Lake Ann Camp may be needed more today than in any year of its 70-year existence. That is a strong statement, but it was underscored this week when we received word that a young person, who has come to Lake Ann before, took their own life. In our summer ministry, our counselors are encouraging and propping up campers who are facing anxiety, fear of the future and the inability to see a favorable future. Biblical hope, as Ken Rudolph likes to describe it, is a favorable expectation of the future. Without it, one feels stuck and paralyzed.
Where does Lake Ann Camp come into this picture? We like to describe a week of camp as a “constructive disruption” of one’s life. By that, we mean campers come to the camp and their entire routine is disrupted but in a constructive way. They are sleeping in an unfamiliar cabin, living with a new group of people and doing activities that stretch their comfort zones. These kinds of experiences have a tendency to put people on heightened alert and they tend to open their senses up to things that they may avoid in the normal routines of life. That heightened awareness also leaves them open to growth.
I was interviewing a prospective counselor this morning and her experience can add some light to this subject. When I asked her about the purpose of a camp like ours, her first response was that Lake Ann Camp reflects the light of Christ to its campers. She went on to say that it brings change and joy to the campers who attend. I was curious about the joy comment and asked her to share more. She shared how her grandparents knew she was in a dark place and a very dysfunctional home, so they flew her to Michigan to attend Lake Ann Camp each summer. It was here that she found Christ as her Savior.
Her experience went something like this:
- You arrive and you find excited people all around you.
- There are so many fun things you get to do as a camper.
- You meet people you have never met before and they soon become your friends (notice how her words went from impersonal to very personal).
- I learned at camp that my Heavenly Father has always been there for me even when I was in the darkest places.
- I learned that my Heavenly Father has a purpose for my life.
- I learned what morality was because I had no bearing on that from home.
- I found clarity for my life.
- I learned that the Holy Spirit was always there for me even when I went home.
It is not just a cliché to say that the Christian life can be “life at its best”. Christ Himself said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). The New Living Translation puts it like this: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life”. This is certainly not a prosperity gospel, but rather the realization that life has a purpose. Furthermore, a life surrendered to God will provide answers even in the darkest days.
At Lake Ann Camp you can be assured that every camper will have a one-on-one conversation with their counselor. In that conversation, counselors will ask the camper about their salvation decision, if they are baptized, involved at church, and the spiritual disciplines they are actively pursuing. Beyond that discussion, campers will open up about how life is going for them and in those moments, God often shows up big. Even at retreats, our instruction to youth sponsors and youth pastors is to ask their students “the question that begs asking”. We encourage deep and meaningful conversations that get to the core of fears, anxieties, and issues of the heart. This generation is very open to talking, even about the sins and hurts in their life, and that is an open door to health and healing!
We all need a constructive disruption in our daily routines. It might be good to think through your schedule and plan on attending a retreat yourself. Who knows, maybe God will open your heart to areas of growth that will reinvigorate “life at its best” for you as well! Beyond yourself, know that when you recruit a camper to attend a retreat or summer camp, you just may be the instrument in God’s hand that changes their life for now and eternity!