Every summer for 4 years now, Caleb and I have gone to summer camp with our youth from Heritage Community Church. I call them “our” youth, we’re not the pastors, but we love them to death.
The very first Sunday we ever visited Heritage they had just got back from a camp, and I don’t know what happened, but I had an instant reaction and knew that we needed to be there. Find out later they needed better worship for the youth, find out later they just got a new youth pastor, find out later that it was literally perfect timing. A place to sew our talents. Not a perfect place. But a place that would use what we’d been given – earth to Christians, there isn’t a perfect church, but maybe your local church would get more perfecter if you used your talents there instead of sitting at home, complaining….hm interesting.
We’ve gone to these youth camps every year since then.
This year we were in Ridgecrest, North Carolina – about 20 minutes outside of Asheville. We love us some mountains. The beach is great, I do love it, especially at night – but for general living I would take mountain life in a heartbeat over beach life.
We took 70ish kids! Left Tuesday morning (it’s really fun to leave with a vast amount of teenagers at 4 am), got into Ridgecrest that night, ate, and set up in our 12 person bunk style dorms they had ready for us. All of the women leaders were together this year in a room, and I love them even more now because of it! Some of my favorite women I know.
Next morning, we drove through the mountain with our giant charter bus (a frightening experience considering I’m not a bus fan and our driver was so PRO that he drove it like I drive my car, which is scary) and 2 vans to Sliding Rock! It’s pretty self explanatory, a water slide made of rock, smoothed over by years of water eroding science things that I don’t know about. Our kids are pretty adventurous, so 55 degree water temps didn’t keep them away. You wait in line for about 10-15 minutes depending on how busy it is, then it takes you about 20 seconds to slide down and navigate the rocks without killing your tailbone until you find yourself launched into 55 degree water and your soul is basically dead for 1 minute and then Jesus revives you and all is well.
I did not go down myself, but this is the basic summary I put together from watching them go down over and over. Their faces are literally the best. Also, we definitely WAY surpassed their record of – How Many People Can We Get to Go Down This Thing Together Without Dying – I want to say we had at least 40 go down together. It was epic and we have video.
So no one died from that and I would consider that a great success. Camp actually started that night. Our next day was our first full day of activities. Our schedule usually worked something like this :
Breakfast at 7. AM service at 8 with worship and a short word. They split into their mission/bible study groups and adults have their own bible study until 10:30. Then we join them to plan what we’ll be doing out on our mission site after lunch. Lunch at 11. Everyone leaves for their mission site around 12 pm!
With travel time factored in, we usually spend a little over 3 hours at our mission sites. Mission sites are different for each group. Caleb and I were assigned to an Evangelism group, but others got Painting/Yard Work, Children’s, Games & Rec, and stuff like that. We all go out into the community and spread some major Jesus love in practical ways, or if you’re like us and you get Evangelism, you spend your time to praying with random people you come upon in a park – it’s the best! Hands down, our kids come back with the most testimonies from this time of the day. It is usually stretching for EVERYONE (kids and leaders), but the best stories come from that.
We get back from those sites by 4 pm. Kids get free time until dinner around 6, where they can go kayaking, hike, play in a tournament, get coffee or food, or sleep. Literally whatever they want. Then dinner around 6 and then worship starts at 7!
We had some amazing sermons, but our group’s most impactful times usually happen after the service during our church group time from 8:30 until whenever we leave LOL! Some nights we didn’t leave until 10:30, and missed the Night Life (fun mass chaos) activities they had scheduled for us. Whoops.
The end of the night is your typical wrangling of kids into their rooms, cleaning up throw up, emotional breakdowns, sleep walking adults – ya know, the really fun stuff….!
I had several favorite moments throughout the week.
Downtown Asheville, spending time with the homeless on Saturday. I met one woman named Maggie who was not much younger than me who had just moved there from Indiana and planned to hang out in the forest with her fresh new tent she just bought. I think about her almost every day.
Thursday night church group time with our kids. Lots of vulnerability and stories shared.
Hiking up to the summit of Rattlesnake Trail Friday afternoon. Gorgeous. Exhausting. And I’m pretty sure an angel found one of our kids who got a little lost.
Talking with a sweet Polish woman at the nursing home who had some memory loss issues and very good manners. She refused to eat the cake they brought her unless we also had some!! After a long 20 minutes, we finally caved.
In the middle of the week, we found out that Caleb’s grandmother who had Alzheimer’s had passed away. That was difficult, there wasn’t a lot of space to have feelings about it. And we did end up driving back early to be able to make it to her memorial on Sunday. That added some layers to our week but ultimately, it was such a precious week for us and our youth.
Sometimes I feel like such a nerd for loving what we do with them so much, but its our thing. So I’ll not worry about that.