On Friday, as we pulled out of the church parking lot to take nine
students and two leaders to Hartland, I could never have foreseen
the change that would occur in this group by the time we drove back on Monday.
Hartland Christian Camp is located in Badger, CA, in Sequoia National Forest. As we pulled up to the front office at 7 PM on Friday night, I remembered that same moment a year ago when our destination was Hume Lake. There were several things weighing on my mind as I thought about this:
- For our students, Hartland had gigantic Hume-shaped shoes to fill. We loved the past few years at Hume and I knew that everyone was nervous about a new camp. On top of that, our guys group was split up into two cabins and we had other students join us from different groups.
- I had been extremely overwhelmed by the amount of deadlines and tasks and prayed this simple prayer to God in desperation our first night of camp: "God, I can't change these students. Please work in this group."
- Teenagers have a lot to deal with in this culture and Satan has been working hard to bring our students down.
This is one of my favorite songs from the weekend. It stuck with me because, as I wrote above, I had a lot of anxiety about this retreat. Yet God, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, showed up in a huge way in each of those areas.
First, even though our students were nervous about being in a cabin with other groups, the people we met became an extension of the Ignite family. They sat with us in chapel, ate meals with us, and hung out with us the entire weekend. We're already talking about planning a trip to see them again. Several of our students asked if we could go back to Hartland next year and said they wanted me to start looking at their summer camp opportunities.
Then, God did something indescribable. As the band played on Saturday night, the Spirit began to move throughout each person at the camp. He had been there the whole time, but that night, He moved in a powerful way. I saw students lifting their hands in worship to God. I saw God breaking down walls and embracing those who were resistant to Him. I saw God working in the students of Ignite. Later, many of our students spoke with Clark and I about how God had spoken to them about friendships, life-callings, and obedience.
This was remarkable, but nothing prepared me for what I would experience on Sunday night. As the guys in my cabin prepared for bed, we started having "pillow-talk" (yes, dudes participate in this, too). The conversation lasted until 2 AM as guys in my cabin shared deeply about their lives, struggles, decisions, and needs. They encouraged one another, formed plans to keep one another accountable, and marveled at what God was doing in them. This went on for 3 hours, during most of which I stayed silent and listened to these men step up and help one another and seek God's will for their lives and decisions. Similarly, the girls group (lead by an incredible lady from another church named Becky) was able to connect and grow and have an incredible experience with the living God.
On Monday before we left, our group (including some of the people we adopted
into our youth family) gathered and talked about the weekend and what God was doing and would continue to do. I will share with you what I shared with them:
When Paul and Silas were preaching in Thessalonica, the officials there became angry and searched for them. When talking about these two ordinary men, they said "...these men who have turned the world upside down..." (Acts 17:6). Two men turned the world upside down. I believe this generation of students has the potential to change the world; to break down walls and to be Jesus in a hurting world in need of His love; to be the instrument through which God grows His kingdom on earth.
I am amazed at what God is doing in the lives of our youth. I would like to ask you to participate as well. I humbly ask you to do two things:
- Pray for these students. They have committed to following Christ in every area of their lives. Satan does not want this to happen and will attack these students because he sees their potential, as well. Teenagers in our culture face incredibly difficult situations in life. Temptation abounds. Please pray for them.
- Pour into the lives of these students. Many of them are in desperate need of good role-models and mentors. If the Church rallies around these students and prays for them and encourages them, who knows what God could do through them. Paul and Silas could be simply a catalyst for something even greater in this generation of people.