Two weeks from today I’ll be heading out of the city with a group of kids in order to prepare for Vida Joven camp 2011. One day later, 40 kids from z3 of Guatemala City will join us to have, as we say in YL, the best week of their lives. Young Life is often criticized for being just a camping ministry. Why do I say criticized? Because anyone in and around Young Life knows that camp is just a small, important yes, but small piece of the overall ministry year. I thought I’d take these few weeks heading into camp to explain a bit about why we do camp.
When I think about camp, I think about the Matthew 17 account of the transfiguration. Jesus, Peter, James, and John head up to a mountaintop; they step away from the daily grind of life and following Christ. In this space,
the glory of the Lord is revealed to them – they see Christ clearly for who he is. They want to stay, but they must return back to their daily contexts. So they return, changed by what they’ve seen.
The same pattern occurs time and again in Scripture – Moses is in the desert when he sees the burning bush, Elijah in the cleft of a rock when he hears the still small voice, the Ethiopian Eunuch is traveling outside of his hometown when he hears the gospel. People continually leave (or are invited out of) their contexts, and when they are away, they have a unique and changing experience with the living God. Could this experience happen while in their homes or at their jobs? I’m sure it could. But, as we know, when we’re consumed by the daily grind we have our eyes down versus up and out to what the Lord’s doing.
So we take kids away from their contexts. We bring them to an environment free of worry, free of violence, free of hunger, free of all the things that distract them from the voice of the living God inviting them into relationship with him. We share the gospel in word; we paint a picture of the gospel in the atmosphere of joy and celebration at camp. Then we return home. The leader who took kids to camp enters into the daily grind with kids and teaches them to see the same living God at home that captivated them at camp. And so a lifelong journey with Christ – one that started before we knew these kids – unfolds.
And if it doesn’t? I know many kids who go to camp, hear the good news, have the best week of their lives, but are not ready to follow Christ. What happens with those kids? The leader who took those kids to camp still enters into the daily grind with those kids, still points them to the living God, and loves them exactly for who they are and where they are.
This is the beauty of YL camp. It’s a touch point, a shared experience between leaders and kids, a time where God shows up, often a monumental time in kids’ lives. It provides a boost to the relationships between leaders and kids and sets the leader up for deeper and more fruitful interaction with kids.