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Camp is a refreshing stream along life’s journey

by John Ashmen

Laura eased open the screen door and stretched out in the rocking chair, favorite book in hand. Out on the lake, silhouetted by Monday’s sunrise, the canoe carrying her husband and two daughters glided silently through the water. A smile spread across her face as she imagined their conversation.

An earlier rain had refreshed the forest and the fragrance brought back some wonderful childhood memories. Overhead, two squirrels debated the ownership of a cache of acorns. The family from the cabin next door waved good morning and wandered off along the path to the point.

This placid camp setting was a welcome contrast to her familiar suburban scene. She glanced at her watch. Still 40 minutes ’til breakfast. She took another sip of coffee and closed her eyes. This was going to be a wonderful week.

At the urging of some friends from church, Laura’s family had decided to spend these six days at a Christian family camp. The place offered cabin or lodge accommodations, three family-style meals a day, horseback riding, biking, hiking trails, a challenge course, dirtboarding, fishing, canoeing, swimming, beach volleyball, a well-known Christian band, an impressive list of speakers, and more.

But the part of the brochure that caught Laura’s attention was “time out from the rush of life for spiritual renewal.” She needed that, and so did her family, much more than anyone knew.

Finding Time
These days, few of us wash dishes in the sink and ponder the world through the kitchen window. Instead, we stack the plates and utensils in the Maytag and rush to the next task. Come end of day, rather than sit on the front porch and contemplate, we click the mouse or remote and “process.” We live in a hurried, harried world. Freeways, cell phones, business appointments, micro-waves, school functions, online transactions, late-night news, and alarm systems form the borders of our behavior.

Our children aren’t strangers to stress, either. Pushed by parents or peers to perform beyond their years, they’re rushed into maturity by Madison Avenue and the media. It’s no wonder many kids emerge from their teen years frustrated, fearful, and fatigued.

Just over the hill, across the meadow, or through the woods, Christian camps are offering experiences that can arrest our runaway routines. Spending a week at a Christian camp or conference will not immediately unbundle the anxiety of the twenty-first century lifestyle, but it will provide a refreshing break with a chance to relax, reflect, recreate, and re-evaluate priorities.

Time, which seems to be a rare commodity in the “real world,” is abundant at camp. There’s time to eat together, play together, and talk together. Parents can use time to assess family progress and form new goals. Kids can spend time enjoying the miscellaneous pastimes of childhood. So much can get done when there’s nothing pressing to do.

Finding God
At camp, God does not hide in the chapel, waiting for the evening service so He can reveal Himself. His presence permeates the program and property. God speaks on the ropes course, helping people discover the truth about trust. He’s present on the trail, teaching people through the intricacies of nature. He’s there in the person of a child’s counselor, bringing peace through the demonstration of patience. The messages spoken and songs sung from the platform are just added benefits.

Chuck Swindoll, author, radio pastor, and chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, has long been a supporter of Christian camping for the entire family. Some time ago, he spoke about the value of total family involvement.

“All the Swindolls have enjoyed and benefited from Christian camping for many, many years,” he said. “In fact, I can’t recall an unhappy or unrewarding experience that we’ve ever had.”

When families get together in a camping situation, they relate eye-to-eye, maybe for the first time in months, without the distraction of television, radio, or phone in the background, he observed. They have time to think through their values and their priorities. And they have the opportunity to establish or strengthen their relationships with Jesus Christ.

The testimonies around Friday night’s flickering campfire stirred the hearts of the households gathered in its glow. Tears welled up in Laura’s eyes as her own husband of 16 years stood to his feet and uttered soft-spoken words of recommitment to Christ and family.

Following the service, the girls ran ahead to the cabin to pack for departure. Taking the long way back, Laura and her husband walked hand-in-hand, then arm-in-arm, speaking without talking. It was a wonderful week. Spiritual renewal did indeed take place. God’s voice was heard.

It wasn’t that He spoke any louder in the serene camp setting. For some reason, it was just easier to hear Him.

John served as executive director for several years at Haluwasa Christian Camp and Outdoor Center in New Jersey. Currently a CCCA vice president, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Bible and a master’s degree in organizational management.

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