I just returned from a week at the Blue Horizon Camp in Panama City Beach, Florida with the youth from my church. This was my third year in a row to attend camp and every year it seems I do just a bit more in the preparation. This year I was responsible for the daily "seminars". The seminars are designed to be practical information sessions that students attend in the time opposite their daily Bible Study time. I was also involved in their special drama event on Wednesday night (a special time of focus on the camp theme designed to bring the point of the camp directly into self-reflective focus). I brought my professional self as well and both formally at decision time and informally at other times I was the "camp counselor". Other than that, I helped with other aspects of camp as needed and stayed in the cabin with the students who just finished their Freshman year in high school.
Once again, I was blown away by several things about our students. The first was how incredibly well-behaved our students are. Even on the nights my cabin had difficulty settling down I was very aware of what I was not worried about in their conduct. I was also incredibly impressed this year with the openness and honesty in the sharing of the students. As is usual, the more students shared, the more open others became. The students reached out to one another, prayed for one another, and supported one another. There was a sense of bonding and caring within the group that was tangible. This was also demonstrated in the way that the students supported and responded to each other during the annual talent or variety show (some of those performing were less on the talent side and more on the creative/humorous skit side.)
As the week went on it became more and more apparent that the students were growing closer to one another and and God. As the Camp Pastor preached on forgiveness and keeping relationships right as a tangible way of expressing God's love, the kids seemed to be greatly affected. Some kids called home to apologize to their parents and begin working on relationship with them, while others sought out friends for hugs and apologies. I was moved to tears more than once watching these interactions.
This camp had a special significance for me having just had the reunion of my own youth group. (See separate post) During the week I had the chance to talk to Joe Morrell, the music minister at my church during my youth group days. I told him that I was trying to pass on the next generation what he had given me as a youth. I really have that sense as I have the chance to interact with the kids. At times I have to remember that I am a grown up and they are youth because I love to laugh with them, I learn from them, and I appreciate them as friends. However, I have many years of living on them and I try to share with them things I have learned that I hope will help them. I had a few youth tell me that they appreciated what I shared and it felt good to think that I might be able to help them as they continue to grow and develop. It is a blessing to feel used by God. I sometimes feel I am getting away with something because while camp is for the benefit of the kids, I come away feeling blessed every year. I am already ready to go again! I am so pleased my girls tolerate my being at camp with them. They are a blessing to me as well.