Recently I went to teen camp. Not because I am a teenager, but because I was asked to bring greetings and to serve communion. The trip was a wonderful walk down memory lane. While there at Shiloh Park, I remembered that it was 50 years ago this summer that I was entering the 7th grade and I attended Jr. High camp at this same campground. Remember I was just a child, but it is a reality check when you can use the words ‘fifty years’ in a sentence referencing yourself! I looked into the faces of the large crowd of young people and for a moment I reflected upon what was going through my mind when I was sitting where they were fifty years ago. I offered them encouragement and hope, that regardless of what life held for them, God was good and that they could count on Him. From experience, I told them God will see you through and will be with you every step of the way.
I learned several important lessons from the teen camp that have stayed with me. Here are those lessons:
- It is good to set aside time for Spiritual development. Getting those principles embedded in my heart at a young age has served me well down through the years. Above all, I learned at camp to guard my heart.
- Friendships are valuable. I have not kept in contact with all of my friends from my youth, but it was at camp that I came to understand the value and importance of friendships. We were created to be in relationship with God and with people. I learned to make friends at teen camp.
- The value of mentors. The directors of the camp are people that I am in a relationship with to this day. Rev. Darwin and Rev. Jean Pressler serve with me on the Indianapolis District Church of the Nazarene. I began my journey with them when they directed the teen camp that I attended. I am thankful for camp counselors who invested in me I am sure they had other things they could have been doing, but they gave of themselves and I was the beneficiary of their investment.
- The power of volunteerism. So many of the people who invested in my life as a teen were volunteers. Many took time off of work to give their time to help some teenagers. What they gave to me has resulted in multiplied blessings in my life. Often I am amazed at what they did for us young people by giving to us so generously. I am indebted to those who served and led us and did so with such a loving spirit.
- The importance of Grace. How did I happen to go Junior High camp and many of my friends from church did not go? That one week has reverberated in my life to this day. Why did so many not go? I can not answer that, but I can say parents, pastors and youth leaders it is worth the investment to get your kids to youth camp!
- The importance of Space. Grace oftentimes comes to us when we allow space to receive and experience it in our lives. Taking time out of the routine to study, play, worship and make decisions is to allow space in our lives where God can do His work. I am glad that during those formative years of my youth there was space for His grace to work in my life.
- Experiences shape the person we become. I am where I am today because of family, friends, education, training, my church family and encounters that happened throughout life. No doubt there are many but teen camp is one of those “landmark” events that helped to shape and nurture me.
Today I want to say thank you to the thousands of youth pastors and volunteers who have sacrificially given of themselves to the youth and I for one am a happy product of your work. Thank you and God bless you for investing in me and for investing in our youth today. You are making a difference. God bless you. Please pray for our youth, the pressure they are under is tremendous. Young people give yourself totally to the Lord. He will be with you through each and every event of your life.