An Open Letter to Christian Camp Counsellors Part 2: At Home as it Was at Camp
The drive home was surreal, I didn’t even know how I felt. The combination of pure exhaustion and a realization that is was all over now created a depressing cocktail which I sipped all the way home. I was in a daze by the time I got home and just wanted to be alone.
“How was camp?” my mother asked. “Great” I responded, which is the one-size-fits-all response meaning anything from “that was the most incredible experience of my life” to “I hated every moment of it, please don’t ever send me back.” I didn’t even understand at that moment how I was feeling and so I certainly didn’t have the ability to share that with anyone else, let alone an adult who obviously wouldn’t have been able to understand my far more progressive, evolved teenage mind.
I headed to my room and just collapsed for a time and tried to process it all. I felt a pain and an emptiness which I had never before experienced. I felt alone and purposeless. Everything had made sense at camp. Each day my purpose was well defined and my mission was clear. The days began with prayerful submission to the will of God, the rest of the day was spent fulfilling that will by loving my neighbour through selfless and unpaid service to the students I lead and the days ended by again turning to God in prayer. But now what mission did I have? What did I have to pray about now? Did God have a plan for me here at home? To me, in that moment, my mind blurred from the day’s depressing cocktail, the answer which filled my mind was a clear and resounding “no.” So I returned to living for myself and awaited the long ten months until next summer when I could again return to fulfilling the will of God at camp.
If there’s nothing special about camp then why did God feel so close at camp yet so far away shortly after returning home? Why did lustful thoughts barely ever cross your mind at camp and yet within days of returning home you are sitting before the computer screen again, returning to your vomit. Why did you find it so easy to share your faith with others at camp and yet are scared to do so now? Why were you able to be so honest and real with your friends at camp and yet you feel fake with even your Christian friends at home? You have begun to wonder if maybe those people at camp really were special after all. Maybe there was something special about the very soil you walked on at camp. Maybe God was more present at camp than He is here with you now. Why has God abandoned you?
Let me remind you again that camp is not special. God is omnipresent just as He has always been and just as He forever will be and even more incredible than that is the fact that His Holy Spirit lives inside each one who truly believes the good news about Jesus. The real question, as I stated in part one, is “did you say goodbye to God this summer?” Did you abandon God?
At camp, everything was done for you. Time for prayer, Bible reading, worship and accountability were all set aside for you. You couldn’t really help but be self-sacrificial as your every day was filled with being a stand-in parent for an army of kids. You just had to come along for the ride. Your character grew, your self discipline grew and your relationship with and understanding of God grew with minimal effort on your part.
Now the responsibility is on you. If you are old enough to legally work at camp then I consider you a young adult, not a child, and so it’s time for you to grow up and make your faith your own or leave it altogether. Everything you did at camp can be done at home, the relationships you had at camp can be had at home and the opportunities to serve others are even more varied and numerous at home. Camp is not special, Jesus is special.
Do you want to feel close to God like you did at camp? Set aside time for prayer and reading the Bible like camp made you do. Seek to put others before yourself in your daily life like you had to do at camp. Form real, honest, loving friendships with other believers like you had at camp by taking a risk, putting in the time and being the brother to others that you would like to have. Pray and be accountable with these brothers or sisters like you were at camp. Ensure you have godly mentors speaking into your life, brothers or sisters around you and younger men or women who you are mentoring like you had at camp. Every day you must wake up, take up your cross and follow Him. It’s not easy but it’s true.
You are an adult now and no one is going to do this for you. Take responsibility for your own faith and do not wait until next summer to return to a certain place or to certain people because there is nothing special about them. Only Jesus is special, everything else is meaningless. He must be your everything. As Jesus becomes your special person and your special place then you will begin to understand that in every moment of our lives, in every relationship, in every corner of the globe, no matter what situation or circumstances we may find ourselves in, we can live God’s will in that moment. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
It was now spring and I had finally sobered up and was getting excited to return to camp that summer. It seemed that if I could just make it back there to that special place then everything would make sense again and God would return to me. However, God had never left and had other plans for me. During the camp off-season I had begun leading a Bible study of young men from my church because that seemed like a good Christian thing to do and we spent more time jumping off bridges and racing wheeled furniture down a hill (or couch-boarding as we called it) than studying the Bible anyway. We just did life together and had a blast doing it. It helped pass the time while I awaited my return to that special place where I could be used by God.
One evening after Bible study, I got talking to one of the young men about my plans to return to camp that summer. His expression suddenly became very serious."You mean you are going to be gone all summer?" Before that moment I hadn't even considered factoring these young men into my summer plans. They were just a distraction after all, something churchie to do before I went back to really serving God at camp. But in that moment something clicked and I was forever changed. The work of God did not just happen over the summer and God was not waiting for me up at camp. He was staring at me through the pleading eyes of this young man asking "will you run from me again? Will you give me two months or will you give me your life?"
There is no season or off season for the disciple of Jesus, there is simply life through Him. God desires that each one of us would love Him with all of our being and love our neighbour as we love ourselves, at camp, home and everywhere else.
Let me close with a prayer for you as you return to your life at home: Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done at home as it was at camp.
Your brother and fellow Christian camp counsellor,