“How can we challenge each other this week?”
It was the first hour of camp and a group of girls sat in a circle listening to their counselor, “Oreo.” After some silence, one girl spoke up. “We can love each other.” Another chimed in, “Yeah, like Jesus loves us!” Seeing a teachable moment, Oreo asked, “What do you mean by that? How is Jesus’ love different?” The girls sat in thought. One of the girls said, “It’s unconditional.”
Later that week, Oreo found one of her girls sitting alone. As she sat down with her, the girl said, “I couldn’t have come to camp this week if God hadn’t made it possible for me. I know now that I’m supposed to be here. I’ve learned so much about Jesus and the way we’re supposed to share His love. Being here has deepened my relationship with Christ.”
Tony sat with his cabin, listening intently. His counselor paced back and forth on the amphitheater stage, preaching salvation. “Becoming a Christian isn’t about saying magic words or getting your act together for Jesus,” he announced. “It’s about asking Him to save you from your sins.”
Something dawned on Tony. Was that really all there was to it? He had tried being good before, but according to his counselor, saintly living wouldn’t save anyone. His counselor spoke again. “Jesus accepts you as you are. If you want to start following him tonight, now is the time.”
Tony’s heart started pounding as it all came together. In the middle of his peers, he shouted out, “Lord save me!”
For a second, the words hung still in the night air. Then he heard the whole amphitheater begin to clap. His counselor smiled from the stage. “Tony, welcome to the family of God!”
Secret plans were being laid in Cabin 1. Counselor “Chip” briefed his boys on the scheme. “Okay boys, remember to be perfectly quiet. And don’t spill anything!” The boys turned out their lights and snuck into the night with bowls full of water.
They stopped at next door at Cabin 2. Chip mouthed “One, two… three!” and everyone rushed inside to surprised shouts and giggles. Chip gathered his boys in the center of the room. “Cabin 2, we’re here to do a foot washing. Jesus showed his friends that love serves others, even if that means washing smelly, sweaty feet!” The boys in Cabin 2 sat in stunned silence. Instead of a prank, they were getting… a footbath?
Cabin 1 got down on hands and knees while Cabin 2 slipped off socks and shoes. As the boys stepped into soapy water, the odor of stinking feet faded into something sacred.
Susan Chin was screaming twenty-five feet off the ground. Below, the ropes course supervisor reminded her, “Sue, don’t worry! You’re safety line will hold you.”
Susan looked at the cable and ropes stretched out into the air in front of her. She stepped out, her weight dancing on the tight cable. Susan wobbled precariously, put out her other foot and slipped off the line! “Oh!” she gasped. She hadn’t moved! Her feet dangled in the air, but her harness held her in place.
Later that afternoon, Susan’s cabin sat in Bible Study. Her counselor asked, “What does it mean to have faith in Christ?” The cabin was quiet until Susan piped up.
“I guess it’s like the ropes course I was afraid of this morning. Jesus holds me safely through my falls, I just have to trust that He can take all of me and not let go.”
Front and center stands a boy with a sign reading, “Bored and Restless.” He pans it slowly across the chapel before flipping it around to reveal a message: “Eagerly pursuing God.” The room erupts into a chorus of applause.
Throughout the chapel, other campers write down their stories. A few stare at blank sheets, silently asking heart questions. Others jump forward quickly, excited to show God’s change in their lives. A hefty teenager steps up. His sign reads, “Insecure about appearance.” On the other side he declares, “Filled with joy for who God made me.” A young girl walks to the front to present her transformation: “No purpose… He has a plan just for me!”
It’s the last summer night of Junior High camp. The room is filled with the presence of Grace that speaks for itself, no words needed. In this place, young people are being made new.