Joanne LaBuda, Josh Hillyer, Camp Hand and I had the great joy of accompanying nine of our Embrace Youth Group students to Generate Camp at Lookout Mountain, Georgia, July 17 - July 21, 2017. There were about 800 other students at the camp, ranging in age from sixth to twelfth grade. We stayed on the beautiful campus of Covenant College, which literally “looks out” over Chattanooga, Tennessee.
From seeing God’s majesty as we drove up the winding mountain roads to seeing it shine through the faces of the youth in worship, the entire trip was full of evidence that God changes everything; that in Him, all things are being made new. It’s only fitting that our theme verse for the week was 2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, a new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (NIV).
Yet another breathtaking example came early the next morning, as Joanne and I walked outside at just the right second to see the tip-top of a sunrise that was the most vibrant neon pinkish orange that we had ever seen. That, combined with the cool mountain air, we knew it would be a good first day of camp.
And it was. Just as He transformed the dark into light with that sunrise, our ever-present God was moving and shaping and transforming our lives right there on that mountain.
That night Sam Bhatt, our incredible speaker for the week, gave a step-by-step account of the crucifixion, making it so physical and real. For many of us Jesus did become real that night. He went from being “pocket Jesus,” as Sam put it, to being a living Savior who endured something that no one else would in order to save us. At the end of the night, Sam asked if anyone wanted to stand up and proclaim that they believed this truth. Three of our Embrace students stood up for the first time and the other six rededicated their lives in their own ways. In the words of one of the girls, “When Sam asked us that question, I took it as an invitation to get to know a friend better.” YES! What a profound yet simple way of thinking about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He IS our friend and we DO need to spend our lives getting to know Him better.
It was a good first full day of camp, indeed.
The next night at worship I was able to sit at the end of the row (a place I really love to be). I looked down the row at the youth group, and it was a sight I will never forget. The worship leader was singing “You Make Me Brave”. As I looked at the young hearts belting out those words with such sincerity, their arms raised and outstretched in surrender, tears streamed down my face. At that moment, I prayed that they would be brave - at their schools, in their homes, in our church and in our community. And that’s part of what it looks like when we’re made new by Him. We are made new, our heart of stone is transformed into a heart of flesh, and we are changed; because, as we heard time and time again that week, This Changes Everything.
Camp was full of good memories, and here are just a few of my favorites:
-Playing water games on the college’s intramural field, where we all got soaked by water guns, collected marbles with our toes from kiddie pools, squirmed down a muddy tarp like a worm and ended with a messy match of tug-of-war.
-Our Youth Minister Josh Hillyer being asked to lead a prayer and short devotion on stage at the main worship gathering.
-The girls playing late night games of Uno, singing every word of Hamilton and choreographing synchronized swimming routines.
-Camp’s epic mustache and plethora of Hawaiian shirts.
-Killing it in one of those big bubble suits - let’s be honest, I would never pummel anyone in real life, but it was really fun to do so while inside a big bubble suit.
-Our Starbucks run; the crowd favorite was a Grande Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino. Sorry parents.
-Seeing Clay and Benjamin finish the very early, very hilly Generate Camp 5K Run.
-Giving and receiving hand-written scriptures - Sam challenged us to write down a verse and give it to a fellow camper that we did not know.
-And finally, sharing a bunk bed with Joanne was pretty great.
Blog post written by Kathy Myles