If you are anything like me, then an overabundance of your childhood memories are linked with various assorted images of sweltering weeks spent at summer camp. Recollections of days consumed with crafting friendship bracelets and learning how to french braid, and nights that were dedicated to confessing the name of your camp crush to your entire cabin, and then allowing your newfound roommates to openly dream up your inevitable future with said crush. I was an avid summer camper as a kid. I went to church camp and 4-H camp and I even attended something called "fashion camp" for a week when I was 9 years old. (All I remember from that one was spending all of my money at Rue 21. Those were simpler times.) I am telling you all of this might not seem too important, but I just need you to understand that summer camp was my thing.
I knew summer camps like the back of my hand. If I could have been in college during my middle school days, I would have majored in summer camp. The strategy of camp was one of the things I knew best, and I took a lot of pride in that. So when I attended a Younglife camp for the first time, I was disappointed at how little I knew about the way that things worked. There was no siesta time in the middle of the day and we weren't given a warm peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a brown paper bag at lunch time. Our phones were taken away from us and we were encouraged to instead write letters to our friends and family back home in order to keep them updated on how our week was going. Campers weren't taught a dance to the song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" and instructed to recite it every day after breakfast. This Young Life camp had an enormous zip line and a store where you could buy any kind of milkshake and something that was called a "blob," and I was unfamiliar with all of it. I remember at the time feeling almost frustrated with the way that Young Life camp had differed from the norm of other summer camps, but looking back on it now, I realize how much beauty there is in that.
Young Life camps don't work to fit the mold of a traditional summer camp. The soul purpose of a Young Life camp is to provide campers with new and unfamiliar experiences that are life changing and geared toward turning their hearts to the knowledge of God's Word. Kids are shown the love of Christ with elaborate meals at a attentively and gracefully set table that evolves into the site of deep fellowship and intentional conversations with every big cookie that is eaten. They are reminded that they are the sons and daughters of the Most High God by having their luggage carried for them once they arrive onto the site of camp and settling into cabins that look as though they are fit for a king the moment they step foot inside of them. The spirits of campers are lifted with the robust laughter that results from carefully scripted and hilariously performed skits and their heads are loaded with stories that stress how much they are loved and cherished and worth dying for.
Walls are broken down and hearts are softened with the unique ways that Young Life Camps operate to delightfully display the profound affection that comes from Jesus. Separate Young Life camps all over the world are grounds of where thousands of people have laid down their lives at the feet of our Father and made the decision to walk with Him, and that in itself is so beautiful.
Young Life camps stray away from the solid pattern of most summer camps. Young Life camps are full of silliness and celebration and glee, but the presence of Christ can be felt with every shooting star and every heavy talk that is had during cabin time and with every single camper who leaves camp having learned something new about the intricate love that they have, and always will, receive from our most wonderful God.