By Miriam Ankerbrand – Group Events Coordinator
*Matthew came to his first week of Christian camps for the summer! At the closing program, he was chosen to give his testimony because it was a powerful one.
“I’ve been coming to this camp since I was 6 years old. I love it here! Everyone is kind and loving. The speakers are awesome and the activities are a lot of fun! When I first came to Camp Joy El, I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. But that first summer, I gave my life to Him. Each year I look forward to coming back to be refreshed and encouraged in my faith. I have learned the importance of reading my Bible, learning scripture and praying. This year, I made a commitment to pray more and trust God in all things.”
I was excited to hear Matthew speaking on stage to his peers and the parents that had gathered. As the Angel Tree Coordinator, I look at Matthew as “one of my boys.” I was so proud of him as he stood there and spoke about what God was doing in his life. What he shared next shocked and concerned me.
“Recently, my family lost our home and my dad lost his job. We’re currently living in a homeless shelter. But even there, God is with me. It’s a struggle, but I know God will get me through this time,” he shared.
I couldn’t believe it! Just a few weeks earlier talking with his mom, things were going well and she was giving to the Campership fund.
As I left the program that evening, I was crying. I felt so bad for Matthew and his mom. But then, I saw her. She and I had never met face to face, but I knew it was her. In the back of the Worship Center, several women were gathered around a crying woman, laying hands on her and praying. Not wanting to disturb them, I slipped out, but decided I would call her the following week.
I forgot to call her. The week had been busy and it just slipped my mind.
One day, I was asked to help answer the phone. About mid-morning the phone rang. “Hi, I’m just confirming that Matthew will be coming to camp next week. I received a call asking if he was still coming and he is.”
I quickly realized that it was Matthew’s mom! Excitedly, I shared about hearing Matthew’s testimony at his first week of camp and how powerful it was. I told her I had meant to call her last week, but time slipped by and I hadn’t gotten to. “God worked that out didn’t he?” she chuckled.
I asked if there was anything she needed or if there was any way I could help them. She replied, “We’re doing okay. I’m working hard to save some money so we can rent a place and get out of the shelter. My husband lost his job and we couldn’t keep up with the house payments. He’s looking for work. Please pray he finds something soon.”
We chatted about Matthew’s week of camp. “I’m so glad I signed him up for that second week,” she said. “It will get him away from the shelter and the stress of being here. Praise God he’s been so resilient through this time. He just keeps a positive attitude and keeps saying, ‘God will take care of us.’ I know He will. I love that Matthew has friends there at camp and has a community of believers to help lift him up! I don’t know why we have to go through trials like this when we follow Him, but He has a reason behind it. Please just keep us in your prayers.”
I asked if we could pray together again before I hung up the phone. “Please do!” she cried. Once again we prayed together and she thanked me for the work that Joy El is doing for Matthew and others like him. And I thanked her for being faithful to the Lord through this trial and setting an example for others, even me.
We don’t always know the circumstances our campers are coming from. Each one is unique. Camp is place where everyone can be equal. I’ve been blessed to learn to know this family and to see the community of camp reach out to them.
- Mother -Daughter Retreats
- Momentum Retreats (Middle and High School)
- Men’s Retreats
- Bible Adventure Retreats – Fall (2-6th Grade)
Joy El Camps and Retreats, is a Christian camps in PA, we offer Christian camps and retreats in PA and we are a retreats centers in PA since 1974. Our focus on making disciples is seen in Bible Adventure and the 4.12 Leadership Training Program