After spending the day driving south to New Mexico, we stopped at the Glorieta Conference Center to spend the night. We really didn't know what to expected and we certainly were not ready for what we found. Glorieta is an enormous campus and there was a huge youth camp in full swing when we arrived. Coming from Utah, where there are very few Christians, we were somewhat overwhelmed. "I've entered another universe," Lisa expressed as she exited the car. I struggled to count the number of vans with "First Baptist Church" painted on the sides. The vans and their corresponding passengers had come from cities all over the United States.
The next morning we packed and headed up into the mountains. The camp was a great little destination on the side of a hill. About 1/2 mile from our main gathering place (at the dining facility) was Lisa's and my little isolated cabin. It sits atop a rock bluff with a back patio overlooking a small pond and stream.
Many of the youth that came to this particular camp come year after year; and in order to come, they've had to accomplish some Awana related tasks even though the camp is not officially associated with the Awana program. As the campers were arriving, it quickly became clear to me that this was a great group of young men and women. It also became apparent that I would be doing far more than preaching each night.
The days started at 6:30am when some of the counselors and staff would meet to pray for day's work and for specific needs of the youth. The days would end around 10:00pm when Lisa and I would finally return to the cabin to process that day's activities and doze off to a comatose state. In between, we would sit and chat with campers at meals. We counseled with the campers and even some of the counselors. Lisa would inspect the cabins and pick daily winners. We played games with the campers. I offered a George Paton-style call to Christian arms on "Millitary Appreciation Day," which was outside my comfort zone as I played a character; however, it was rather fun and served as another opportunity to talk about Jesus with the campers. Mid-week, I developed an object-lesson teaching opportunity and team building exercise for three days that culminated in a campers verses counselors paintball match (resulting in the camp pastor looking like a polka-dotted mess of welts). I also participated in a three-day mortification of sin project with the JV Men and their counselors. The result was a powerful experience that I pray was taken home with the guys and will be remembered for a long time to come.
Lisa and I spent lots of time in prayer with the campers. When we weren't praying or counseling, we were just hanging out with them, getting to know them. Oh, and I preached for 30 to 40 minutes each night. (It's my hope that the sermons will be available on this website soon.) The days were long, but were well worth it.
On the first night, I set the stage for camp. The camp was to be seen like a mountain top experience. Like James, John, and Peter who were invited to see Jesus' glory on the mountain during his transfiguration, we too were seeking to see Jesus' glory. But we also recognized that life is lived in the valley, so the remainder of the time at camp was used to prepare and equip us for life after descending the mountain. I pray it was well received.
Interestingly, God used this camp experience to shape and mold Lisa and I. Dare I say we were even rebuked a bit. Before camp, I was unsure of the extent of which I am capable of working with youth. Could I connect, teach, and foster growth in young people? But after this camp, I realize that not only can I work with youth, but that I love working with youth! I was also able to preach with no seminary class grading constraints. Through others, I've learned that I'm somewhat gifted in this area (and thank God for that because there was more than one night when I had less than an hour to prepare!) I actually enjoyed preaching and I was surprised how few notes I needed--on two nights I was blessed with the ability to use no notes what-so-ever. On another night, the clock stopped five minutes after I started and not realizing it, I stretched my sermon out for twice as long as the sermon should have been and nobody noticed I was stretching. I also was able to get right down in the dirt to minister to young people and adults alike. I can think of no other thing in my life I would rather do than serve God ministering to his people!
And one more thing came about at this camp. Lisa, who has been extremely supportive of my calling has herself been called of by God. She and I now realize the magnitude of our service together, as a team and she is an outstanding support to me and an amazing minister to women.
The camp calendar for a the next few years already has camp pastors lined up, so at this point, it seems unlikely I will have the opportunity to return for some time to come. I certainly would like to, but I trust that the Shepherd will lead me on the path of his choosing, and I will follow. That being said, I would love to return to the camp in the future and I hope it's somewhere along the path. And I truly hope I see some of these young men and women doing big things in the future because they are loved by an amazing God.
To the SRDC 2011 campers and staff: I can't thank you enough for how much and in how many ways you supported and blessed Lisa and I. It was a blessing to be your pastor for the week. Thank you! And as you walk in the valley be sure to listen for the Shepherd's voice. . . and then say "baaaa." -- God bless, Pastor C.