Over the last few months, Christ has given us the opportunity at Joy El to be part of a great amount of life-change. What a joy for this Pennsylvania Christian camp to be used by God in such a powerful way! One of the greatest opportunities that I had this summer was working with a student named Tyler.
During the third week of camp, the Lord blessed us with over 130 middle school-aged campers, who were given the opportunity to experience Christ on a personal level. Throughout the week I regularly talked with many of the counselors about how they saw the Lord providing for and encouraging them. I also asked about which campers we could be praying for. One of the counselors, Joshua*, began to tell me about a specific camper with whom he had been having a lot of difficulties during the week. This camper, Tyler*, had been homesick throughout the beginning of the week and was starting to have doubts as to whether or not he should be at camp.
Hearing of this, I decided to stop by and visit the cabin during one of their activity times. This led to having a conversation with Tyler. As I sat down and began talking with Tyler I realized that I had been his counselor nearly five years ago and that we had a lot of catching up to do.
At one point I asked him about how his relationship with the Lord had been over the last few years. Tyler’s response indicated that he had a lot going on in life.
I also asked what was causing the homesickness and if there was anything we could do to help. Tyler began to explain some hesitations toward being at camp throughout the week. I learned that Tyler wasn’t homesick because he wasn’t having a good time at camp. Tyler wanted to go home because he had concerns for his friends and family while he was away from them and enjoying himself at camp.
As we talked more, I found that there were a lot of situations going on at home and in school that were causing Tyler to take on a tremendous amount of stress and responsibility–especially for a young man just starting high school! I asked Tyler if he had anyone at home or at church who had been pouring into him or helping him through the difficult situation that he had been facing. Unfortunately, his answer was no. I tried to continue talking through his life and relationship with Christ, but the more we talked the more closed off he became.
After the conversation I sat down with his counselor Josh and we decided that the best course of action was to pray over Tyler and to ask the Lord for the words to say to help this young man through a difficult time. As the week continued, Josh and I continued talking with Tyler, but also our speaker for the week started regularly interacting with Tyler. However, each time we had these intentional conversations, we felt that something was missing.
It wasn’t until Thursday night when Josh and I were trying to corral a large group of campers off to their next activity that Josh’s junior counselor came up to us and told us that Tyler was in his cabin and not feeling well. We decided to send the campers off to their activity with Josh’s junior counselor and another counselor and we would check on Tyler together. As we entered the cabin, both of us were quite surprised because Tyler was not lying on his bed like most sick campers would be. He was sitting on his floor with a Bible in his hand.
Josh immediately asked Tyler what passage he was reading and Tyler responded that nearly five years earlier he had decided to start reading the entire New Testament, but after a month or so he had put his Bible down and hadn’t thought much of it since. However, during that week of camp he had felt a need to start reading again. He began to explain how he wanted to finish the New Testament and he wanted to change his situation at home. Over the next 24 hours, Tyler and Josh had a number of great conversations and it was truly amazing to see the joy that a once homesick camper now had because of the hope of Christ that he had found in God’s Word.
*Names have been changed. Photo does not portray the people in this story.