A Week at Camp
Written by Bob DeAngelo, Pastor of Youth and Outreach
It is Monday morning during summer vacation…when most middle school and high school students are still a little ways from even thinking about getting out of bed. But at Friendship Baptist Church on this Monday morning, between 40-50 students (and their parents seeing them off) are packed and ready to get on a bus and head to the mountains…to a week of summer camp at the Wilds.
What happens on this journey each year? Let me just give you an inside look at what it is like to hang with 45 teens for a week, away from their families, in one of the prettiest and most fun places on earth, the Wilds Christian Camp.
The bus is full of energy as we leave the parking lot. Teens wave to their parents, some of them already longingly missing them…but many of them quietly excited about a week of independence.
We travel west, hit a rest stop where the teens “have” to satisfy their cravings with a soda (keep in mind that this is at around 8:30 AM) or snack. At lunch time, we stop for a bite to eat, with 7 th graders happily waving around more money than they have ever held in their entire life!
We continue to head toward camp, and at around 2:00, we are getting close. The Wilds does not allow the campers to have cell phones through the week, so at around the 20-30 minute mark, we warn the campers about what is coming…and then collect their phones. (At times, this is a very painful transaction!)
We make the turn off of the main highway onto the windy six mile road, and the anticipation really begins to build. As we enter the camp property, you can feel the excitement on the bus as the students take in all of the activity, the greetings by camp personnel, and the other teens who have already arrived.
All of the teens then meet up in the activity center, and there they wait to find out who their counselor will be, and who they will be “bunking” with over the next week. People, noise, and excitement, and cheering are all around.
Throughout the first evening, everyone settles in, eats dinner (pizza and wings first night), plays the traditional big ball game, and attends the first service of the week that evening.
Through the week, it is awesome to come across the teens quite often. I will see them walking around, heading to the creek to tube, playing basketball, spending time with their counselor, getting onto the zipline, preparing for a hike, or getting strapped up for the giant swing (this is a great opportunity for pictures and video!). I really enjoy just walking around the campsite and getting to see a group of our teens (and their new friends) every day and through the course of the week.
The services are especially sweet. It is hard to fully know why, but it just seems like each of us are a little more sensitive to God’s voice at camp. Over the years, I have counseled teens about salvation, listened to them as they process difficult situations back home and fought to trust God and not give in to anger and bitterness, heard them talk about struggles with things like their relationships to their parents, pornography, consistency in their time with God…and many other things.
One part of the week that I wish our church could see is our Thursday Family Reunion. On Thursday, each church group gets to meet together for an hour. They enjoy refreshments (we pick up Bojangles Bo-Berry biscuits and sweet tea), and they enjoy
some time together. I usually ask each teen in our group what their favorite part of the week has been to that point, and then we allow the teens to share testimonies about what God has been doing in their lives through the week. I cannot relay what an awesome experience this is to hear teens processing (in front of their peers) the voice of God speaking into their lives throughout the week at our reunion. We finish with prayer, and then the students head back with their cabins to enjoy the afternoon activities.
I wish that I could bring every member of our church with us to camp at least one time. Camp is just such a special week as all of us are outside, active, around some really cool people, and under God’s powerful Word often every day.
We appreciate your prayers as we attend camp this week!