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Camp values have profoundly influenced Joy Williams’s music ministry

by Natalee Roth

“I love camp so much,” says Christian recording artist Joy Williams. “You can have a great time—fun with your family, fun with your friends—but at the end of the day, it’s not all just fun and games. There’s something deeper that’s offered.”

Joy, 22, entered the Christian music scene five years ago and recently released her third album, Genesis. While she’s moved on from her childhood home at Mount Hermon, a Christian camp and conference center in California (where her father, Roger, is director), the momentous experience of watching families, couples, and groups connect with God and each other has followed her to the stage.

Lasting Impression
Joy remembers surfing on the weekends, walking down wood-chip trails to her camp job—teaching at the high ropes course—and watching her parents invest in the lives of countless campers and guests.

“My dad and my mom love people genuinely and want to serve and invest in people in a way that may leave a legacy,” she says.

Joy’s parents, Roger and Rachel, have served in Christian camping for 24 years.

“My dad hardly ever gets as excited as he does when he talks about somebody who just came to accept the Lord that day,” she says. She remembers hearing her father enthusiastically recounting to her family stories of couples reuniting through marriage conferences at Mount Hermon and of other life-changing decisions. “Things like that are the stuff that makes life really rich to my parents, which made [growing up at camp] a really rich experience for me.”

The Camp Connection
Joy also witnessed the value of an outdoor experience in helping people escape life’s busyness once in a while. During the dinner hour in many homes, the television blares the evening news, a beeping microwave insists supper is ready, and family members rush to go their separate ways.

“I think it’s getting harder and harder—we’re having to fight for family time and true connectedness with one another because we’re in such an age of distraction,” she says.

At a camp or conference center, a family may walk together to the dining area and then to a group session.

“Those are 10 minutes that you’re spending side by side with your children or your wife or your husband,” Joy says.

Why is the camp environment so effective? Roger believes it’s partly because of the setting.

“Most camps are located in absolutely beautiful environments,” he says. “They’re areas where God’s handiwork is especially visible, whether it’s on lakes or in mountains or by rivers or, in our case, in the redwoods by the ocean.

“[Being at camp] does something for our perspective on God, and it softens our spirits. We’re not in an environment that man made and that man controls. It gives us a proper perspective on life and ourselves.”

Gathering with loved ones in a Chris-tian camp setting also allows for discussions that don’t always happen at home. Family members may attend a session and hear a speaker raise thought-provoking questions that they can discuss later.

“I think that’s where bonding happens, when you’re able to be removed from your to-do list and look at your ‘why and how’ in your life,” Joy says.

The musician believes people can use their life experiences to encourage others, and she’s seen this happen over and over at camp. Christian camps and conference centers provide a place where people can interact with others who may be going through the same things.

“There’s company as you’re eating dinner and meeting new people,” Joy says. “You take a deeper look at where you’re headed and why you want to be in the direction that you are. Christian camping allows you to do that in a safe environment…and to know that you’re not alone.”

Live It Out
Her parents’ example and the camp environment taught Joy to openly and relevantly invest in people’s lives.

“[What’s offered at camp] is equipping and it’s hopefully encouraging. I think in the way I’ve created music, I’ve wanted to do that as well.”

She based all the songs on her best-selling Genesis project on her journal entries, which created opportunities for Joy to share her life experiences with concert attendees.

“There’s this weird thing that we call a human tendency [to say], ‘I’m probably the only one who’s felt that way.’ And when you…realize that you’re not the only one who’s ever felt that way—you can pass that on to someone else—I call that the ‘me-too factor,’” Joy says. “When the me-too factor hits, it’s amazing.”

She’s connected with everyone from unwed teenage moms to college football players at her concerts.

“There are a lot of threads that can be woven through traveling and doing music and camping,” she says. “With camp, in the summertime primarily, there’s a new group of people that come every week that you get to invest in. For me, it sometimes is an evening when I’m going and visiting somebody.

“But the idea of it is still the same. I think honestly that that’s my grand excuse for making music. I make music so I get to talk to people backstage. I love the genuine connections that can be made with perfect strangers five minutes prior to [a concert].”

Roger says, “Joy’s greatest joy is not the stage—it’s talking with people afterward and, particularly, counseling with people. She has shared some remarkable stories of how God has changed lives and hearts.

“I think that got there because for years she’s watched that happen. That’s what we’re here for—we do all this stuff in camping so the Spirit of God can work to change lives. [Joy has] that concept that that’s what’s most important in life.”

Natalee is a freelance writer and former editor of CampSight. She works for The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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