After car-washes, rummage sales, flocking, and hounding everyone I knew for financial support, we finally made it to Younglife camp. I learned so much, and had the most amazing time building relationships with the high schoolers and fellow leaders. I would love to share some of my experience...
This year we went to Lost Canyon Younglife camp which is located in the high elevation of Williams, Arizona. After a 7 hour bus ride, we emerged from the trees and into an oasis which made the kids eyes go wide! We were greeted by music, summer staff cruising down the zip-line into the huge lake, people flying off the blob high into the air before splashing in the water, and two grown men dressed up like they were cowboys from the wild west. From the moment we stepped off the bus, we knew we were in for the week of a lifetime.
The list of our activities is a long one; there is rarely a still moment at camp, but none of us would have it any other way! On a regular basis there was the option to go on the zip line, launch off the blob, go down two different water slides, go on a 100 foot swing, rock climb, play Frisbee golf and other field games including soccer and football, play basketball (on the inside or outdoor court), cool off with an ice cream treat, create jewelry from what seemed like an endless supply of beads, and that’s just to name a few! We also had assigned days to go horseback riding, mountain biking, and make our way through a ropes course 70 feet in the air. The activities provided endless fun, as well has valuable life lessons as the girls accomplished things they never thought they could.
My cabin had 5 high school girls in it. The typical schedule for Younglife camp includes a camp speaker followed by what’s called “cabin-time”, or just a time to all get on the same level in your cabin, eat yummy snacks, and talk about what the speaker had just gone over. Usually, the first night is pretty surface level, progressively getting deeper and more vulnerable as the week goes on. However, in the case of our cabin, the girls opened up right off the bat on the first night, proving just how bad they needed someone to listen.
I have had a lot of experience with Younglife as I have grown up with it in Wilsonville…but let me tell you, leading in San Diego is a whole different ballpark than leading in the small suburb I was in. I was in awe as I sat and listened to how much each of these girls had gone through already in their lives. It brought me to tears listening to the hurt and pain that they had endured in their lives at only 16. Not one of them came from a family in which their parents were still married; one girl met her dad for the first time earlier in the year, and broke down talking about how poorly her time with him had gone and how unloved she felt. One girl didn’t have a home to go back to as they had just been evicted right before she left for camp. One girl wept as she described the horrible rumors that were flying around the school directed at her. One girl talked about how she felt more at home when she went to school than when she went to her house (and considering their school, that’s saying a lot). One girl confessed to having an abortion. I could go on and on about the painful confessions but needless to say, these girls needed this week away from home and all their pain and had definitely come to the right place.
As the week went on, we (me and the other leaders) continued to develop close relationships with these girls. The truth and the love of God were starting to penetrate into their hearts. The further into the week we got, the more questions they would ask. There was a longing desperately crying out from a void in their heart they had been living with this whole time. They were so curious about the bible and about Jesus and all the stories—it was amazing to watch their curiosity! There was one night when two of the girls stayed up until 4am reading the bible in the bathroom. They woke up excited the next morning to tell us about Abraham and what he did in the Old Testament. Their longing for the Lord was apparent, and by the end of the week, they were excited and eager to accept Christ into their hearts and start living a life for Him.
On the night of the last cabin time, we snuck off into the darkness of camp to a secluded area, the stars brighter than any of these city kids had ever seen. We sat in a circle and after repeating the words I provided them with, 4 of the 5 girls accepted Christ into their hearts to rule their lives. They confessed their sins and acknowledged that they believed He died and rose again three days later. After they each had their turn saying the pray themselves, I explained how all the multitudes of angels were having a party in their honor, welcoming them into the family! We all sat there and wept, overcome with the love that we felt surrounded by. It was by far, one of the most beautiful and powerful moments I have ever experienced.
The one girl that chose to wait a little longer to accept Christ into her life has a very large seed planted in her. She was given a bible, the first she ever owned, and has since been digging through it. We have been reading through Matthew together, and it is amazing being able to answer some questions for her.
I have been so humbled. Sometimes being called a “leader” gives off the impression that we will be doing the teaching. But over and over again I have found that I learn way more from the girls I lead than I ever expected. I went into camp with a lot of insecurities, and left feeling strong and empowered. I have been so blessed by this incredible opportunity that I had the honor of being a part of. How amazing and how BIG is our God, eh?!
Psalm 95:2—Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.