As I think back to highlights of my high school/teen years, I could never leave out the importance of our youth camps at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. When the group of us (usually about 85-100 kids each year) returned from the week of camp, we would have a Reflection Sunday at church that Sunday night. It was often a moving service, in which the students would share from their hearts what God had taught them and how he was working in them. I also remember how difficult it was to “pass on a blessing” to the people who weren’t there and who didn’t experience it. It was so hard to engage a group of listeners in a very personal experience. You almost want to pause and just say “well, you had to be there.” That is how I feel when trying to share in just a few paragraphs the memories from years ago about very significant people that many of my readers don’t know personally. I especially feel it today – when attempting to put into words or paint a mental picture to readers of what youth camps were like with the amazing youth group and leaders from CBC. There are really not enough words to accurately describe what those weeks were like for me. But I can say, and hopefully communicate, that without a doubt the times spent with the students and adults on those trips heavily influenced and impacted my present walk with Jesus.
The facilities and the activities made for just the right setting for fun and friendship. The big field across from where we bunked together all week was perfect for water balloon fights and team events. And from the olympic-sized pool to a hike across the swinging bridge, each afternoon we had free time that offered many ways to enjoy a summer Tennessee day. The weekly themes each year were thought through and prayed through by the church and camp staff members. The small groups were equally as discussed, planned and prayed over. They were intentionally designed to help the students talk through what they were learning, pray for each other, and of course the all-important purpose of coming up with the perfect group skit for skit night. 🙂 The campfire service on Friday night was usually very moving and there was a unique sense of God’s presence.
My parents were usually a part of all the youth camps. They decided to let me make the call my Senior year, in case I wanted to have a last year without the rents being there. I don’t remember what they did, but I do know that I never once wished they weren’t there. They never tried to parent me or over-involve themselves in any way in my week. They always joined in the fun … getting involved in skits and other activities, and I am thankful that we are able to share memories of these great days when we reminisce as a family, even though we sometimes barely saw each other the entire week. We weren’t there to be together as a family, but as a family we were able to grow because of what we experienced there.
I certainly realize that there were those who made “decisions” (the emotional kind that didn’t last) at camp, like there always are, but I also know that I really grew immensely from those weeks. I grew in my desire to spend time reading the bible and praying. I grew in my desire to be a witness more. And I also grew in my desire to be a better daughter and sister and friend.
Thank You, LORD, for youth camps at Fall Creek Falls. Thank You for the adults who showed their love to us and took off work for a week to cook and clean and serve students. Thank You for coloring my life with those deep shades of grace that were so clearly evident in those weeks of camp.