Keith Kaufold told me last week that there’s something different about Jumonville (http://jumonville.gospelcom.net) , something that you notice in the air as soon as you step out of the van, something that is definitely spiritual. And he was right. The weekend that Eileen and I spent hanging out with Northmont’s Youth Group at Jumonville went far better than I could have ever imagined. (Thank you to all of you who knew I was nervous and intimidated by the prospect of spending the weekend with high-schoolers and who prayed for us – we felt your prayers for us up there!)
We arrived Friday night after a lengthy bus-ride, including some confusion about directions. The rest of the night is a blur in my memory now, going to Club (worship), running across the campgrounds in the dark, drinking hot chocolate with kids at the top of a mountain. Of course, we knew better than to expect sleep. My cabin didn't even attempt to fall asleep until 2:00AM on Friday night. At 3:30 Corey (one of the other leaders) and I were awakened by the sound of stereo blasting "Veggietales!, Veggietales!" at full volume throughout the whole cabin. The guys in our group, especially Mark, Caleb and Chris, made all kinds of mischief over the weekend, often ticking off the leaders and making us laugh out loud at the same time.
By Saturday, I was settling in and having a great time with the kids. Realizing that the order and structure of the camp were exactly like the Young Life camps (http://www.younglife.org) that I attended multiple times in high school. Saturday night, just like at a Young Life camp, a message about the cross of Christ and how Jesus heals our brokeness was followed by sending all the kids and leaders outside for twenty minutes of silence, alone in the cold night. During that time I prayed for all of the guys in our cabin, and when we all arrived back at the cabin that night, it was clear that God was at work in their hearts. For over an hour, we talked as a group honestly, genuinely, and emotionally about struggles, pain in our lives, and the need for God's help. At one point I had a flashback to the Young Life camp at which I "accepted Christ" nine years ago. I remembered hearing my Young Life leader quote Philippians 1:6 to me, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." After hearing one of the guys share his own particular struggles, I realized that he needed to hear it as well, and so I payed it forward, pointing him to this encouraging verse the same way Todd Laws had done for me years ago. (Thanks Todd!)
That night it was easier for everyone to sleep, worn out physically and emotionally from such an intense day. I went to bed overjoyed at seeing how God was transforming these lives that weekend. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I've had a love/hate relationship with youth-ministry this year, at times being intimidated by all the kids and yearning to give them something deeper than just games, and at other times being delighted by the fact that a 6th grader asked me a deeper question than any adult at Northmont still has. This weekend, I loved every minute of the time we spent ministering to these teenagers, and I hope they know that. More than anything, I hope they will one day look back at this camp experience and be able to point to it as a stepping stone on the way to a lifetime of following after our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that "He who began a good work in [them] will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."