Here’s a riddle: What do you get when you put together an adult volunteer with bruises from paint ball, 300 high school students praising Jesus to great music, joys and hurts cared for in a safe surrounding, tube riding behind a speed boat, 5 ½ hour van rides one way, lives changed by Jesus in the beauty of God’s wonderful creation and a generous, supportive church? What you have is the CUMC high school youth group and a team of great adult volunteers who headed to “That Thing” summer youth camp at Epworth Forest Retreat and Conference Center on the shores of beautiful Lake Webster (June 28-July 3, 2015). I had the joy of driving the church van up to Epworth Forest at the end of the week to bring kids and luggage back home. My plan was to chat with the kids a bit to hear how things were going, but they were so busy with activities and worship on Thursday and then sound asleep for the trip home on Friday that I didn’t really get a chance to chat. But I sent out an email and asked them to share their experience with me. Wow! What responses I got. You are invited to click on “Read More” below and read about how life-changing summer church camp was. Another riddle: How did it all happen? Answer: Your prayers and your generosity to support this ministry! Thank you!
From Alison McDowell (CUMC junior attending Epworth Forest camp):
“Camp has always just been my go-to week for the summer. I can always come away with new things and a greater love for Christ. Epworth has become a home away from home for me. I could spend three weeks there without coming home. It’s a sanctuary for not only me, but a lot of kids. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity provided for me and my fellow youth by our church. I’m truly blessed and I am so overwhelmed with Christ’s love and the amazing things he has done and will do for me.”
From Galen and Sonnie Clodfelter (adult volunteers):
“I think Worship and Cabin Devotions were our most meaningful activities of camp. The speaker was great and videos were intense and appropriate for all ages. Campers and adults were very moved by the music… The campers were very open and participated in all of our Cabin Devotions. God’s presence was felt especially during these devotion times.
We were very impressed with all the youth and how they loved and helped each other during devotions, games and free times. Camp is something we will always remember because of the worship aspect and interaction with our youth. It keeps us young.”
From Jason Collins (CUMC Youth Director):
“My favorite part of camp was being able to worship in the old barn and watching the kids lift up their hands in worship to God! I could see (the presence of God) during the worship service. Instead of hanging back in their seats, they all went to the front by the band in order to sing and praise! This camp experience definitely changed me. I loved being able to spend some great time with the youth of our church and see the hearts that they have for God and the love that they have for each other. It offered me some pretty big challenges in my own life. I definitely thank them for it!
I was only able to attend two worship services and spend one night with the kids, but just listening to their stories and how God moves in their lives challenged my faith and I believe the experience will also challenge the faith of anyone who would join them on a trip… I am already planning our week to Epworth next year and have been challenged to see if we can recruit more kids to join us!
Rockie Thacker (adult volunteer):
What was your favorite part of camp? “Sharing time with our awesome youth and being made to feel a part of their group.”
Where/When did you sense the presence of God at camp? “During the services watching 300 or more youth praising our Lord and Savior.”
How did participating in “That Thing” summer camp at Epworth Forest change you? “Seeing the youth of our church take the leadership role in volunteering to pray at meals and during our evening chats. Their strong conviction to the Christian way of life has made me take a long look at myself. The Youth of CUMC are awesome and are to be commended for the way they presented themselves at camp.
From Stephanie Franklin (adult volunteer):
My favorite part of camp is worship. I really enjoyed the speaker. He really connected with the youth when he spoke about their Christian walk and encouraged them to be intentional in who they are. He also challenged them to stand up for social justice and to be disciples for Christ… And then there is the music! It is so awesome to see 300 high school students dancing and raising their arms to praise God.
There is something so special about Epworth Forest, that I felt wrapped in God’s arms for much of the week. I felt him at worship and during evening cabin devotionals, and whenever I would walk on the grounds, or just sit and enjoy the beauty of the lake. I watched him touch the hearts of teens as they committed to him for the first time or recommitted themselves to him, and as they opened up and shared their struggles in the past and hopes for the future with each other. He was there, taking this diverse group of young people, wrapping them in his loving arms and making our group a “family” in just five days.
There are so many reasons youth should participate in camp… They learn about themselves as they face challenges on the high ropes course and during other activities in a loving and supportive environment. They are challenged to do more in a world that is hurting, and those youth at camp who are hurting are able to feel save and loved while they learn about Jesus and all that he offers them. And they have fun! Camp is full of activities to appeal to a broad range of youth, and offers opportunities to try new things in a place that is always encouraging to all.
As an adult leader, I have made friendships with wonderful volunteers, and been able to get to know and mentor young people who are the future of our country and the Church. I have laughed, cried and prayed with them as they share their stories. So many of these kids are facing heart-breaking challenges and are dealing with low self-esteem. Camp is a place where they learn how much God loves them and how special they are…
To put it simply, the kids I worked with at camp have my heart. It was an amazing week and I hope to go back! I am so thankful to our congregation for their generous financial support and commitment to camp.