Praise God indeed!
As I sit down to write this recap on the past weekend’s youth camp ‘From the Ground Up’, all I can really say is, “Praise God.” Even as I search my heart for the right words to put down in describing everything that took place in the short time we had together, I find myself struggling. There is nothing I can say to paint the perfect picture of everything that God did. We experienced intimate encounters with the Holy Spirit, received unexpected revelations from the Father, and were blessed abundantly far more than we could have ever imagined. God not only answered our prayers, but also revealed the unlimited source of His power, love, and grace.
‘From the Ground Up’ was meant to firmly re-establish the youth’s identity in Christ. To reaffirm our position as His chosen people made holy through Christ’s love for us. Little did we expect that God would move in such a mighty way outside of our capabilities.
When I walked into the campsite, I was brought back to our last youth camp and what a big step up it was in comparison. ‘Tear Down the Walls’ was intimate. It helped the youth grow closer as a group. They built friendships, found family in one another, and for many of them they met God for the first time in camp. The challenge this time around was to tend to the youth’s budding relationship with Jesus. What did it mean to be a Christian? How does being a follower of Jesus affect my daily routine and world view? We wanted them to encounter the Lord in a more personal way. And when your heart is set on the youth making a personal connection with God, there’s something that needs to happen.
You need to surrender.
When it came down to helping the youth grow as a group, it was enough that we put all of them in a tiny campsite and let Jesus be the center. But if you want God to work one-on-one with each of them, there is very little you can do except to trust that God will move. It’s very hard to explain because a relationship with Jesus is very personal. But there is only so much we can do as leaders and mentors to help that connection along because at the end of the day it’s not about what we do or say to the youth, but what God whispers into the hidden and secret places of their hearts.
On the last night of camp, as per tradition, we held a bonfire where we encouraged the youth to share their testimonies. The first few minutes were slow and word was already going around that if the youth don’t step up, the mentors and leaders would have to. But something happened in the midst of the calm hum of the acoustic and the soothing worship. Before long, hands were slowly being raised to testify. First we heard from our new comers, then we watched as one by one, the youth we least expected to step up found courage to do so! As leaders, nothing brings tears on faster than the quietest person in the room going up and grabbing a microphone to declare God’s goodness in their lives! All we could really do in the moment was look up into the vastness of the dark night sky with teary eyes and sit in awe of God’s movement within the youth.
Looking back at the year that’s passed, I can only thank God for leading the youth to new grounds and deeper encounters with the Lord. Events like these are what remind me that when He chooses to move, there is revelation and change. To think that the youth started out so small and so discouraged, I can’t even begin to gather up the gratitude and praise that He deserves for what is one of the best experiences in my life.
This weekend the Lord taught me a lesson about expectations. Every year we set the bar and every year God sets it higher. He is reminding us not to limit Him, to push for the impossible, to ask for the unexpected! And each year He continuously delivers far more than we could have ever asked for. At the end of the day, we can only put our hope and trust in Christ. For the praise of His glory!