Friday, April 18, 2014

Vessels of God

Like adventurous ships pulling out of a harbor, venturing into the wide blue sea, I watch our campers every summer head out into the next phase of their lives. Where will they go? What will become of them? God entrusts them to our care for just a short period, but we make the most of that time, equipping them with the training and navigational tools they need to follow God into the great unknown.

Sometimes they veer off course, like David* who came to camp as a teenager but got caught up in partying and drugs after he outgrew our program. When he reached his low point, he called me up, seeking guidance for reconciling his relationship with God. I wrote about that story last year. Now he’s working steadily, seeking God daily, and giving of himself as the primary caretaker for his uncle and grandmother.

Other times they encounter an unexpected storm, like Sherry* who grew dramatically in her relationship with God at camp, but experienced the devastation of domestic abuse and failed marriage as a young adult. Now she excitedly reports that God is healing her and has used her experiences at camp to birth a new passion for family ministries in her community.

Then there are those who manage to stay on course, like Carol* who came to camp throughout her childhood and followed God into a successful career in banking. She stopped by a few weeks ago to share how much camp impacted her life and that the lessons she learned here still give her guidance today.

These are just a few of the ships that radio back to the harbor from time to time. There are thousands of others out there, and we know that the Lord has his eye on each one. As long as God enables us, we will continue equipping these vessels of God to be ready for whatever adventure awaits.

*names have been changed



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Yeah, but...

It seemed like a good idea, but I had no idea how to make it happen. The builder for our new high ropes course tower was suggesting that I try contacting some local businesses to arrange for the delivery and installation of the 60-foot utility poles.

“I can make the arrangements myself,” he explained, “but if you contact somebody local, you might get a better deal since you’re a non-profit.”

It made sense, of course, but I didn’t know of anyone who could do a job like this. Then I remembered that camp founder O.A. Fish knew someone who worked with Duke Power. I asked O.A. for the number, jotted it down on a scrap of paper, and gave the man a call.
“Well, Duke can’t do it for you,” he said, “but you should call Pike Electric.”
He gave me a contact at Pike, so I wrote that number down and called him.
“I can’t do a job like that,” he said, “but you should try C.F. Reese.”

He gave me the number for Reese, and I called.
“I don’t have a source for poles,” he explained, “but I know somebody who might be able to help.”

At this point I looked down at the scrap of paper upon which I’d been scribbling all these numbers. God is in this, I realized. I wrote out this fourth phone number with more confidence. I knew this was no rabbit trail. God was leading me somewhere.
I dialed the number with high expectations.
I can’t help you,” was the response, “but you should try Camp Electric.”
Undeterred, I dialed the number he provided.
“Sure, I can do that job,” Jason Camp explained. “Can you send me the exact specifications?”
A few emails were exchanged, and within a few days, I had a quote for purchase, delivery, and installation.

When I passed the quote along to our ropes course builder, he called me almost immediately.
“This is remarkable,” he said. “I was expecting twice this amount. It is really a blessing to be a part of a project like this.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. It is a blessing to be a part of what God is doing at South Mountain Christian Camp, and it’s so exciting to see how He brings about His plan.
For the back story on the ropes course project, read Taking Action. To see how you can help, visit our website.

A Gift of Faith

When our entire high ropes course was destroyed by lightning last summer, I received something special from God—a gift of faith. I didn’t receive that faith because I was so spiritual or even worthy. I believe it was simply because God knew what He wanted to accomplish, and He knew that I needed that faith in order to fall into obedience to His plan. As a result, I had complete confidence that God would provide the $47,000 needed to rebuild the course. I just didn’t know how He would do it.
Armed with faith from God, I pursued every avenue that presented itself as a possibility for funding. Individual donations, church contributions, fundraising events, business sponsorships, grants, and even donations of building materials were all possibilities. I contacted the media, printed flyers, sent emails, and even built a 3D model of our plans for the new course. I shared our story with anyone who was willing to listen. But six months into the process, we had raised less than $5,000.
That’s when Jesus took control, and the unexpected happened. Just as doubt was starting to creep into my mind that the course would be built by this summer, I received a brief email from a couple of our supporters, Gary and Vesta Edmonds. It said that they would fund the remaining cost of the project! I was overwhelmed. I had to read the email four times before I could believe it. When I shared the news with our staff, the office was filled with shouts of delight and tears of joy. The Lord had answered our prayers! It came suddenly, and it wasn’t the way I imagined it would happen, but that’s just how God works.
I’m so glad He chooses to act in miraculous ways. By doing so, He keeps us dependent upon Him as He operates through our amazing supporters like you. We’re now in the process of clearing a small patch of land and arranging for installation of the 60-foot utility poles that will be the framework for the tower. It’s an exciting time, and even more exciting because we know that it’s all coming about through the hand of God. Now our focus can turn to raising the $65,000 needed for camper scholarships this year. I can’t wait to see what God does next!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Impact of Camp and Custard Pie

I just wanted a custard pie. Actually, I didn’t even want it—my daughter did. We were traveling out of state, on our way to visit family for Christmas, when we decided to stop at a random McDonalds for a break.

As soon as the cashier looked at me, her face froze, her mouth hanging open. I thought something was wrong. Are they out of pie? I wondered. Then she smiled. “You’re Steve!” she exclaimed. “You run the summer camp!”

I laughed with surprise (and a little relief that I would still get my daughter’s pie). The cashier had attended camp years earlier as a child and still vividly remembered the impactful experiences she’d had here. After catching up with her briefly, we said goodbye and headed back out on the road.

As I drove, I marveled at how I happened to run into a former camper so far away from camp, and how she was able to recognize me after so much time had passed. It was yet another reminder from the Lord of the powerful impact summer camp has on young lives.
In just the sixteen years I’ve been at South Mountain, we’ve ministered to nearly ten thousand summer campers, and I’ve seen nearly two thousand of them come to know the Lord at camp. That number grows much larger when you consider the entire 40 years that SMCC has been in operation.

There’s no doubt that camp changes lives, and those lives, in turn, can impact more lives. Brian Houston, the pastor of Hillsong Church in Australia, has shared how his life took a dramatic turn at a summer camp. Christian music artists Brandon Heath and Toby Mac both came to know Christ at a camp. When you consider the millions of lives that just these three have touched, the impact grows exponentially.
Even at South Mountain, we’ve had former campers go on to become pastors, missionaries, and teachers, impacting the world for Christ. You never know whose life you’re going to touch through camp ministry, and you never know how many more lives might be touched as a result. We thank God for the opportunities that come our way every day.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Taking Action

Last summer a powerful lightning strike destroyed our entire high ropes course in one brief second. The bolt struck a massive oak tree in the middle of the course and traveled through steel cables to the other trees and climbing tower, blowing out massive chunks of wood at each connection point along the way. In total, three trees were killed, the tower was destroyed, and all the steel cable was compromised. It was a total loss, and we had to shut down the course for the rest of the summer.

At the end of that week of camp, a camper named Amber told me that she felt God was leading her to do a fundraiser for rebuilding the ropes course. I smiled and told her that would be fantastic. Inwardly, however, I wondered if she would really be able to follow through with it. Boy did she prove me wrong! Amber took action. She went home, told her youth group about the problem, and organized a bake sale. Just a month after camp was over, she called and said she had a check for $422 for the camp!

Her dedication and hard work inspired me so much that I began approaching other youth groups, asking them if they’d be willing to do similar fundraisers for us. We’ve had at least one other church make a significant contribution to the project, and several others have agreed to take on the challenge. This one camper with a heart for God may have started something big.

The task is formidable—it will cost an estimated $47,000 to rebuild the ropes course. We’re hoping to fund it through a combination of grants, sponsors, and fundraising groups like Amber’s. If you know a business or group that might want to help, you can find more information on the new ropes course design and the fundraising efforts on our website.

Regardless of how God does it, we have confidence that he will bring in the funds at just the right time. He always does. If you'd like to make a contribution to the project, you can do so through the DONATE button below, or mail your check to PO Box 9, Bostic NC 28018. Be sure to designate your gift as "Upward Tower" or "Ropes Course."


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas 2013

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV

For many people, the highlight of the Christmas season is the chance to spend time with family, celebrating the birth of Jesus together. Time spent with those we love warms our hearts and strengthens our bonds with them.

The same is true in our relationship with God. There is no better place to be than in His presence. This was the amazing thing about the Christmas story: that God came to live among us. And when we understand that He truly is Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” we realize that we can spend time with Him continually, because Jesus doesn’t just live among us—He lives in us!

It’s that presence of Christ that we seek to foster here at South Mountain Christian Camp. We have thousands of guests every year, and we want each of them to experience God. Many will comment on how much they can sense the Spirit of God here. They receive a “taste” of what life is like in His presence, and, when they return home, they realize that they can abide in His presence continually.

The presence of God is also what keeps us moving forward. 2013 has been a big year at South Mountain. Our Summer Camp enrollment was up twelve percent over last year, and we witnessed 83 of our campers make a profession of faith in Jesus! Our disc golf tournament nearly doubled in participants this year, and our annual banquet in May had the highest attendance we’ve seen in 5 years. At times things seemed to be moving so fast, we had to pause to remember that God is still here and still in control.

This year also brought some unexpected challenges. Our facilities manager and housekeeping supervisor both resigned in early Fall. Then in mid-October, camp founder O.A. Fish suffered a heart attack. Tests revealed that he needed double-bypass heart surgery which he underwent almost immediately. We praise God for a successful surgery and the steady recovery which has followed. We also praise God for the many volunteers who devoted their time and energy to fill in the gaps brought by these unanticipated events. What a blessing to know that God is always here for us!

Another unexpected challenge came when our High Ropes Course was destroyed by lightning in July. The strike caused irreparable damage to three trees and two poles that support the course. Additionally, all the steel cable from which the course is constructed was compromised, rendering the High Ropes Course a total loss. We have a plan to construct a new course called The Upward Tower which we hope to have in place for Summer Camp 2014. Please pray with us that God will provide the $47,000 needed to build this new course.

God always meets every need (He has proven that time after time), and He does it in miraculous ways. Immanuel not only came near to us long ago, but He continues to make His presence known to us on a daily basis. We pray that you will sense the presence of Immanuel during the Christmas season this year and all through 2014!
If you would like to make a special end-of-year contribution to South Mountain Christian Camp, you can do so through the donate button below, or mail your check to P.O. Box 9, Bostic NC 28018.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Surgery, Supporters, and Shoelaces

Last month got so crazy around here that, at one point, I commented to my wife, “I feel like I’m running a race with my shoe laces untied!”
With school field trips through the week and retreat groups every weekend, plus the annual disc golf tournament and 5k trail race, October is one of our busiest times of the year. When you factor in that our facilities manager and housekeeping supervisor both resigned earlier in the fall, it presented a number of extra challenges.
Like untied shoe laces, it felt as if there were some things that needed to be addressed, but finding the time could be problematic. On the other hand, not taking care of those issues now could result in bigger problems down the road.

Steve leads the disc golfers in prayer for O.A. on Oct.19th.
Then on the day of the disc golf tournament, camp founder O.A. Fish became suddenly ill. His wife Charlotte took him to the hospital where it was determined that his lungs were nearly full of fluid. This had triggered a heart attack.
The next day he was transported to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte where he received a heart catheter. This revealed that open-heart surgery was needed, and, just a few days later, O.A. underwent double-bypass heart surgery.
O.A. returned home on November 2nd.
Many of our supporters who heard the news through our website, Facebook page, and newsletter offered their support and prayers. The operation was successful, and the doctors were pleased with the result, stating, “O.A., this will give you another 20 years on your heart.”
After several days in the intensive care unit, O.A. had made enough progress to be moved to a regular room. A week later he returned home, coincidentally, on the day of the 5k trail race.

Gary and Vesta Edmonds
Meanwhile God continued to meet every need here at Camp. God even sent a couple of angels to us disguised as volunteers. Gary and Vesta Edmonds stayed here in their camper for the full two weeks that O.A. and Charlotte were at the hospital. They expertly handled every project, task, and “untied shoe lace” I could assign to them.
It was quite a blessing to see how God was taking care of O.A. in the hospital and providing for our needs here at the same time! It was yet another firm reminder that this is God’s camp, and His provision is always sufficient for every need.
O.A. wishes to express his deepest appreciation for the outpouring of prayer and support he has received over the last few weeks. Please continue to keep him in your prayers as he continues his in-home recovery and rehabilitation.