Summer 2019 is finished, but the ongoing beauty of the finished work of Christ impacting lives continues. We are so happy to share with you some of those stories in this year’s “Summer Reflections.”
We ask the staff at the beginning of each summer to remember the special works of God in and through their lives so that at the end of the summer they could share with us the stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness that marked the summer for them. These “Summer Reflections” are the answer to the following question for each of these. When you think of what God did in or through your life this summer, what story comes to mind?
When I think about what marked the summer for me there are a couple of stories that come to mind, This sounds really general I know, but I loved getting to spend time with the adult church group leaders one morning each week in Bible Study. I have always enjoyed that time with those children’s ministry and youth ministry leaders, but this year it felt extra special every single camp week. There is a section in our “Summer Reflections” that adult church group leaders give their own reflections on the summer. The adult leader time was mentioned by many of them as having a big impact. We feel that recharging and refreshing the adult ministry leaders from the churches that bring kids to camp expands our ministry to their kids. In other words, blessing the leaders has an awesome positive ripple effect on their kiddos. Each morning of camp we have something special for the adults while the campers are in Bible study. On the first morning, time is spent with Chad Chapman at the ropes course (Chad is our ropes course designer and staff ropes course safety trainer). Chad is skilled in team building and he uses the ropes course as a great tool for both fun and for building community with staff and adult leaders. The camp speaker each week would have the next opportunity to meet with the adults followed by Nick Hall and then me on the last day. It was a refreshing time I really enjoyed with the leaders getting to “go to bat” for them last and encourage them by speaking to them grace and truth from God’s word. This year especially, the adults were excited about what the week provided for them in their walk with the Lord.
The other story I would like to tell you also marked my summer in a very specific way. Mission Camp Macon, as you may know, is unlike any of our other camps during the summer. The campers that come to serve that week are not actually called “campers” but rather they are called “Student Missionaries.” These precious high school and college age students join our staff in our day camp outreach to the children and youth of Noxubee County. To come as a Student Missionary to Mission Camp Macon, the young person must have a heart for missions, submit their salvation testimony, and also must have ministry references. In light of those requirements, what I am about to share was unexpected. One night during Pow Wow (worship service) with our Student Missionaries, one of the Student Missionaries came up to me in the back of Lakeview and said, “I want to be saved … right now!” The urgency that I saw in his eyes and that I heard in his voice let me know that he was really serious. I invited this young man to go outside with me and I asked him to tell me his story. He told me about a tragic life of brokenness and pain, and how he had been hindered from salvation because he was so mad at God for all that had happened to him, and then he followed up with an urgency to not put off his salvation any longer. He was ready! So, I explained the gospel to him to make sure he was clear about it, and I led him in a simple prayer of faith to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior and eternal life giver. At the end of the week I found out that two other Student Missionaries had also trusted in Christ for salvation and eternal life during the week. It seems that the gospel becomes more real to these youth when they see it lived out so wonderfully by other young people. For some Student Missionaries pretty much every year it becomes real for the first time. The Good News of the finished work of Christ is more than repeating a prayer, carrying a Bible, and going to church; it is a message that transforms from the inside out!
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A Note from Nick Hall
Stefanie and I pray every year for opportunities to invest deeply in the lives of our summer staff. We want to encourage them, teach them, and love them well as we’re working together toward our common mission of sharing the Gospel of Jesus with campers.
This summer was rich with those kinds of relationships. They are measured by “porch time”, cups of coffee, dragging extra chairs into our living room to make a place for everyone, inside jokes, and heartfelt hand-on-a-shoulder prayers.
It was a gift to dwell on the finished work of Christ (Tetelestai) for 3 months and to rest in the truth of the Gospel. Campers heard it each week, but our staff experienced it, taught it, walked in it, struggled with it, and rejoiced in it every day. That’s the power of camp; that our young staff are immersed in the Gospel message for weeks and then put into scenarios where they must trust it. What a gift to experience that with them and walk with them through it.
The power of camp is also in the fact that often what happens here marks people’s lives forever. In Romans chapter 15, Paul is telling his readers that he longs to “preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named….but as it is written, ‘those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand’” (15:20-21). Paul wants to share the Gospel of Jesus with people who have never heard it, because he believes that IF they hear it many will believe it. He trusts the power of the Gospel to save! We must believe that every summer, many campers will hear the Gospel and be saved because it is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). We must also believe that summer staff will experience the Gospel of Jesus in fresh ways and be changed forever.
I’ve heard many stories over the past 6 years from former campers who remember the exact location, bench, rocking chair, or stump where they first trusted Jesus. I’ve heard stories from former staff who remember exact locations where the Father gave clear direction in their lives. This only happens because every inch of this place is dedicated to the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus and the people who serve here or give to this ministry are committed to the message of grace found in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the Cross. Marker moments that ripple throughout eternity. Family trees that are changed forever. That’s the power of camp.
“Tetelestai” was our summer message for 2019. Jesus’ words translated, “It is finished” were experienced in a simple and yet powerful way by our campers and adult leaders. Many of the Summer Reflections that you will read from our staff will make reference to this LFR after Dark experience. We want you to have the rest of the story on this beautiful camp event.
An important part of the meaning of “tetelestai” was clarified by a series of stations that each of the campers and adults got to personally experience outside in the dark with only tiki lights. The impact of the good news of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ was first introduced by sharing some of the weight of the bad news. This was presented in four stations. The basic message - we have all sinned and we all fall short of the glory of God; AND the wages of sin is death! (Rom. 3:23 & Rom. 6:23) In two of the stations, by attempting two impossible tasks and falling short or missing the mark of the target, our campers felt the impact of this simple “bad news” message. At the “personal reflection station” each camper sat in front of a mirror with words reflected back to them; as they saw in the mirror a reflection of themselves they also saw reflected back at them words like broken, defeated, dead, unforgiven, empty, and lost. The campers were offered a piece of cloth to try to erase the words, but they were unable to erase them because the words were written with permanent ink. They were then reminded that we cannot erase these identity words by ourselves. We need help. At another station the campers were given a piece of paper and a marker and they were asked to write their name on the top of the paper. Then they were asked three simple questions: 1. Have you lived perfectly sinless in the past? 2. Have you lived perfectly sinless today? 3. Will you live your life without any sin in the days to come? Of course the answer to these questions was “NO!” As the campers walked away from each station they saw the words before them, “You fell short, you fall short, and you will fall short.” (Side note – for the first several camps of the summer the questions were asked differently to the campers, “Have you ever sinned?, etc.” So their answers were YES. We changed the question later to “Have you lived a perfect life without sin?” so their answers would be NO)
At the fifth station, the Gospel was shared. With a large cross standing in front of them and the words on the cross “It is Finished”, each camper was given the opportunity to hear about God’s solution to our sin problem. Jesus! “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He taken our sins from us.” Jesus paid the full debt of all our sins when He died in our place on the cross. Tetelestai = paid in full! And not only did Jesus take our “NO” upon Himself, but He gave us His “YES.” Jesus never once fell short of the glory of God. He always did exactly what the Father wanted Him to do. He never sinned so He was the only one worthy to pay for our sins. He took our sin and in exchange He gave us His perfect righteousness! (2 Cor. 5:21) Jesus gave us His YES. At this point, each camper was given the opportunity to take the piece of paper with their NO, NO, NO written on it and to throw it into the fire.
After that, the campers followed their counselor and the counselor’s ministry partner to the final station where each cabin group sat on a pallet. Then, while the group talked with the counselor’s ministry partner about the five stations already experienced, one at a time, the campers moved a few yards away under a tiki lamp with their counselor to talk about what just happened and to bring an important message to each camper. At the last station the counselor showed each camper another mirror with these words, “forgiven, alive, complete, new creation, set free, loved, in Christ.” It was explained that, just as the words on the first mirror were permanent, these words are permanent too. Jesus erases the other words and replaces them with these true identity words for anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
Here are a few comments about LFR after Dark from adult church group leaders from the summer:
County Line Baptist Church • Union, MS
The LFR after Dark was an awesome blessing and very spiritual.
Spring Hill Baptist Church • Mobile, AL
Lately God has really been growing in me an awareness of what a battle we’re in for the hearts of children. Personally, when I am preparing for a program / event / lesson where children will have the opportunity to be greatly impacted by God’s truths, I’ve learned to anticipate/prepare for the spiritual attack that will come, the plans that will be thwarted, the discouragement that will descend on me like a cloak. I felt that battle in the storm that blew in last night at LFR after Dark. The enemy did NOT want those precious children to experience God or His truths last night…and the battle was felt in the wind, the raging fire…but God did not give the enemy the victory. He had power over the storm and what could have been. Be encouraged LFR. The enemy strikes hardest where he most expects victories in God’s name. You are touching the hearts of children here and pointing them to the Savior and His gift of salvation. Thank you for your commitment to sharing God’s love with children.
Spring Hill Baptist Church • Mobile, AL
As I walked through the stations at LFR after Dark, I was impressed with how my son’s counselor encouraged the boys to pray before entering each one. These 11-12 year old boys locked arms and prayed together, each taking a turn, that they would be open to hear God’s message. My son, who has speech issues, prayed out loud with his group. It brought me to tears knowing that he felt comfortable enough to share his thoughts with his peers. I am so thankful that his counselor encouraged him and loved him enough to make him feel comfortable enough to be bold among his peers. What a confidence boost for him! Thank you, thank you, thank you to his counselor, Ryan.
Memorial Baptist Church • Richton, MS
The entire week was great! One of the things that really stood out to me this week was LFR after Dark. The presentation of the Gospel was incredibly clear and well done. I love how the students got to not only hear about the finished work of Christ, but they got to experience it throughout the stations. It was very powerful and well done.
This simple message when experienced had a powerful effect all summer long on
young lives at Lake Forest Ranch. And now you know “the rest of the story.” Tetelestai!
New Creation Report
For summer 2019, as campers came to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “It is finished,” many of them came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The finished work of Christ is the simple message of the gospel of our salvation. It was a beautiful honor for us to be able to be a part of 181 campers this summer coming to an understanding of “tetelestai” and then placing their faith in Jesus Christ for the first time for forgiveness and new creation life. When the message of the gospel is made clear, no coercion or manipulation is needed (it would be a terrible mistake to manipulate anyway), but the message is so wonderful that it often makes an eternal impact when it is clearly shared. Many prayers were answered this summer concerning the salvation of campers. These Summer Reflections will tell you several of those inspiring stories.
As we begin to prepare for summer 2020 the idea of being people of clear spiritual vision is the direction that we want to go for our theme. Physically speaking, 2020 vision is normal vision and it represents seeing, not perfectly, but everything that we should be able to see from 20 feet away. The Bible tells us that we see now only as in a “glass dimly” but then we will be able to see Him face to face. When a person comes to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, spiritual blindness is replaced with the ability to see awesome things. We only see dimly now, but the best is yet to come! Pray with us that summer 2020 will be characterized by what Paul prayed in Ephesians1:18 “that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Spiritually, 2020 vision is available! Let’s ask God for the grace to see more!