When I was a boy transitioning into middle school, I remember being afraid of a few things. I wondered how I would find all my classes in the new classrooms. Could I get to the right class and get there on time to avoid looking stupid, walking into the wrong classroom? How would I handle what I was told would be the increased difficulty of school work?
These were important to me, but what most heavily weighed on my mind was, “How I would develop friends and find my place?” I don’t know that I ever answered that question, and I can’t think of any friends that lasted from those days or high school for that matter.
My young heart and mind were asking the question of community. Who will I have that I can talk to, to share life with, to grow with, and to rely on in hard times? I realize now that question is a question everyone continues to consider for their entire lives. For some, it’s a question that never seems to be answered. For me, that question was answered at camp. I’ve always been told that camp is a great place for community development. I’ve often wondered what that means and what that looks like. This year I realized what that means.
When young people come to serve at camp they step into an intimate environment. You live life together. You experience the mundane, the stressful, the joyful, seeing the Lord work, growing together and rely on each other. We share with each other, “not only the gospel of God but our lives as well because you have become so dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). You are given the opportunity to meet together every day to, “…encourage one another toward love and good deed…” (Heb 10:24-25). These bonding experiences are intense and I’ve never grown spiritually more than when with other people.
Little did I know that two years ago one recent high school grad who showed up to serve the summer at Joy El would become one of my dearest friends. I had the privilege of mentoring Justin that first summer in 2018. Justin went on to tell me later he didn’t want to come to camp to serve in the first place. BUT, as time went on, he developed a love for serving. And I developed a love for serving with him.
Now, after two summers of serving and a year of online mentoring he is one of my dear friends. He has become someone I can look to, challenge, and be challenged by. We have many fond memories together. These mentorships and friendships don’t end when summer ends. More often than not the relationships developed serving a summer at camp continue years beyond and sometimes for a lifetime. Camp is one of the ways God answers that question, “Who will I go to, share my life with, grow with and rely on in hard times?” Matthew 6:33
I invite you to consider attending Christian summer camp in Pennsylvania camp as a camper, or perhaps as a member of the 4.12 Leadership Training Program or serving as a summer camp counselor. Joy El is committed to life-to-life individual mentoring for everyone. The community is worth it!