Summer camp — and also winter camp, but to a lesser extent — became a huge part of my life beginning after 8th grade. My father had joined some of his pastor friends to organize dynamic youth camps for young people and these men, as well as friendships I made, had a powerful impact on my life.
My brother and some of his friends went away for a week at the high school camp and came back dramatically changed. Kids found Christ, gave up smoking and drugs, and insisted their lives had been completely transformed. One Sunday night at church, we had “camp echoes”, and each kid shared their testimony. It was electrifying! I couldn’t wait for my turn at camp a few weeks later.
It didn’t disappoint. Hardly any kids from our church went, but the experience was wonderful. I left feeling revived and “on fire for Jesus”, ready to bring Christ — and the Jesus Movement! — to my junior high school. (Considering I was a weird, easily intimidated shy kid, this was pretty amazing.)
Some of the high school kids with the dramatic testimonies joined the hippie group I wrote about previously. All of them started coming to church regularly. Unfortunately, a number of them “backslid” to one degree or another once school started back up in the Fall.
Even though my “re-dedications to Christ” didn’t always stick very well for very long, at least not with the same fervor and intensity, the time spent at camp shaped me in significant ways. I still remember some of the sermons and Bible studies. Thousand Pines and Forest Home hold myriads of memories for me, some quite serious, and sone quite amusing. I wouldn’t have traded those summer weeks or winter weekends for anything.
The prayer chapels at both camps truly were “holy ground”. And one of the pinnacle worship experiences of my entire life took place at Thousand Pines. I can’t imagine what my faith journey would have been like without those camps.