly is. It also prompted us to review our current emergency plans to make them even more effective in the future, as well as to stake down all tent structures that much more securely!
Thankfully, the storm only lasted for about an hour. By our first activity the next morning, the downed tree had been removed and the damaged section of pool fence had been replaced. Bent tent poles were removed and replaced as needed, and camp resumed as if nothing had happened.
Plans are already in the works for next year! It is inspiring to see so many young people all over the world enjoying our summer camp programs and being taught God’s way of life. As you can see, many important lessons are learned at these camps—and we strive to make them the best camps on earth! If you attended camp in 2019, we hope you’ll be back in 2020! If you have never attended one of our camps—what are you waiting for?