Unlike several of my coworkers, I did not receive the Lord at camp. Yet, thinking back through my time attending summer camp as a student and leading camps for the past 30 years, most of the major spiritual decisions in my life happened in a camp context.
I can show you the exact spot in the conference room at Streator Baptist Camp where, as a church planter, I was overwhelmed and broken, and Gene Wilson (IBSA Executive Director at that time) placed his hands on me and basically said, “Let me take that burden from you.” I left that spot changed.
God still uses camps to change lives!
I attended several associational meetings last fall and noted that the most passionate ministry reports still revolve around the subject of camp. At IBSA, we are celebrating four years of double-digit growth in camp attendance. This past summer, 84 children and students made professions of faith. But for those still questioning the spiritual significance of these places, let me offer the following apologetic.
Camp is a place where we can “come away.” Jesus challenged his disciples in Mark 6, “Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.” His answer to the stresses of ministry was to go to a place where the ministry could be placed on hold while they rested and recovered. Camp is a place where people can come away from stresses so they can refocus, refuel, and restore.
Camp is a place where we can “come together.” Nothing seems to draw a group together more than spending time together in a retreat setting. This past fall, many of our churches participated in weekend retreats where they came together around God’s word and his mission. If your church seems splintered at the moment, consider using camp to get back on the same page.
Camp is a place where we can “come back.” Making a comeback seems to be more of a sports metaphor than a camp benefit, but many who participated in camp last year came home different. Many received Christ, others repented and rededicated, and those who were weak found strength to get back to the life that God had planned for them. Is a comeback in order? You might want to consider going to an IBSA camp.
So that’s my story. As a young church planter who was struggling to keep going, God used an IBSA camp to offer me the opportunity of coming away, coming together, and coming back to the mission that God had chosen for me. How about joining me this year at camp?
Mark Emerson is IBSA’s associate executive director.