Like so many of my friends, I grew up attending church camp every summer. While most of my friends are Round Lake alumni, I grew up Wesleyan, so I went to a family camp called Camp Sychar. It’s a completely different dynamic, but still life changing. And one of the great things about it is that everyone comes back year after year, no matter their age, to fellowship and grow together for 10 days. It’s incredibly special to me.
The summer of 1997, at Camp Sychar, I decided to give my life to Christ completely. And it came at just the right time, as I watched my family disintegrate over the next two years. When my life fell apart, I clung to Christ, and managed to come out of the horrors of the next few years intact, and even managed to bring my siblings with me. God is so good! I shudder to think what would have happened without his intervention.
As you can imagine, Sychar became my favorite place and time in the world. There was a time when I would rather be there than anywhere else, surrounded by my camp family, recharging for 10 days without the stress of life that was awaiting me back home.
I dreaded the thought of returning to everyday life. I knew the hurdles that were ahead of me and just the thought of facing them was exhausting.
It’s easy to get back to real life and just wish that you were back at camp. Things are so much easier there. And it’s easy to collapse under the tidal wave of it all. To give up. To go to bed at night disappointed, broken and wishing for the summer when you’re sleeping in a smelly bunk and sweating through the night.
But here the thing, that smelly bunk doesn’t hold salvation. There’s nothing special about the altar where I dedicated my life to Christ. It’s just a piece of wood.
I didn’t always think that way. I don’t know, maybe it has to do with so many people telling me that those grounds are sacred, they are holy. It made me think that all I had to do was go there and I could be recharged. The thought of missing camp was unfathomable. To me, God was there, at some campground in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
The first year I missed camp, I learned an incredible lesson. God isn’t there. Believe it or not, He does not reside in Mount Vernon. I know, shocker. It’s something I always knew in my head, but it was more difficult to learn it with my heart.
I saw my little brother say something similar a few weeks ago on facebook. And over the past two weeks as camp was unfolding, I saw many more similar posts. But at the end of the day, there is nothing special about that place. It's not the place, it's the person we encountered, who is special.
Yes, camp is special. The decisions we make there change us forever. But God doesn’t stay there. He goes with us. If the earth swallowed up Camp Sychar or Round Lake or any of the other life changing Christian campgrounds, we would still serve an awesome God. Nothing about our relationship would change. If I never set foot at Sychar again, my faith will remain steady and true. God will not lessen in power. The ability to “recharge” is always available to us.
God promised to never leave us or forsake us. We are his bride. He is committed to us, through good and bad, with or without Camp Sychar, with the whole world on our side and standing completely alone.
I pray that I continue to learn this in my heart. I pray that others are reminded of this. I pray that I pass this truth on to my children, that they may never doubt God’s presence in their lives.
Well, there’s my two cents. I guess I’ll just leave you with this.
Good night, our God is watching o’er you.
Good night, His mercies go before you.
Good night, and we’ll be praying for you.
So good night, may God bless you.