Quite rarely…maybe just a handful of times in a life, one gets to be a part of something magical. Maybe it is a title run in sports, a vacation trip, or grand adventure. Even rarer in life are the times when a person gets to be a part of something supernatural. When those experiences occur, you should hold on to them forever.
Recently….I lived through such an experience. Last week, I got to experience God in a way that is indescribable. We had our annual trek up the Siskiyou Mountains to Southern Oregon Christian Camp. Everything was set in place. Teachers and speakers were lined up. Staffing issues were worked out. And finances were still miraculously rolling in like tumble weeds after a prairie storm. As I pulled up to the staff cabin the night before camp began, it looked like we were in for a great year, but nothing could have prepared us for the quiet storm that was brewing. No one could have explained how the Holy Spirit was about to descend on those volcanic badlands, and sweep through some 75 kids and 30 adults hearts, transforming us into one living, breathing, loving organism.
Sunday was good. We had some great worship, learning some new songs and heard the theme for the week laid out for us to begin pondering. The evening was mellow as we sang around a fire, shared a snack and actually drifted into dreamland at a reasonable time. I remember thinking that something felt good…maybe even better than usual.
Monday morning came like it always does. The sun in the early sky indicated that summer heat was going to hang in the mountains longer than we’d like. Breakfast was divine and the kids seemed eerily cheery…even for the 1st morning. As we made our way to morning devo time, there was a stirring in my soul. I wasn’t sure what it was. I could sense that things were different. The assembly was wonderful. The silly singing was enthusiastic, and the game was a blast. Don Walker brought a word of God that hit like a ton of bricks. EVERYONE was engaged and all in..and it was just the MORNING SPEAKER! Clearly…something was amiss. The day just kept going good. When was the coil going to break? When would the trouble that MUST be out there rear its ugly horned head?
As the evening began, I found myself walking in a peace that is hard to find as camp director. Even when camps go perfectly, there is this silent stress that hovers over your head as director like a wet fog. You are constantly guarded, just in case something should happen. You are always being called in several directions for EVERY decision from the biggest to the most mundane. So, while you may be fully enjoying yourself, you cannot fully commit, always aware that that fog could break into a rain and ruin what you are doing. But, this night, I found myself completely walking in sunshine. There was no fog! A peace that is indescribable had made its’ way into my soul and seemed to have a pretty tight grip. After dinner we witnessed the beauty of two loving and emotional fathers immerse their own kids into the grace and salvation of Jesus Christ. It was beautiful and real. Making our way back for evening worship, we were abuzz. My friend Terry brilliantly fused clips from The Matrix into a lesson about God’s love and dedication to us, and the purpose He provides for each of our lives. He ended with a personal and emotional object lesson that stirred every soul in the place. The stage was now set for EVERY speaker and teacher the week would see. The bar was set, and it was high. Miraculously, no one failed. If anything, they just kept raising it, concluding with Charlie's mind blowing lesson Friday evening that still has my brain shaking.
The rest of the enchanted week never disappointed. Even when trials came, and they did try, the peace never drifted away. Every speaker kept bringing fevered and inspired talks. The teens were opening up there souls, and emptying themselves at the camp fire like canteens spilling into desert sands. They were blowing us away by this point. We’ve always been blessed with ridiculously good kids. But this was different. There was love present amongst this motley crew. Not a teenage hormone laden love, and not just a kumbaya hokey, forced love. This was different. This was real. You could almost touch it. You could almost taste it. There were no cliques. There was no one on the fringes. Kids who fit in NOWHERE ELSE were 100% accepted, loved and made to feel like a best friend. We adults watched it quietly, jaws dropped open wide, with tears in our eyes and pride in our hearts. There was a power in the crowd that one could almost see if you squinted just right.
Midweek was the pinnacle. It manifested itself in an event that sounds simple enough on the surface. To the outsider simply reading about it, it will seem like another silly night in a summer camp. But to the priviledged few who experienced it……HEAVEN came to Box R Ranch for a few divine moments. After the campfire I drifted off to my secret sweet AT&T hot spot between a pine and a stump, hidden in the shadows of the cookhouse, for my nightly call to my wife to hear about her day and tell her I loved her before she drifted off in her lonely bed. I could hear singing in the cookhouse. It sounded as if Malcolm had been coaxed into serenading some lucky lady with his operatic vocal cords. After a few playful chords, he began to REALLY belt out and the back noise all quieted down. I made it back up just as his lips pushed out the last syllables of the final note, and the place erupted! For some reason, I got goose bumps. I felt something. I even shook a little. I remember “hearing” something in my heart telling me “watch what is about to take place”.
Suddenly the place began to chant a name…over and over. They wanted THEM to now sing! The individual turned red, blushed and shook their head, but after a few more seconds of coaxing sheepishly stood up. The crowd went wild, cheering and yelling out encouragements. So, feeling the love and support the young person began to belt out, and boy could they sing! When the song was finished the place literally exploded. I thought for one second that the green tin roof may fall off the place. A smile completely invaded the singers face and then spread to each collective face, and a new name was chanted to begin singing. This went on for well over an hour. It was incredibly beautiful. It was so pure and organic. Kids and adults alike were feeling a love and support that is NOT of this world! No one was afraid to sing, because they knew that everyone there loved and supported their efforts. We heard talent that could make American Idol jealous. Others of us just sang something goofy. A few brought tears to our weary eyes. Several had never even hinted they could sing, but broke their enslaving shyness and wowed us with a voice we never knew of. Kids with learning disabilities stood up with total confidence, throwing their hands in the air when finished. It was phenomenal. It was supernatural.
As the last cheers reluctantly gave way to a sleepy chatter, we sent the campers off to bed. A few of us adults stayed behind to try and make sense of what had just happened. We could barely put words to it. Our bodies were still covered in goosebumps (or maybe more accurately, what my friend Jonathan calls “God-bumps”). We mostly just laughed and smiled, because we knew we had just experienced something that very few have the privilege to ever feel. God was fully alive in that dusty old cookhouse. He was real. He was moving. And I got to be a part of it.
The rest of the week never once disappointed. The speakers kept touching our hearts. The games kept uniting. The campfires kept encouraging. The songs kept ringing. By weeks’ end there were 9 new children of God born again! Many more had recommitted and even more had taken a step closer to being the person God called them to be. We all took on the challenge of accepting the reality of Psalm 139 (our theme verse) as GOOD NEWS in order to free ourselves to be who God intends us to be.
I am privileged to have had the chance to lead this group. I had absolutely nothing to do with the miracles that took place. All credit goes to God. I am grateful to have played a bit part, and witnessed the whole thing. God truly is good……ALL THE TIME!