I love church camps. I absolutely love them. Seeing the joy of Jesus in people’s’ eyes never gets old.
I had the privilege of being able to go to a Franciscan Steubenville conference in Springfield, Missouri. Prior to the Steubenville weekend, (which was a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday event) I attended the Franciscan LEAD camp. This part of the week was Monday through Friday afternoon. LEAD is a leadership camp for teens who already have an established faith life and want to learn how to disciple to others and develop a deeper relationship with Christ. Preparing for this crazy God-filled week, I had no idea what to even prepare for. Before this I had only attended one other church camp. What I was expecting was not what this camp was; it became so much more.
Everyday during LEAD the facilitators gave talks about how to pray, praise, and disciple to others. In between the prayer and the talks, the 39 other teens and I had lots of time to bond. Sometimes you don’t realize it, but praying with and for others actually helps build a strong bond of friendship so quickly. There were so many dance parties, deep talks, and just plain random things that occurred during LEAD that will forever stay in my heart. (Even the people who smashed a bottle, picked up a dead bird, and threw a banana at the ceiling! ♥)
To be honest, during the LEAD week it was hard for me to actually feel God’s presence. I mean I knew he was there, but I struggled with feeling that He is a personal God rather than a God who watches idly. For me, the most spiritual part of this whole week was after reconciliation during my penance. I was told to pray the Our Father prayer. I decided instead of praying it normally, I was going to pray it in a more intimate way:
My Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give me this day my daily bread,
and forgive me my trespasses,
as I forgive those who trespass against me;
and lead me not into temptation,
but deliver me from evil.
While I was praying this over and over again, tears were pouring down my face. God is not just someone who does things for everyone, He is someone who does great things for me too. He is focused on us as a group, but he is also focused on me as an individual Daughter of God.
The rest of the week was just as awesome as that night in reconciliation. And towards the end of LEAD, the facilitators really focused on having us make a plan for when we get back from camp. When they mentioned going back from camp we all moaned and said we just wanted to stay here forever. The facilitators countered back with this bible passage:
About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up to the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
From this passage they told us that even though we have this camp “high” right now (much like the disciples did) and we want to stay here with these people who love Jesus as much as we do, we are supposed to go back down from our mountain and share our “high” with others. As for our plan after camp, they told us to write down two goals that we want to keep when we get back. Two things to do to keep us on track so our camp “high” is just regular living.
After LEAD, my new friends and I went our separate ways and we joined our own parishes for the Steubenville weekend. Steubenville was great. Although it wasn’t as personal as LEAD, I was blown away every time I walked into the MSU stadium and saw it completely full of Catholic teens who were on fire for Jesus! It was so beautiful to see every soul change there by the power of our God. Seeing all of these kids here also made me realize that I am not alone. And if I’m not alone I don’t have to be afraid to share my faith with others.
Coming back from Steubenville, I’ll admit, it was hard. I had just experienced so many spiritual and life changing moments, and then in the blink of an eye I was back in the real world. Back in the place with temptations, people who are against you, and people that don’t believe in the God you do. Staying “lit” for the Lord has been a struggle, but I keep striving to be that same authentic person I was during Steubenville.
Everyone who has gone to a church camp has probably experienced that post-camp-high. Obviously I have. After awhile though, your fire starts to burn out. Usually I would already be feeling that fire burn out by now, but I am determined not to let that happen again. I want my fire for God to be an eternal fire that will last forever and always burn bright.
I set those goals to help me stay on the Lord’s path for me. I have new friends from different states that will pray for me and check in on me. People do care for you and they want the best for you. So does God. Share with them your struggles and your triumphs. Listen to theirs as well. With faith also comes community. We can’t get to heaven alone. I am praying for each and everyone of you readers, and I hope that you will also pray for me as well.
Prayers and Blessings,