By Miriam Ankerbrand – Group Events Coordinator
Recently, I had lunch with a pastor and his wife who led a weekend retreat at Joy El, a Christian retreat center in pa. As we conversed, we talked about the highs and lows of their weekend. Pastor Ed* got really serious for a moment and said he wanted to tell me a story he felt was the biggest highlight of their weekend.
“One of the families that came to the retreat has an older son, Bruce,* that is constantly getting into trouble. He’s been caught selling drugs, stealing, carrying a firearm (when he’s not supposed to be). He’s been in and out of jail. His family told him that they were attending a retreat at Camp Joy El on the weekend. His response was negative. ‘I don’t want to go to a church thing,’ he said. ‘So, you’re going to just leave me here alone bored out of my mind?’ His family told him he had two choices, either stay at home and be “bored” or he could come along with them. ‘I told you, I don’t want any of that church stuff,’ he growled again. His family urged him to come along anyway, even if it was just to swim and do activities. They told him they wouldn’t force him to attend any of the sessions. Reluctantly, he agreed to go along.”
Pastor Ed continued to share. “We saw God move many hearts during the weekend to draw closer to Him. During our Sunday morning session, our speaker gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to receive Christ as their Savior to come forward. I was sitting in the front and turned to see if anyone was coming, as I was to help pray with those that came forward. That’s when something amazing happened!”
From the back of the room, Bruce came running up the aisle, tears streaming down his face. He fell down in front of the stage and wept. There were audible gasps from some of the congregation and many began to cry tears of joy! Pastor Ed went over to him and knelt beside him. The speaker of the morning didn’t understand why everyone was getting so emotional and quietly questioned Pastor Ed. It was Bruce who replied, “It’s because I’m a very bad man. I’m a gang member, and these people never thought I would ever become a Christian.”
That was over a month ago and Bruce has continued to come to church every week. He’s even attending Bible studies at the church. “Each week, we see a difference in him and the growth he’s experiencing as a new Christian. That one event while we were at Joy El made the whole retreat absolutely worthwhile! That’s why we came, to see God work in a way He had not done before! In Matthew 19:26, the Word says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” God has truly changed this man!” exclaimed Pastor Ed.
Many groups visit Joy El, a Christian retreat center in Pennsylvania every year. Each group comes with a plan for what they want to happen while they are here; this just one group’s story who visited our retreat center in PA recently. Some people leave feeling tired from all the activity and late nights. Others leave refreshed and renewed. Some leave having been changed forever!
*Names have been changed
Other Stories of Life-Change:
Joy El Camps and Retreats is a Christian Camp in PA, we offer Christian camps and retreats year-round in PA and we are a retreat center in Pennsylvania since 1974. Our focus on making disciples is seen in Bible Adventure and the 4.12 Leadership Training Program