“That’s My Spot” – Stories of Summer Camp Transformation
By Kate Berkey - March 15, 2018
Posted in Student Ministry, Children's Ministry, Summer Camps, High School Ministry, Middle School Ministry, Stories from NMC, Discipleship
Everything in the tent seemed to fade until it was just Jaden and Derry. Every so often, a soft breeze lifted off Lake Erie and travelled up the hill. Gently, it rustled the side of the big, white tent and brushed across Jaden’s body. Nothing, not even that cool breeze on the warm summer night could distract him from the story Derry told.
“We were getting ready to leave, and all of us had started to walk toward the vans. But we noticed that Austin was still standing over there,” Derry said, pointing to a chair near the middle of the tent.
Derry explained that Austin, a recent grad, was with a group of students at their senior retreat. They had come back to Beulah Beach, the location of Middle School and High School Camp. They’d spent the weekend reflecting on their time in Student Ministries and dreaming about the future, and it was on that trip that Austin shared his story.
“This is my spot,” Austin told the group.
Looking around, those with him couldn’t see a “spot.” The big, white tent wasn’t set up. There were no chairs on the ground. There was only grass and a cool breeze from Lake Erie.
“This is my spot,” Austin said again.
His spot—the spot he sat that night at summer camp. It was the spot he realized his deep need for a Savior. It was the spot he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way. It was spot he met with God for the first time. It was the spot he accepted Jesus as his Savior. That was his spot.
Jaden Miller felt a deep peace unlike anything he had ever experienced before. As Derry looked out into the crowd, their eyes met.
“Where is your spot?” Derry asked.
In that moment, Jaden knew exactly where his spot was. It was toward the back and off to the right in the big, white tent.
It was the very chair he sat in.
That moment at Middle School Camp wasn’t Jaden’s first church experience. He grew up in a Christian home and attended NMC. His parents always stressed the importance of going to church, of being part of a body of believers. They taught Jaden about Jesus, and through their lives, he saw glimpses of Christ’s love. Year after year, his parents talked him into going to camp. They knew it was an incredible opportunity for him to grow in his walk with Christ and connect with leaders and students, and every year, he didn’t understand why they pushed him so much—until he was in the seventh grade.
That year, the theme was “Collide,” and it was all about the collision of our lives with Christ. During one evening session, Jaden’s life collided deeply with a Savior who caught him with open, loving arms.
After that moment at camp, everything began to change. When Jaden came home, he no longer needed his parents to remind him of the importance of being plugged into the Body of Christ. He desired to be connected. He desired to grow with others and experience the deep familial atmosphere that is characteristic of summer camp.
That moment at camp wasn’t a decision made on a whim. It wasn’t the product of intense emotion or sleep deprivation. It was a decision that marked the start of a deep heart change.
Summer camp is a big deal at NMC. Over the years, God has given us many opportunities to hear stories like Jaden’s and Austin’s. As students step away from home, from the distractions of their phones and social media, from all the things that are pressing in on them, they often connect with God in ways they never have before.
We have seen students meet with God for the first time. We have seen students recommit their lives to Christ. We have seen students surrender their desires and dreams to the Lord and say “yes” to the things He lays before them. There is nothing magical about camp itself. There’s simply something remarkable about the way God uses summer camp to meet with students.
If your family doesn’t already prioritize summer camp, we would encourage you to check it out. In June and July we will have camps for kindergartners through seniors in high school. Each camp is tailored to the age group represented and is focused on helping kids get away, connect with God, connect with each other, and have a ton of fun. We recognize that not every child gets excited about camp, and our staff is committed to helping every student feel right at home. So, if your child is anxious about going, encourage him or her to step outside of his or her comfort zone and know that our staff and volunteers will do everything they can to make sure he or she has a great camp experience!
We also have special scholarships that are available to students. Kids can earn these by participating in work days that send them into the community to serve. As students complete work days, they are able to earn money that can be used for camp, and many would not be able to attend camp if not for these work days. These scholarships are made possible because of generous gifts given by those in the NMC family. If you would like to help send a kid like Jaden to camp, you can give toward this fund by designating your gift “Student Scholarships (Camp).” You can also give online here. Your gift just might help a student like Jaden connect with Jesus for the very first time.
When you ask Jaden, “Where is your spot?” he can tell you exactly where it is. It’s on a spot of grass on top of a hill by Lake Erie. It’s the spot he found Jesus.
Want to make sure your student gets signed up for a workday? Both KidMin and Student Ministries have a few work days in March and April. Click here to find the form for the specific work day your student can work. While you’re there, you can also sign up your student for camp.