The Cabin, The Colors, The Cross
By Kate Berkey - July 19, 2018
Our camps have a couple of really big goals—get away, allow God to change you, connect with others, and have a ton of fun. Over the last two months, we have seen these goals become more than just good ideas. See how they came to life at middle school camp.
He wasn’t excited about his cabin group.
A few days before camp, he found out who was going to be in his group, and it filled him with dread. A few of the guys were known to be bullies, and he wished someone else was stuck with them. Before he’d left for camp, though, his mom and dad had encouraged him to give his cabin group a chance. They told him that he didn’t know the guys’ stories. He didn’t know why they picked on others. Maybe they didn’t have a great relationship with their parents or maybe they were just really lonely but didn’t know how to make friends. No matter the reason, they encouraged him not to write off the group right away.
What he thought was going to be a bad experience changed after the first night. His leader split the group into pairs, and told them that they had one job to do—learn each other’s story. He was paired with the guy who picked on him the most, and at first, they sat across from each other awkwardly, stuttering through “ums” and “uhs.” But then his partner surprised him. Instead of giving shallow answers, he began to open up. He talked about how he wanted to have a deep relationship with Jesus, and he knew his friend group wasn’t the best. His partner told him that he really wanted to be kind and have a serious relationship with Jesus.
In that moment, the walls that divided these two middle school boys began to fall, because they realized they weren’t all that different. Both were trying to find their way. Deep down, both just wanted to belong and be loved. From that moment, a friendship formed where there was once anger and hurt, and this friendship became one of the most meaningful parts of camp for both boys.
The goal was simple: be the team with the least amount of paint on its flag. In the first round, kids took turns running into the center of the field to pick their weapons—powder paint, buckets of paint, ketchup bottles, and more. After all the items were taken, the chaos began. Kids ran across the field to other teams’ flags. A group of girls on one team held up shields trying to keep the paint off their flag while a group of boys squirted ketchup at them. Another team tried to charge a flag all at once, throwing powdered paint into the air.
The field, which was once empty and serene, filled with color. Blue and red and purple and yellow flew in the air. Kids became covered in buckets of paint, laughing and wiping it from their faces. Other kids inhaled the color, coughing as they tried to protect their once white flag.
In the end, it was the sixth grade girls who fought their way to victory. Not only did they protect their flag, but they came together to destroy the other teams.
Camps are a mixture of quiet moments alone with Jesus and moments spent laughing with others. Somedays the most meaningful moments are spent as a group, making memories while everyone does crazy things. That’s why things like paint wars exist: to create opportunities for kids to have a ton of fun together. It also exists so kids can throw paint at each other.
Her heart was racing. All night she was locked into the message. Pastor Gabe talked about what it looked like to be in Christ and on the cross with Him. And at the end of his message, the invitation was simple yet so difficult. He asked everyone if they truly wanted to know Christ and follow Him. If they were ready to follow Jesus, Gabe encouraged the students to pray with their leaders, write their name on a name tag, and put it on the wooden cross at the front of the room.
As she prayed, she heard a still small voice whisper, “I love you so much. Will you follow me?”
But it wasn’t that easy. It wasn’t just writing her name and putting it on the cross. It was a commitment. It was wholeheartedly choosing to follow Jesus.
Deep down, though, she knew she wanted to follow Him, so she wrote her name on a sticker and walked to the cross.
When she was just a few feet away, her legs stopped moving. She swallowed hard and thought about what it meant to surrender. She wondered if He, if Jesus, was worth it. She took a few more steps forward, reaching up to put her name on the cross, alongside so many other students’ names.
This time, though, her arm froze and then fell to her side.
Tears, big alligator tears, welled in her eyes and spilled onto her cheeks.
That still small voice whispered again, “I love you so much. Will you follow me?”
With tears zig zagging down her cheeks and hands shaking, she lifted her arm one more time and put her name on the splintered, wooded cross.
She wanted to follow Jesus.
Camp is more than just an experience. It’s an opportunity for kids to get away, allow God to change them, connect with others, and have a ton of fun. Every year, we have had the chance to watch God’s faithfulness at work. Thank you so much to those who prayed for our 6th-8th graders. It was amazing to watch God do so much more than we could ever ask or imagine.