We were all looking forward to a time when we could put the pain and sorrow of the previous year aside and begin the important ministry that only takes place at a summer camp.
2021 did not turn out the way we had anticipated. As a result of COVID‒19, our campers and staff brought a load of pain and sadness with them to Timber Ridge Camp. Despite these difficulties, God blessed our summer with many miracles. Our campers were able to meet old friends, make new ones, enjoy all the activities we have at camp and, most importantly, they hung out with our young adult staff who had been specially trained to represent Jesus.
Friday nights were the highlight of each week. Campers were invited to give their hearts to Jesus, become a member of Jesus’ family by baptism, or rededicate their lives to Jesus. Amid tears, hugs and joyful hearts, our campers ended the campfire by sending paper lanterns up to the sky, a joyful expression of the hope of Jesus’ soon coming to take us home with Him.
After our campers had gone home at the end of the summer, our staff gathered to debrief and share stories of the life changes that took place over the summer. As the stories were told, there were laughter and tears. Two different staff reported campers had approached them and asked if they would pray for them. They were amazed at the fact that, in a place where they were brought to minister to campers, the campers were ministering to them.
At the close of the meeting, a staff member began singing, “All Day Long I’ve Been with Jesus.” This is a song that we sing to close out every campfire. It is a benediction for a day spent enjoying all camp has to offer but, most importantly, a day spent knowing Jesus better. Instead of singing that song, the staff started the song: “All summer I’ve been with Jesus.” We all joined in singing together, and the words really hit home. With tears in our eyes, we all realized not only had Jesus used us to bless our campers, but He also had given us a double measure of blessings.
Pastor Charlie Thompson is the Youth director for the Indiana Conference.