Last week, our church and a wide-ranging camp community said goodbye to Overnight Camp. A decades-long ministry that bore sweet and plentiful fruit in the lives of many.
Church, I cried during our last morning worship watching kids aged baby to teens singing and dancing about God’s goodness and faithfulness. We were all smudged with dirt or still wet from polar bear dip swims. We were all terribly sleepy from the long days of activity and sunshine. We were all moved by God’s Spirit to worship him and give him the glory for an incredible week, for an incredible legacy, of overnight camp.
It was my hard job to help our campers and staff say goodbye to overnight camp, a job for which I am nonetheless deeply grateful and will always feel was a high privilege. I am filled with gratitude because God met us in profound ways as we ended this ministry, and I think some lessons and truths can only be learned when we participate in something ending. The timeless wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: ... a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance", echoed through camp. I discovered in our collective sorrow a gentle whisper from God saying “trust me in what comes next.”
On Tuesday we taught a Bible study about faith, inviting campers to explore what faith means, to apply in their everyday lives the definition Paul gives us in Hebrews 11: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
On the last day of camp, Saturday, all the leaders and campers had an opportunity to practice faith, to ask God for a greater gift of faith, as we have to trust his promises and hope for good things even as this good thing—overnight camp—is over.
I remembered that God does not shortchange anyone, his promises for our thriving and our belovedness are not dependent on earthly programs (although God delights in and works through them all the time!) His promises are eternal and enduring, his Spirit is with us even when our friends or family are not.
There is also hope in “fallow fields.” There is no dry ground in ending Overnight, just rich soil resting while we discern what God asks us to plant next. We are listening for his “still small voice” as I was reminded when our new worship pastor, Kristen Westwood, came up to camp for a few days and taught us a new song with those words.
"Not a shout, or loud and banging timpanis
But a still small voice
You can run or even just ignore the plea
Of the still small voice
The Spirit calls
He wants to change your heart
So listen to the still small voice"