“Camping programs are high yield. Taking people away from their regular life for a few days, and offering them a season of activity, intense focus without distractions, peer-to-peer interaction and Bible influence is perhaps one of the greatest investments in people’s lives.” (from “Teacher: The Henrietta Mears Story”)
Taking a small group of tweeners on their first overnight spiritual retreat has me dancing before the LORD today. From our arrival on Friday evening through our giddy “name three” game on our trip home in the church van on Sunday, spiritual memories have been carved on hearts, especially my own.
Our students earned some of their monies to go by selling luminaries in memory or honor of loved ones and putting on a bake sale on Super Bowl Sunday. They prepared, set out, and discarded the red and white luminaries that beautifully lined the entryway into the sanctuary on Christmas Eve. They baked and wrapped and sold baked goods at our youth’s SouperBowl of Caring luncheon with the leftovers delivered to the local fire station by their very own hands. An adult who loves them very much even matched what they raised so they could go. This made for some great team building.
Sharp Top Cove (a Young Life Retreat center) was the location of the 2013 Spring S.C.R.E.A.M. (Students Celebrating And Rejoicing Enthusiastically in the Almighty Messiah) led by Mark Manuel and his fantastic team. The natural setting was glorious, the night stars especially bright, and large green spaces were magnificent. The speakers spoke of a kid’s influence on the world, God’s grace and forgiveness, and how nothing can separate us from the love of God. The messages and interactions were developmentally appropriate as well as memorable. The games were positively engaging, the skit teams were hilarious, and the Young Life youth servants in the dining hall were precious. The free time activities ranged from dual zip lining into the lake alongside a giant water slide, a giant swing, jousting, clay sculpting, paintball, rock climbing, fishing, and even a crawdad rodeo, just to name a few of the irresistible opportunities to make memories and face fears.
Facing fears was my favorite part.
We want so badly for our kids to be safe and comfortable, but followers of Jesus are anything but safe and comfortable. At a young age, these students were able to do challenging feats. When I asked one why she did it, her response was, “I was so afraid, but I knew that Jesus was with me.”
Small group discussions and watching the sun rise on Sunday morning as we searched for the golden nugget (these folks are geniuses to find a way to keep kids out of their cabins and get out of bed WAY before the sun rose on the last day) were exceptional times of teamwork and problem-solving. Though we were not the first to find the treasure, I believe these students can work together to solve just about any problem that arises in the church and in life even as 4th & 5th graders.
Henrietta Mears had a definite philosophy about camping that could be summed up in one word: decision. “If Sunday School was the place where people were built up in the faith, then camp was where they made their decisions about following the Lord.”
Our students’ comments:
“My favorite thing at SCREAM was the worship services. I grew closer to God. I got to know my friends better.”
“My favorite part of SCREAM was the zip line. God gave me the courage to do it. Now I love it!”
“You have worship every morning and every night. The zip line is the length of 2 to 3 football fields.”
“SCREAM was very fun and exciting. I felt like I got closer to God.”
Decisions to face our fears and get closer to God. Now THAT’S camp ministry!
For more information on SCREAM Ministries, go to http://www.screamministries.com