Monday, December 20, 2010

The Unexpected Savior

A new star appeared in the sky, but only a few magi noticed. An angelic host proclaimed the arrival of the Messiah, but only a handful of shepherds heard the news. The Savior of the world was born, but the event was witnessed by just a few animals. For centuries the prophets had foretold of the promised Messiah, but when he came, most of the world missed his arrival.

It wasn’t because they weren’t looking, but it was because they were looking for the wrong thing. Many in Jesus’ day were eagerly anticipating the Messiah because it was their hope that he would end the Roman occupation of their land. But Jesus came for a greater purpose. That purpose was whispered to Joseph in a dream, “…you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

So while the rest of the nation was focused on politics, the census and taxes (Lk 2:1-3), God fulfilled His greatest promise—he sent Jesus who would forever change the relationship between God and people.

But nobody noticed.

When we get ideas in our minds as to what the promises of God will look like when they arrive, we often miss the fulfillment of that promise. We imagine our financial trouble disappearing if we could win the big sweepstakes. We imagine our work problems going away if we could get that promotion. We imagine that our issues with the neighbor will be over if we could move to a new home. It is true that God will meet our every need (Phil. 4:19), but we must also remember that He often meets those needs in unexpected ways (Ecc. 11:5).

This year has brought many unexpected things to us at South Mountain Christian Camp. One of our golf carts was stolen in the middle of the night. Two of our year-round staff members had to step down due to illness and injury. And we lost our single greatest source for camper scholarship funds. But in every situation, God had a solution worked out before we even became aware of the problem. Things which are unexpected to us are anticipated by our Father, and He always meets the need.

This year has also been a busy one for us. We had another strong Summer Camp season in which 78 of our campers received salvation. We had our busiest SEEDS season ever with over 1,200 students participating in the nature program. We also have continued the development and preparation for constructing a new cafeteria as God provides the funds for this project. In all of this, God has been our constant source and supply. We give Him praise for the work He has accomplished here this year, and we look forward with great anticipation to what He will bring our way in 2011.

Have a blessed Christmas as you celebrate the unexpected Savior!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Promises, Promises!

Making promises can get you into trouble. I experienced this first-hand last week when I returned home from a four-day trip. The day I had been preparing to leave, my 13-year-old son (who is about as big as me now) wanted to wrestle in the living room. I was busy, but promised that we could wrestle when I got back from my trip.

Well, by the time I returned home, I was completely exhausted from traveling, but my son held me to my promise. We spent the next half-hour tangled up in a rowdy, sweaty jumble of arms and legs on the living room floor. When it was over, I sat down to catch my breath and began nursing my rug burns.

My relief was short-lived, however, as my 11-year-old daughter then seized the opportunity to jump into the fray. The rowdiness continued again (with a little more caution on my part) until finally I collapsed onto the floor and gave up. My energy was completely spent. My kids had mercy on me then and headed to the kitchen for a snack, content that I had made good on my promise.

You know, we have a Father in heaven who has made some promises to us as well. The difference is, we don’t have to hold Him to his promises. He is eager to fulfill them in us. Here are some examples:
  • “My God shall supply all your need…” (Phil. 4:9)
  • “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good…” (Rom 8:28)
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
  • “This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.” (1 John 2:25)
  • “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My love will not be removed from you…” (Isaiah 54:10)
The list could go on and on, but you get the point. Our Father loves us, and is eager to provide for us.

That’s what we rely upon here at South Mountain Christian Camp. Over and over again, God has proven himself to be faithful, to fulfill every promise and meet every need. We depend upon Him fully, even when we don’t know what to expect.

So many times, God uses people like you to answer our prayers and meet our needs in miraculous ways. It may be a donation of a chainsaw or air-compressor. It may be a financial contribution. It may be volunteers who show up, willing to help out in any way that they can.

We are so grateful to our Father who knows every need that we have and works through His people to meet those needs. There is a rest and peace that comes from knowing that Daddy has everything under control.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Salamanders and Crawfish

Salamanders and crawfish are the stars of the show when we conduct our SEEDS program for 5th graders. The students come to spend the day outdoors with our staff while we teach them about the fascinating design of nature. One of the highlights of the day comes when we pull clusters of leaves out of the creek; place them in small, white trays; and allow the students to search for the many creatures that live in them—including the ever-popular salamanders and crawfish.

Recently I took a group to the creek for this very purpose only to discover that an intense rainstorm the night before had flushed nearly every leaf downstream into the lake. I managed to find a few handfuls of damp leaves along the shoreline, but I knew there would be nothing living in them. When I imagined the disappointment that would surely follow if the students were unable to find anything living in the leaves, I prayed to God for a solution. By faith I placed the leaves in the white trays; then I picked up a strainer that I often use to scoop the leaves out of the creek; and I spoke to my Father: “Lord, please guide me to find some creatures for these students to discover.” With that, I dipped the strainer into the leafless creek and pulled it out. There was a salamander! I quickly put it into one of the trays, and then repeated the process, including the prayer. This time I pulled out a crawfish! I praised God and continued repeating this process a dozen times. A couple of times the strainer was empty, and then it dawned on me that I had not asked for God’s guidance those times. But I want you to know that EVERY time I asked God to guide me, He led me to catch one of these animals. A few minutes later, the students were shrieking with delight as they found these creatures in the leaves and examined them to discover their intricate design.

For me the experience became much more than just finding crawdads and salamanders for the students. It became a living lesson on learning to rely upon God for everything. Here at South Mountain Christian Camp, relying on God is the only way we can operate. This entire ministry is built on faith, and God ALWAYS proves himself faithful to meet our needs. But it's not just about relying on God for the big things like finances and construction projects. Sometimes it's about trusting Him for the little things like salamanders and crawfish!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ready for Anything!

Be prepared! That’s the motto of the Boy Scouts.

“Be prepared for what?” someone once asked Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting.

“Why, for any old thing,” was the reply.

It was this line of thinking that led me to make some big improvements to our SEEDS programs this fall.

The SEEDS programs are environmental education field trips that we conduct for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students every year from September through November. These programs are very popular with teachers in the area, but there’s one catch—rainy days. In the past, a rainy day would mean that the field trip would have to be cancelled; and, with our calendar booked full, there were no days available for rescheduling.

This year we sought to overcome that problem by enhancing the program to include optional indoor activities. Now if we find ourselves in downpour with fifty 4th-graders, we’re prepared. We can simply move the program indoors. I think Baden-Powell would be proud.

In life there are many things that may catch us by surprise. Here at Camp it might be losing power in the middle of a retreat, running short on food just minutes before a meal is to be served, or a staff member becoming ill (All three of these happened just last weekend). But when the unexpected happens, we know that it never catches God by surprise. He knows everything that will happen long before it comes to our attention. And He always has the solution worked out. Our Father is always prepared.

No matter what happens, the Lord is always in control. That gives me peace of mind, and I hope it does for you too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Next Corner

You never know what’s around the next corner. That’s one great thing about the way South Mountain Christian Camp is laid out. As you journey down our winding, gravel roads, the scenery unveils itself to your eyes in the same way that the aroma of your favorite meal fills your nostrils when you enter the kitchen. It has a way of captivating your mind as you marvel at God’s remarkable creation.

Even when you’re familiar with the scenery, surprises can still await you. As I have driven through the Camp over the years I have come upon unexpected deer running through a meadow, turkeys foraging in the field, fox pups frolicking in the road, and many more creatures who call SMCC their home. Once I even came around a bend to see about 20 campers with big grins on their faces who were blocking the road. They insisted that I give them a ride on the golf cart, or they wouldn’t let me pass. That didn’t really work out for them considering that the golf cart only seats four, but the surprise was certainly memorable for me.

The faith-based life can be a lot like the roads here at Camp. When you’re led by the Spirit of God, you never know exactly what’s awaiting you around the next bend (see John 3:8). This same truth applies to SMCC. Without doubt, God has had a purpose and plan for this ministry from the very beginning. He has his hand in every successful thing we do. You might say his “fingerprints” are all over this place. Sometimes He surprises us with his plans, but we know that his way is perfect, and we rest in the knowledge that He will carry it out to completion. And we can't wait to see what's around the next corner!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One More Try

“Give it one more try, Pastor Steve!” Even though I was getting a little tired at 10 pm on the fifth week of summer camp, I consented to the voices of the campers who were in the gym with me.

Basketball in hand, I took my stance at mid-court. I bounced the ball three times, glanced over my shoulder, then flung the ball backwards toward the goal 50 feet behind me. Swish! The ball dropped right through the hoop, and the campers erupted with excitement, undaunted by the fact that it had taken me ten tries to make the shot. “I knew you just needed one more try!” one of the campers shouted above the commotion.

Indeed one more try can make all the difference in the world. Just ask Denise, one of our campers from this past summer. Denise had come to camp several years ago, and things had not gone so well for her. At age nine, she had already developed a violent temper which sadly resulted in her being sent home from Camp.

This year, at age fourteen, she had decided to give it one more try. She arrived nervous and anxious about how her week would go. When she asked me if I remembered her, it took just a few moments before the images of her reddened face screaming foul language at me returned to my mind.

I smiled and said, “I do remember you. Are you ready to give Camp another try?”

She smiled and nodded. She seemed a little embarrassed, but I could sense that things would go better for her this year.

As the week progressed, Denise did seem to be having a much better experience. She was respectful to her Cabin Director and developed good relationships with the other girls in her cabin.

Then on the fourth night of Camp, God got a hold of her heart. She prayed to surrender her life to Jesus, and she was born again! On Friday morning, she was baptized in our pool. She went home at the end of that week, forever changed by the love of God.

Many times we face challenges that seem impossible. Past failures (and even repeated failures) may make us feel like giving up. But sometimes we just need someone to encourage us to give it “one more try.” You never know what might happen.
We do know that God never gives up on us, no matter how many failures we go through. He has a great plan for your life. Just like the campers on the basketball court, He us undaunted by how many times you may have messed up. He just wants you to give it one more try.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Voice of God

How do you hear God? The glow of my cell phone illuminated my face as my eyes scanned over this text message again, unsure how to answer. It was the sixth night of staff training, just a short time after completing our evening Bible study. The message came from one of our Cabin Directors who, as I would later find out, was alone in the prayer garden desperately seeking the voice of the Lord in his life. When he didn’t hear from God, doubts began to creep into his mind about whether God could really use him this summer.

Then a ring on his cell phone shattered the stillness of his quiet solitude. The call was from a friend who would be going into the military soon. The friend wanted to know how he could come to know God in a personal way. The staff member was speechless for just a moment, but then he remembered that he had notes from each of the Bible teachings that we had been doing during training week. He pulled out his notes and shared the teachings with his friend, starting with the first night of staff training and finishing with that night’s lesson. When he had finished, his friend was ready to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior!

That moment not only changed the life of the staff member’s friend, but also served as a great encouragement for the staff member himself. That was his first opportunity to lead another person to Christ, and it reassured him that God indeed would be able to use him in powerful ways this summer. And indeed God has done just that. We are over half-way though our summer now, and every day I see how the Lord is impacting the lives of young people through all 16 of our staff members who have committed their summer to ministering on behalf of Christ.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Abiding In Christ

My arms felt like they were made of silly putty as I looked at the task before me. This was going to be impossible. I had been working all afternoon making upgrades and changes to our Low Ropes Course, and I was exhausted. The final part of the process was moving our three trust fall poles to a new, more suitable location. Now I had hit a snag.

The trust fall activity is made from three sections of telephone poles which are mounted in the ground at different heights. I had already dug up the four-foot pole, dragged it to the new location, dug a fresh hole, and dropped it into place. I was surprised, but glad, to see that it fit perfectly into the hole on the first try.

Next was the five-foot pole. When I dug it up, I found that it had been cemented into place, so I dug up all of the attached cement along with the pole. I didn’t have the strength to drag it to the new location, so I had to roll it. Once I got it there, I dug a hole for the pole, trying to account for the size of the cement as well. It wasn’t until then that I really contemplated how I was going to lift the pole into place. It was this task which now mocked me as I stood in the woods that day.

As I bent over to pick up the pole with my rubbery arms, I spoke to God out loud. “Lord, I’m going to need your help with this one,” I prayed. Before I could even get my hands on the pole, I felt such a strong response from God that I stopped right where I was and cracked up laughing. The Lord said, “Oh, did you think you did that last one by yourself?” I realized then that the reason the first pole had gone so well was because He was helping me. And I knew that it didn’t matter how much heavier the next pole was because the Lord could handle that one too. After acknowledging His presence in this way, I stood up the five-foot pole, lifted it into position, and dropped it into the hole. It fit perfectly.

In John 15, Jesus says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” This passage is all about abiding in Him. We know in our hearts that Jesus is always with us, but all too often we neglect his presence. We try to do things apart from Him, so we are doomed to failure. When we learn to abide in Christ we realize that he is always with us, helping us in everything that we do.

One thing that people seem to like the most about coming to South Mountain Christian Camp is that they are able to sense God’s presence when they are here. Apart from the distractions of the world, they are able to refocus and learn to abide in Him. A big part of the ministry of SMCC is to make these facilities available for that very purpose.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Banquet 2010

With an eight-foot tall replica of the Lunar Lander next to a stage decorated like the surface of the moon and a visit from a “space alien,” the 2010 Banquet was an enjoyable night for all who attended. We were pleased to host over 120 guests for the event this year, including several who came for the first time. The theme was called “ALIENS,” and every table was decorated with paper lanterns which radiated green light from an internal glow-stick which will also be given each of our campers this summer.

Following the Open House and Reception, the Banquet started at 6:05 pm. Chuck Teague provided live music as guests entered and took their seats. A warm welcome by O.A. and Charlotte Fish was followed by camp board member Don Alexander who gave the opening prayer. Everyone enjoyed a great free meal, paid for by a list of business friends. After the meal, O.A. and Charlotte again addressed the attendees making some special announcements and recognizing the staff and board members. Then it was time for my summer program presentation. The spacecraft came to life with flashing lights and sound effects. A door opened in the side and an astronaut emerged. The sound effects continued as he took some scans, then removed his helmet revealing that he was an alien. Then I, as the alien, acted out a skit with the help of my wife and two kids portraying that true “signs of life” can only be found in those who know the Lord. All of this led into my presentation of the summer camp program, “ALIENS.” Afterwards, O.A. addressed the audience once again sharing the vision of South Mountain Christian Camp and how God is using the ministry here. He gave examples of the miraculous ways God works in our ministry and how we continue to operate by faith. The evening concluded with an opportunity for attendees to fill out response cards if they wished to be added to our mailing list and even to make donations to the ministry if they felt led to do so while Chuck Teague sang “Amazing Grace.”

More pictures of this year’s Banquet, and video of the theme presentation can be viewed on our website at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Familiarity on the Ropes Course

It’s been said that familiarity breeds contempt. While that may be true from a worldly perspective, it’s not something to which believers in Christ are bound. The phrase means that when you really get to know someone, you no longer have respect for them because you see all of their faults. Paul, however, explained a different way of viewing people in 2 Corinthians 5:16 when he said, “So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!” (NLT) As believers, we can look beyond one another’s faults to see that the same Spirit abides within each one of us, and that Spirit gives us a common bond.

I saw this beautifully demonstrated last month when a group from a church in Tennessee came for a weekend retreat. They spent all day Saturday on both our High and Low Ropes Courses. These activities are designed to put groups in challenging situations so that they can learn to work through their differences and function together as a team. After watching them manage their way through our difficult arrangement of cables, ropes and platforms, I was amazed to see that they functioned with more cooperation, patience, and respect than any group I can remember. After getting to know them a little better, I found that they came from a small church and that they all have a very close relationship. I believe it was that closeness that enabled them to function together so beautifully. They didn’t evaluate each other from a human perspective, but looked beyond that to the Spirit within. In their case, familiarity enabled them to trust one another more, which translated to more success on the ropes course.

The same can be said of our relationship with God. In this week’s Bible study, Camp Founder O.A. Fish said, “The more familiar we are with God, the more faith we will have in Him.” It is so true that as we get to know our Heavenly Father more, we will find ourselves trusting Him more. That’s how we know that He will provide for our needs here at the Camp, even in a difficult economy. He is always faithful, both to me and to you, and He will never let us down. Get to know your Father a little better today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

21st Century Ministry

You can’t put South Mountain Christian Camp in a box. I learned that much in the first few months after I came here 12 years ago. That was when O.A. invited me to be his guest as he hosted Niteline, a nationally-syndicated Christian television talk show. What does camping have to do with TV? I wondered. But in the TV studio that night, I saw how God could use South Mountain to minister to the needs of hurting people, not just on this property, but through various forms of media as well.

For years God has enabled O.A. and Charlotte to reach “outside the box” of typical camp ministry through radio and television programs. Now the reach of South Mountain Christian Camp is extended into the newest media of the 21st century—social networking on the internet.

We’ve had a camp website for about 10 years now, and it has served its purpose well as a tool to let people know about the various ministries of South Mountain Christian Camp. More recently however, we’ve established a web presence on various social media platforms including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Picasa, and, of course, right here on Blogger.

I know some of you might think that sounds like overkill, but stay with me for a moment. The difference between having an informative website and having a presence on these other sites is the human factor. We’re not just putting information out there about Camp, we’re connecting with people. And, in doing so, we are able to minister to their needs in a whole new way.

Here are some examples of what I mean: Every day we can share an inspiring Bible verse or thought from O.A.’s Bible study with over 600 people through Facebook and Twitter. Every month, I share an true story on Blogger and Facebook about how God is working through the ministry here. And you can go to our YouTube channel and watch a video of one of O.A.’s encouraging Friday morning talks with the campers.

It’s a whole new way of connecting with people beyond the border of our 260 acres. Some may feel that it is impersonal. But the same thing may have been said about ministering over TV, radio, or even the telephone. (Some may have even thought that about Paul writing epistles to the churches rather than visiting them.) The truth is, 80% of all Americans are involved in some form of social media. With every new generation comes new opportunities for ministry, and we want to seize the opportunity to reach out to these people right where they are.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


This article is the introduction chapter for the new book, Soaring to Lofty Heights—Spiritually, which O.A. is currently in the process of writing.

It’s a clear crisp, wintry day in February. Sitting on my golf cart next to our Rose Sisk Lookout Deck, I let my eyes feast on the skyline of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. I grew up in the shadow of these mountains. Snow-capped Mt. Mitchell glistens like a diamond in the blue haze for which the mountains are named. This favorite spot, located on side of what I’ve come to call “Prayer Mountain” is dedicated to the memory of Rose Sisk, our program director Steve Collins’ grandmother.

Chloe, my black Lab, races across the gravel road that circles the deck to explore the wooded hillside, and occasionally I hear a delighted bark. The two of us visit here regularly, she to chase squirrels and me to un-clutter my mind of leftover daily problems. A resulting peace comes, God’s presence is awakened within me, and I find myself softly praying in the spirit.

Some may think this platform on the side of a mountain can’t compare with the left seat of a jetliner where I spent much of my adult life as an Eastern Airlines captain. And I must admit that soaring in the stratosphere at 39,000 feet, pulling white contrails across deep blue skies, and streaking over the earth at 600 miles per hour was exhilarating. But what you have to realize is, in order to command such a position, your mind must constantly race ahead just to stay in front of the airplane. There is very little time to sit back and reflect on the beauty of the moment. So when people ask me if I miss flying, I admit I do. And yet when I’m sitting here on the side of the mountain, my soul soars higher than I’ve ever soared before.

As the peaks and valleys accented by the still bright evening sun stretch westward, my thoughts are pulled with them. It was back in 1972 that my wife, Charlotte, and I responded to God’s call to move to these foothills of North Carolina. Within two years we had built the home we live in today and established the South Mountain Christian Camp which ministers to underprivileged children. Of course, in the beginning our first campers slept in tents on the side of the mountain, and we ourselves were still in the learning stages of what it meant to truly have a close, trusting relationship with our heavenly Father. But God has brought the camp, as well as Charlotte and me, a long way since those early days of development.

One of the main reasons I like to come to this overlook is that I can see most of my native Rutherford County, a place and a people I love. From here I can lift them and others up in prayer. As I’ve grown in spiritual wisdom, knowledge, and the understanding of God’s kingdom and the glorious inheritance we have in Christ Jesus, I ache for the Church. So many Christians seem to be stuck in what I call “spiritual poverty.” The prophet Hosea spoke to this when he said that God’s People are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. And in John’s letter to the Laodicean church, Jesus agreed that the people were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (spiritually speaking) and they didn’t even know it.

In my previous book, Fingerprints of God, I shared stories of miracles which occurred during our growing years in hopes of encouraging people and inspiring them to have more faith. Thousands of readers have told me how the book blessed them and how excited they were to seek after miracles such as those revealed in the book. Of course, that was good, but how much better it would be if we all were as excited about exploring more fully that place of trust in God where miracles happen routinely in everyday life. We call this place, this realm, the Kingdom of God. It is a heavenly realm, so the bible also refers to it as the Kingdom of Heaven. In describing this kingdom, Paul called it a place of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said that we should seek this kingdom and His righteousness above everything else. So in this book, I hope to use God’s Word and personal testimonies to help others discover their own flight plan to this kingdom where their souls may Soar to Lofty Heights - Spiritually.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? Like you’re marching to a different beat than the people around you? Well there may be a reason for that, but it’s not because you’re crazy. 1 Peter 2:11 says, “Dear friends, you are aliens and strangers on this earth…” The reason you don’t fit in is because this world is not your home. You have been born again in the Spirit, so you don’t fit into the world’s mold.

This is the foundation of our theme for Summer Camp 2010. The theme is ALIENS, and the focus of our teaching will be to show campers how and why they can live differently from the rest of the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That’s what we want to teach the campers—that God can transform them into a new person by changing the way they think.

The theme will be lots of fun with alien puppets, space suits, alien costumes and skits, and outer space decorations. Of course, we’ll also have the usual camp activities like hiking, swimming, boating, rock climbing, field games, crafts and sports. But the most important thing is that these campers will learn that they don’t have to live like the rest of the world. They’ve been called to something greater.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ziplining in the Rain

It never ceases to amaze me how much a group can change in just a few hours. I’ve led hundreds of them through our ropes course over the years, but last weekend we hosted a group of boys who really exemplified what the ropes course is all about. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning; the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Those boys were like a living object lesson of that truth.

The day started on the low ropes course with some teambuilding activities. The boys were zealous, but quickly grew frustrated with each other. Despite having beautiful weather for the activities, arguing and bickering rapidly took over. It seemed everyone had a different idea on how things should be done, and no one wanted to do it the same way. As the activities progressed, however, they began to cooperate with each other and to respect one another’s ideas.

As their teamwork grew, so did their perseverance. Later in the morning, when we moved onto the high ropes course, the weather changed. The bright sun disappeared behind thick clouds and the temperature dropped rapidly. An hour later the rain started. I looked around at the boys to see how they would respond and was pleased to see that their determination never wavered. One by one, they all went down our 300-foot zip line with the rain pelting their cold faces. In the end they cheered for one another, exchanged high-fives, and hustled over to the cafeteria to enjoy their lunch.

As I watched them leave I realized how much their group cohesiveness had improved even as the weather had turned bad. In this I saw the truth that difficult circumstances build character, and I realized that God was using this experience to mold these young lives into the image of his Son.

We work so hard at avoiding pain and trials, but as O.A. has said, “Every testimony begins with a test.” If you feel that you are going through some testing right now, find hope in the assurance that God is working it for good, and in the end, you’ll have a testimony to share about how He brought you through it.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mountain Climbing

I remember the first time I climbed a mountain. I was 15 years old. Growing up in Florida, the tallest thing I had climbed was a pile of sand. But, when I was 15, I spent my summer at a camp in Colorado called Uplift Mountain. My first week there, one of my new friends and I had the opportunity to climb Mt. Herring. It wasn’t the tallest mountain around, but it was an unforgettable experience.

The hike was long and tough. My legs were aching, and my lungs were gasping for oxygen in the thin air at 9,000 feet above sea level. We had to stop several times to catch our breath and quench our parched throats.

As we neared the peak, however, my excitement grew. I couldn’t wait to get to the top and look back to see how far I’d come. The sense of accomplishment was already building within me. I was so proud of myself.

But the moment I reached that peak, my plan of looking back disappeared. I completely forgot about what was behind me. I forgot about my aching legs and my overworked lungs. I forgot about measuring my accomplishment and feeling proud of myself.

All I could do was stare in awe at what lay on the other side of the mountain. It was the most amazing view I had ever seen. I would try to describe it to you, but there’s no way I could do it justice. I just sat and stared, blinking only when absolutely necessary.

Time flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to go back down. You might think that I would be disappointed, but I wasn’t. The fact is, I couldn’t wait to get back down. I wanted to tell everyone back at Camp what I had seen.

And I did.

That was just the first of what would become many trips up Mt. Herring for me. Now, almost 20 years later, I’ve had many mountain experiences, but none quite like that first one.

Here at South Mountain Christian Camp, we get the opportunity to see many people undergo a “mountain experience.” Sometimes this comes by physically climbing to the top of the mountain here, but even more often, it is a spiritual experience that comes from just being in God’s presence here on the Camp.

Just like my experience on Mt. Herring, these people forget about their problems and pain. They forget about their accomplishments and their pride. They forget all about what is behind them, and they just bask in the love of God. And when their time on the mountain is over, they don’t go home bitter or resentful. They go home excited to tell everyone there all about what they experienced on the mountain.