Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

One Leaf

Donna didn’t know what she was going to do. How had everything fallen apart so quickly? Just a month ago she shared a warm home with her three adopted children. But when the landlord refused to fix their bathroom for weeks on end, she reported him to the health department and immediately was evicted, two days after paying their rent for the month. Her brother had offered to let Donna and the children stay at his home, but while he was away for days at a time driving a truck, his wife had become angry and abusive toward the children. Finally she gave Donna an ultimatum, forcing her to leave.

Now, here she was, sleeping in her car. The three kids huddled together in the back seat as the temperature dipped into the twenties. An empty can of ravioli on the floorboard reminded her of the cold supper they’d shared that night. Tears flowed down her face and her shoulders shook with sobs of grief. As she reached for a tissue, she saw a large, dry maple leaf lying on her son’s book bag. When she had picked him up from school that day, he told her it was a souvenir from his field trip to the camp. It brought back memories of how excited her children had been after returning from South Mountain Christian Camp last summer, and how that excitement had been renewed when a school field trip took them back to the camp in the fall. Could the camp help us now? she wondered.

The next morning, thirty minutes after dropping the kids off at school, she stood in our office, sharing her story with me, humbly asking if I knew anyone who could help. Then the next step in God’s plan for Donna began to unfold as I put her in touch with our good friends at The Grace of God Rescue Mission. They made arrangements to meet with her so that she could get the help she needed—hot meals and a place to stay for her and the children. Her countenance changed as thankfulness flowed out of her like a fountain of joy. I reminded her that God has not forgotten about her. We prayed together, and she headed on her way with renewed hope that Jesus was still at work in her life.

This is just one more example of the Kingdom of God at work. While we weren’t the ones equipped to help Donna, The Lord used the experience her kids had here to get her to the right place to receive help. We're just one leaf in the mighty tree of God's kingdom, but in this case, that leaf was the first step toward restoration. God can use you too, every day. Look for ways to have a positive impact on the world around you, and you'll find that He is able to work through you more powerfully that you might think. It's always exciting to be a part of God's plan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Who In Their Right Mind...

It was the perfect recipe for disaster. As soon as I woke up, I checked the weather and discovered that our third annual South of theMountain Trail Run would be besieged by a wintery mix of rain, snow, and bitterly-cold wind. Knowing there was nothing we could do to change it, my wife and I bundled up and headed out to proceed with the plan. I was unsure what to expect, but I know I never anticipated what happened next.

I’d been determined to increase the number of participants at the event this year and had taken extensive measures to do so, but with the horrible weather conditions, I would not have been surprised if only 12 of our 69 pre-registered runners showed up to the race. When I received news that some of our volunteers had cancelled, I couldn’t blame them. They were assigned to help with parking, but we probably wouldn’t even need them now. Who in their right mind would show up on a morning like this to run in a race anyway?

The answer began arriving shortly after 9:00 am. As car after car began pulling into the camp, I suddenly realized that I needed to fill those vacant volunteer jobs. Remarkably, some of our participants offered to help. They threw on some orange vests and started directing traffic within moments. As people continued to arrive, I thanked them for showing up in such horrible conditions. I found that most of them were not only understanding, but even excited with a “we’re all in this together” attitude. There were some who couldn’t participate, but had showed up anyway just to show their support. Then I discovered that a number of them had not even pre-registered. They’d just gotten up that morning and decided to come race with us anyway!

I’d like to tell you that the weather cleared right when the race started, but that didn’t happen. Those runners endured some of the worst conditions I could imagine for a race, and they did it with smiles on their faces. I don’t know why God didn’t give us better weather, and He certainly isn’t obligated to give me an answer. But He showed me that sometimes taking us through the storm is just as great a miracle as taking the storm away.

At the end of the day, we had 80 paid runners for this year’s event—a 10% increase over last year’s participation when we had perfect weather! This gave us a good start on fundraising for kids to come to camp next summer. It’s just another example of God’s faithfulness and everyone doing what they can to make a difference. 

You can make a difference too. Whether it's your talent, skills, knowledge, or financial means, if you do what you can, you can help make this world a better place.

If you are interested in making a contribution to the ministry of South Mountain Christian Camp, you can easily do so through the donate button below.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pumpkins, People, & Potential

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! We had our very own pumpkin patch here last month with hundreds of these fall favorites adorning the front entrance of the camp. People came from all over to pick out their favorites. We sold them for donations only, with all of the proceeds going to the summer camp scholarship fund. By the final week of October, we’d sold every last one of them, earning over $3,000 in needed camper scholarships.

An unexpected side benefit of the pumpkin patch was that, aside from just coming to pick out their pumpkins, dozens of people came to take family portraits. Some were just snapping photos of their kids surrounded by pumpkins, others hired professional photographers to take large group photos here. Every week I would see new pictures posted on social media of friends and family visiting our pumpkin patch. 

It also gave us the opportunity to interact with many people who had never visited the camp before and wanted to learn more about our ministry. In fact, the front porch of the office became one of our biggest ministry tools as the Lord opened doors for us to share the love of God with a number of new friends.

It might surprise you to also know that the pumpkin patch wasn’t even our idea. OA and Charlotte’s adult granddaughter, Michelle Kramer, first proposed the idea to me last summer. It was she who made all of the arrangements regarding purchase, delivery, promotion, and finding a sponsor, AE Global Media, to cover the cost of the pumpkins. She even visited most weekends from her home near Columbia, SC to make sure things were running smoothly. We are deeply grateful to Michelle and AE Global Media for bringing the pumpkin patch to South Mountain Christian Camp.

This is how the Kingdom of God works. Every part of Christ’s body plays a vital role by following the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. You are an important part of God’s kingdom too. When you follow His guidance, you can make a difference.

If you would like to make a donation to the ministry of South Mountain Christian Camp, you can easily do so through the Donate button below.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Making the Connection

Shaky little hands nervously grip the ends of two loose wires, cautiously touching them to either end of a steel rod. A tiny light bulb suddenly flickers to life, and a collective gasp escapes the mouths of eight fourth-graders huddled around the table. “Whoa!” “It works!” “Cool!” “How does it do that?” The excitement of learning bubbles over, and I can almost see the metaphorical light bulbs coming on over their heads.

This is one of my favorite scenes that plays out almost every day during our fall S.E.E.D.S. programs. The students spend the day with us, and, in this particular hands-on activity, they are learning about electric currents. They try touching the wires to samples of plastic, wood, and rope as well but they discover that steel is the only sample that can conduct the electricity, close the circuit, and bring the bulb to life.

The scene reminds me of summer camp. Many of our campers have never been able to connect with God in a real way. Through our summer camp programs, we seek to be the “steel” that closes the gap and the conduit through which the love of God flows. When that happens, new life is born within them, and their lives are changed forever.

Kyle is one example of that. When he came to camp last summer, he’d heard a little about God, but had never experienced Him in a real way. During his time at camp, the truth of the Bible was presented to him in a way he could understand. And he witnessed God’s love at work every day through his cabin director. At chapel on the third night of camp, the connection was made. The spiritual light bulb came on, and he gave his heart to Jesus.

Every connection that is made here is orchestrated by God. He is the one who supplies the power and new life. South Mountain Christian Camp is simply the conductor, but, when He flows through us, amazing things happen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

God and Ga-Ga

Amid all the excitement associated with the new Upward Tower on camp this summer, you may not have heard about the surprise hit of the season. It’s an inconspicuous little game with a goofy name: Ga-Ga Ball. Ga-Ga Ball is played in an octagon-shaped arena made of two-foot-tall wooden walls. It’s a dodge-ball style game in which the players swat a small rubber ball with their hands in an attempt to tag other players below the knee with the ball. The game originated in Israel, and the word “ga” is Hebrew for “touch.”

We installed the Ga-Ga Ball arena near the cafeteria so that campers would have an activity available while they waited for mealtimes to begin. We figured they would like the game but never anticipated the wild enthusiasm it would generate. Before and after every mealtime, the Ga-Ga Ball arena was filled with campers shouting, cheering, and laughing as they played. By the end of the summer, they were begging us to build another one by the pool and a third one by the Joy Center.

The Ga-Ga Ball arena also became a very special place for me. On Friday mornings, just after breakfast, I would meet with all of the campers who wished to be baptized at camp. The Ga-Ga Ball arena became our gathering place for these meetings. Eager campers would sit perched on the arena walls while we talked about forgiveness, new life, and the importance of baptism. I would answer all their questions (including the occasional, “can we play Ga-Ga Ball now?); then we would pray together and walk to the pool where all the other campers were waiting for our baptism service to begin.

This summer, 115 of our campers made a public profession of faith and were baptized here at camp. Games like Ga-Ga Ball are a great draw to get them to come to camp, but it’s the encounters they have with God while they are here that change their lives forever. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Onward and Upward

I don’t remember ever seeing such determination in a teenager. Heather’s white-knuckled grip on the rope ladder held firm, despite her sweaty palms and exhaustion. She’d been climbing one of the most difficult routes on the new Upward Tower for several minutes but seemed to have stalled half-way up. I thought she would give up any minute, allowing her safety team to lower her to the ground, but then something exciting happened.

Her cabin mates, sensing that she was on the verge of abandoning her ascent, gathered around the tower, shouting words of encouragement and urging her upward. Heather fixed her eyes on the next grip point and pulled with all her might. The shouts of inspiration grew stronger then, fueling Heather’s resolve. One difficult step at a time, she continued her climb. Slowly and steadily she approached the top of the tower, forty-feet above the ground. When she reached the top, cheered erupted from the ground, and the lesson was cemented into place.

The Upward Tower isn’t just about climbing and zip lines. Before the group began the activity, I explained that the name comes from Philippians 3, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I described how a relationship with God isn’t just about getting into heaven, but God calls us upward into a closer connection with Him. Many people give up and walk away from God when the going gets tough, but the Upward Tower teaches us to be determined and uncompromising in our pursuit of Christ.

All summer, our campers have been experiencing this lesson first-hand as they have taken on the challenges of the Upward Tower. In the process they've gained not only an unforgettable experience, but also a lesson about their relationship with God that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.