Monday, December 19, 2011

Intricate Parts


Did you know that a 5-speed automatic transmission can have 800-1000 individual parts? I never fully appreciated the intricate detail involved in this amazing piece of craftsmanship until I read about it in the book How Stuff Works. I was in awe of how hundreds of parts work together in perfect synchronization to produce the desired result. I would explain it all to you, but I don’t understand it myself.

It reminds me somewhat of the Kingdom of God. There are many individual parts in God’s Kingdom which are all working together in perfect unity producing dramatic results which can leave the observant believer in awe. For example, last February, I wrote about how God sent our new maintenance director, Art Reagle, to us through a miraculous course of events. Well, Art’s work here connected us with the Christian Motorcyclists Association resulting in a huge collaborated effort to raise funds for the Camp which I wrote about in our Summer/Fall newsletter. Then, that event brought about a divine appointment with the broadcasting department at our local community college resulting in the production of a promotional video for our SEEDS programs at no cost to the Camp. Additionally, the process of producing that video led to a connection with Dale Sollars who, as I wrote in September, designed and installed our new disc golf course!

Some may see these connected events as coincidental, but we know better. These are the “fingerprints of God.” When you are in God’s Kingdom, you are part of something much bigger than yourself. Even the most insignificant occurrence in your life can be our Father’s hand at work, bringing about results that you never could have imagined. Likewise, your support of this ministry can have dramatic effects on an individual’s life, which can, in turn, affect many more lives. You are one of the intricate parts in God’s Kingdom which He uses to bring about remarkable results.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tents Only

It was one of the most unique retreats we’ve hosted in recent memory. By opting to sleep in tents rather than our cabins or lodges, the father-son group from Word of Grace Community Church brought a whole new dynamic to their weekend last month. Fathers and sons camping out together provided a way for them to strengthen their bonds with each other and with their Lord and Savior. By braving the cold nights and hard ground, this group connected with creation and the Creator in an intimate way.

Coincidentally, this “tents-only” weekend came right in the middle of the Jewish "Feast of Tabernacles" which is introduced in the Old Testament. This feast was described by God in Leviticus 23 as a time when all the people were to live outdoors in “tabernacles” or temporary shelters. This feast was to be a time of rejoicing, reflecting on the faithfulness of God, and studying the scriptures. And let me tell you, that’s just what this father-son group did!

Over the course of their weekend at South Mountain, they spent equal amounts of time studying the Bible, encouraging and challenging each other on our ropes course, and just have a good time together. The bonding experience that took place during that weekend will stick with those boys and their fathers for a long time to come. 

As I gave thought to the Feast of Tabernacles once again, it occurred to me that this is essentially what camp ministry is all about. We provide an opportunity for people to get away from their daily routine, experience God’s creation first-hand, and draw closer to Him as a result. Sometimes it takes place in tents, sometimes in cabins, and sometimes in our lodges, but the concept is still the same. Our guests get out of their homes, and away from their jobs or school, to spend extra time with Jesus.

Frederick Gunn is generally considered to have started camping as we know it today in 1861 when he took a group of boys from his school on a camping trip. But it seems to me that God came up with the idea and shared it with the Hebrews a few thousand years earlier with the Feast of Tabernacles. Camping isn’t just a good idea, it’s a God idea!

It is our privilege here at South Mountain Christian Camp to put this same concept to work in the lives of people today. And what a blessing is it to see how God continues to use camping to impact souls for His kingdom!

Steve Collins
Associate Director

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trusting God

I was just drifting off into a peaceful sleep when I suddenly sat up straight in bed. See You At the Pole is tomorrow morning, my mind screamed into my consciousness, and I haven’t prepared anything! I double checked my facts as the fog cleared from my head. Yep, I was scheduled to speak at this student-led prayer gathering at the local high school at 7:20 in the morning; and, somewhere in the midst of my busy week, I had forgotten to prepare any notes.

Before I could panic, however, I felt the Lord encouraging me to just go back to sleep and trust Him to give me the words to say. Now, that's a difficult thing for me to do. I like to be prepared anytime I've been invited to speak somewhere. Add to that the fact that my brain can be a little fuzzy first thing in the morning, and you can understand why I was nervous about just going to sleep and trusting that God would provide the message in the morning. But I know the voice of my Father, and so, in obedience, I laid my head back down on the pillow and went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up feeling great, and, as I prepared to head to the school, God began to clearly reveal to my spirit what He would have me to say. Later, as the students gathered around the flagpole for the meeting, I began to recognize some faces. Several of our summer campers were in the group! When I was introduced, a few of them called out their greetings to me and waved.

I shared with those students for the next several minutes about what it means to abide in the presence of Christ. Afterwards we prayed together and sang a song. Later, as the students were heading to class, a handful of them stepped up to chat for just a few moments. I can’t tell you how encouraging it was to me to see those campers boldly taking a stand for Christ by gathering for prayer in front of their school.

A short time later, as I was driving back to Camp, I reflected on the faithfulness of God. When I trusted Him last night, He provided the words I needed to say this morning. On an even bigger scale, I realized that when I entrust the campers to Him at the end of the summer, He is faithful to continue that work in them, drawing them deeper and deeper into an intimate relationship with Him. And He had even given me an unexpected opportunity to encourage them in that relationship today!

Summer Camp may be over, but the ministry of South Mountain Christian Camp never ceases. We continue to minister to people of all ages through our Ropes Courses, SEEDS programs, and weekend retreats. And sometimes we have these divine appointments to minister in unexpected ways!

Friday, September 23, 2011

He's On The Move!

When God is ready to move, things can get exciting very quickly. I witnessed this first-hand last month, and it all started with a phone call. Before I tell you about that call, let me preface the story with some background information.

For years now, we’ve had a desire to install a disc golf course here at SMCC. Disc golf, if you’re not familiar with it, is played similarly to traditional golf. Instead of using clubs to hit balls into a hole, however, you throw flying discs toward targets which are designed to catch the disc out of the air and drop it into a basket. It’s a wonderful sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. Unfortunately, when we checked into what it would cost to install a disc golf course, the total price including course design, target purchases, and installation was going to be in the neighborhood of $10 thousand for an 18-hole course.

Then last month I got a phone call from Dale Sollars who’d heard about our desire to install a course here. Dale is a former professional disc golf player who lives nearby, and he wanted to meet with me to see if he could help.

I met with Dale and a friend of his that afternoon. I took them around on the Camp and showed them what we had in mind. Dale remarked that SMCC was the perfect setting for disc golf. Then he went on to explain that he installs disc golf courses. He volunteered to do the design of our course (a $1500 value) for free, and he and his friend would even do the installation (another huge savings).

Dale went on to say that he felt that he might be able to find a few people to sponsor some of the holes to help cover the cost of purchasing the targets, and that he could sell discs to us at a discounted price! When I mentioned that we’d like to host some tournaments once the course is operational, he volunteered to help with that as well, even going to far as to say that he could probably get some prizes donated for the tournament because of his connections with disc golf retailers. I was nearly overwhelmed with all the support God has sent our way, when Dale topped it off by saying that he would sponsor one of the holes himself!

So for the past few weeks Dale has been spending a good amount of time around here, designing a layout for the course that will be beneficial for all ages. He’s come up with a masterful layout that enables our younger campers to play an easy nine holes, but also provides a challenge for more experienced players who want to take on the full eighteen.

Meanwhile, S&P Land Services graciously cleared several acres of land near the lake for the course at no charge, and we’ve found sponsors for most of the 18 holes for the course. The cost of sponsoring a hole is $330. Some of the sponsors are businesses; others are individuals who are doing it as a memorial for a loved one. All the sponsors (or memorials) will be acknowledged on a permanent sign located at the tee area for the hole they sponsored. If you are interested in sponsoring a hole, check out our Disc Golf page for more details.

After years of waiting and hoping, it looks like God is finally bringing disc golf to SMCC. Sometimes waiting on God can seem never-ending, but, when the time is right, God really knows how to get things moving! I hope that you find that same thing to be true in your own life as you wait on Him. May God’s blessing abound to you this day!

Steve




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Wounded Heart

Carl had to be one of the liveliest kids we’ve ever had at South Mountain Christian Camp. A conversation with him was like watching a Broadway performance. When I brought him up on stage for an illustration in chapel one night, he had me laughing so hard, I could barely get my point across. He was an entertainer from dawn to dark, and his smile never seemed to fade.

That’s why it was such a surprise to see a very different expression on his face when he approached me after chapel one night later that week. I could see that he was distraught, so, after the chapel room cleared, I sat down with Carl and his Cabin Director to find out what was bothering him. He then opened up to us about a very painful relationship with his father. Carl said that his dad was constantly ridiculing and making fun of him. I could see the pain in Carl’s eyes as they welled up with tears. He further explained that he was a believer, but that his dad often told him that he was going to hell because he was obese. Now the tears poured freely. Carl covered his face with his hands, and his shoulders shook with intense sobbing. He was mentally and emotionally beat down, even though he usually covered it up with his bright personality.

 For the next several minutes, I spoke truth to Carl. I told him about his identity in Christ—that he is loved (Romans 8:38) and favored by God (Psalm 5:12), and that God delights in him (Psalm 18:19). Then his Cabin Director and I prayed with Carl that God would heal his wounded heart. As we prayed, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully in Carl, and he received that emotional healing that he so desperately needed. A few minutes later, after the tears had dried, Carl stood up and made his way out of the chapel room with confidence. His burden was gone, and his heart was free.

 There are so many stories just like Carl’s from a great summer of ministry here at South Mountain Christian Camp. Over 70 kids gave their hearts to Jesus here this summer, and countless others had personal encounters like Carl's that dramatically changed their relationships with God. Even now, as we prepare to shift into our Group Retreat and SEEDS season, we give glory to the Lord for everything that He accomplished here this summer.




Thursday, July 14, 2011

Turnaround

I wiped my sweaty brow with an even sweatier forearm, frowning at the futility of the action as I made eye contact with one of our Cabin Directors. It was the end of the week, and we were both feeling fatigued. He gave a slight smile and spoke over the combined noise of the gym fans and the noisy campers he was dutifully supervising.

This has got to be the biggest turnaround I’ve ever seen in a camper,” he said.

Suddenly he had my full attention. This Cabin Director was speaking from four years of experience, and I had to know to whom he was referring. He pointed out one of the campers playing basketball 20 feet away, and I shook my head is amazement.

The camper he indicated had been a handful of trouble all week long. On more that one occasion, the Cabin Director had brought him to my Assistant Director for discipline issues. Multiple times they’d had serious conversations about his behavior problems and the resulting consequences.

Sadly, there had been no improvement. I had wondered if the nightly chapel services were having any impact on him at all. But something had occurred on the last night of Camp. It wasn’t accompanied by any dramatic, outward display of emotion, but that camper had awoken Friday morning thoroughly changed.

“It’s like a complete 180 degree turn,” the Cabin Director said. “You’d never think this was the same kid.”

Now it was my turn to smile. We both knew that there’s only One who can turn a life around so dramatically. Only One can transform a teenager from the inside out. His name is Jesus, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this camper had a personal encounter with Him.

You played just as important a role in that encounter as any of our staff members. Through your prayers and support, you enable this ministry to continue to operate by faith, making encounters like this possible, not only for that campers, but also for many more just like him.



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Butterfly Effect

Did you know that a butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion which could have an ongoing affect on more and more air molecules, eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the world? It’s called the Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions, and it is the basis for the tiny, but inspirational, book The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews. Andrews applies this principle to human interaction, illustrating how one person can make an impact on another person, thus setting into motion a course of events that can change the world. Reading this book caused me to reflect back on my own life, and God brought to mind a “butterfly wing” which eventually had a profound impact on my life.

I was seventeen years old, fresh out of high school, and working at a camp called Uplift Mountain for the summer. I was helping to lead a visiting youth group on a mountain hike. As we made our way, I was talking with two people: R.D. Saunders, who was the youth pastor of that group, and a young lady named Jen, who was also on staff at the camp. R.D. asked me about my plans for the future. I replied that I felt that God was leading me into ministry, but I felt unsure about any specific direction. R.D., being an experienced youth worker, detected that my relationship with Jen was not simply that of a co-worker. The truth is, Jen and I were barely at the hand-holding stage of our relationship. But R.D. then made a short, simple statement that would forever impact my life. He said, “Well, you and Jen ought to get married and go into camp ministry like Uplift Mountain.” At the time, I mostly felt surprise (and a little embarrassment) that R.D. could detect the nature of our relationship so easily. But that statement took root in my spirit, and, over the course of the next several months, grew into a vision and calling from God. Nineteen years later, Jen and I are married, and we’ve now been serving the Lord in full-time camp ministry for 14 years.

Last night I shared this story with my summer staff members. Their immediate response was, “Have you told this guy how he impacted your life?” When I told them that I have no idea where he is now, they challenged me to find him on Facebook. Two hours later, I found R.D. and sent him a message to let him know how he was the “butterfly effect” in my life so many years ago. His excited response, which came just an hour later, included this statement: “I do not remember being especially inspiring in that moment but I guess we never know what impact a few words may have.” And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We never know what an impression we can have on someone’s life with just a simple act or a short statement. And that impression can, in turn, have an impact on thousands (or millions) of others. Because God used R.D. to turn me in the direction of camp ministry, I’ve had the opportunity to minister to over 8,000 young people over the last 14 years. And who knows what kind of impact those 8,000 will, in turn, have on the people around them? R.D. went on to say, “I am challenged now from your message to be very careful so I can always have a positive effect.”

You, too, have a “butterfly effect” on the lives around you. It comes with every interaction you have with people. Part of that effect is in your giving. When you support the ministry of South Mountain Christian Camp, you are effecting change in the lives of thousands and, in turn, millions of people.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 Banquet

With a heroic rescue, a superhero vs. supervillain battle, and a stage decorated like a page from a comic book, the 2011 Banquet was a great success. We were pleased to host nearly 150 guests for the annual event this year, including many who came for the first time. The theme was “Heroes of Destiny,” and every table was decorated with superhero logos and glass vases filled with replicas of vintage superhero comic book covers.


Following the Open House and Reception, the Banquet started at 6:05 pm with a welcome by O.A. and Charlotte Fish. Camp board member Don Alexander gave the opening prayer, and everyone enjoyed an extraordinary meal featuring pulled-pork barbecue and grilled chicken, prepared by our new Maintenance Director, Art Reagle. The expenses for the meal were completely paid for by the generosity of our business sponsors.

 Following the meal, O.A. and Charlotte again addressed the attendees making some special recognitions and acknowledgments. This included introducing Art as our new Maintenance Director and Lindsey Lane as our new Cafeteria Manager.

Then it was time for my presentation of the upcoming Summer Camp theme. I enlisted the help of my entire family as we staged the “kidnapping” of my daughter by a blue-headed villain (played by my wife, Jen). I made a quick change into a superhero costume, then sprang into action, battling an evil henchman (played by my son) and rescuing my daughter before capturing and imprisoning the villain.

All of this was to introduce the truth that we’ll be teaching our campers this summer--that God wants to make us heroes. Our summer theme will be centered on this concept that, when we give our lives to God, He does amazing things through us. 

After my presentation, O.A. addressed the audience one more time sharing the vision of South Mountain Christian Camp and how God is using the ministry here. O.A. also made a special acknowledgement of Roger Robinson who served as our Maintenance Director since the Camp began. Roger received a standing ovation for his years of service.

The evening concluded with an opportunity for attendees to fill out response cards if they wished to make donations to the ministry.

You can view more pictures of the Banquet and leave comments on our Picasa page. You can also view and comment on more videos of the Banquet at our YouTube channel. If you missed the Banquet and would like the opportunity to make a donation to the ministry of South Mountain Christian Camp, you can do so with the Donate button below.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No One is Left Out

This scholarship thing really seems to be catching on. Many of you may know that our policy at South Mountain Christian Camp has always been that no child is denied a summer camp opportunity for financial reasons. If parents are unable to pay the entire fee for their child to come to Camp, we allow them to come anyway and trust God to provide scholarships to make up the difference. Well, we've been seeing more and more that scholarships are not just for Summer Camp.

For several years now, we have partnered with the Grace Emmaus Community to host men’s and women’s retreats during the fall and spring. Every attendee on these “Emmaus Walks” is sponsored by someone else who volunteers to pay their fees. This makes the entire retreat all the more meaningful for those to attend, knowing that someone cared enough to pay their way for the retreat.

More recently, we have begun partnering with Harvest Praise Church to host their men’s and women’s “Encounter” retreats. Harvest Praise decided this month to reach out to some of the homeless individuals living a local rescue mission by inviting them to attend their Men's Encounter weekend here at South Mountain. They knew these men would need sponsorships in order to attend the retreat, and they trusted God to provide the funds. They weren't sure where the money would come from but they believed that He would meet the need.

God honored their faith by bringing in every dollar that was needed!

Now Harvest Praise has scheduled a “Youth Encounter” here for next month, and they are trusting God to provide scholarship funds for EVERY teenager who attends so that no one misses out on the opportunity to meet with Him. That's the Kingdom of God in action!

As we get closer to our own Summer Camp program, we are trusting God as well. We see a very pressing need for sponsorships for the campers who will attend because the vast majority of them cannot afford the $155 it costs us to provide a week of Summer Camp. However, we continue to have faith that God will provide.


He is ALWAYS faithful--not just some of the time, or most of the time, but ALL of the time. It’s just His nature to be so. And He delights in meeting the needs of those who trust in Him.



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Scars

I never knew it was there. It was my son who first noticed it. When I mentioned that I was having back pain last month, he volunteered to massage the area. Before he even got started, however, I heard him exclaim, “Dad there’s a huge lump on the back of your neck!” He was right. A visit to my medical practitioner, followed by an ultrasound, led to the removal of a benign fatty tumor called a lipoma.

Now I’ve got this new scar on the back of my neck. Most of the time, I don’t think about it. In fact, I often forget that it’s there. But, on occasion, I’ll do something that puts extra pressure on the still-sensitive area. Those moments bring an instant, painful reminder that just a few weeks ago my flesh was cut open and a chunk of tissue was removed from my body—not exactly a pleasant experience.

The entire occurrence actually causes me to reflect on some of our summer campers. Many of them come to Camp happy, content, and cheerful until something happens that elicits a negative or aggressive response. This is because many of them carry deep emotional scars that, like the physical scar on my neck, are still sensitive. When pressure is put on these painful areas of their souls, that sensitivity brings an instant, painful reminder of what they have suffered through.

Fortunately, when this happens at South Mountain, we see it as an opportunity to minister to their needs. A door is opened to help the camper see their need for spiritual healing. That’s when Jesus comes in and heals not only the wound, but the scar as well. Only our Savior can do that.
 
They’re coming again this summer. Almost 600 campers will spend a week at South Mountain Christian Camp this summer. We’re working hard to make sure all the logistics are taken care of so that these campers can experience God while they’re here. You can play a big part in that process with your support. By providing a full or partial scholarship for an economically disadvantaged child, you can help set up an encounter with Jesus.



Monday, February 21, 2011

God's Team

Last June a large branch tumbled out of a treetop, striking our longtime maintenance director, Roger Robinson, in the head and sending him to the hospital for the duration of the summer. Even after he returned home at the end of our busiest season, Roger was unable to return to work, and we were left wondering how we could possibly find someone who could fill in and take leadership of our maintenance issues.

A short time later, God sent Art Reagle our way. Art had previously worked with some friends of ours at a camp in New York and later at a camp in Hickory, NC. He came by for a visit and decided that he would be willing to volunteer every other week to help us with our maintenance needs. Art has a real gift for coordinating volunteers and soon was planning a big work day with several of his friends from the Christian Motorcyclists Association.

When the day came last month for these volunteers to arrive, we were all quickly amazed at how much they were able to carry out in such a short time. Art had people spread out all over camp, cutting down dead trees, grinding up stumps, tearing down an old shed, cleaning up one building, clearing out another building, repairing some air conditioning and heating problems, and performing maintenance on our tractors and mowers.

Art (blue jacket) with a few of the many CMA volunteers

By the time the day was finished, more had been accomplished than we could even have imagined. But that’s just how God works, isn’t it? Ephesians 3:20-21a says, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory…” We praise God for what he accomplished through Art and all of the CMA volunteers that day. What a blessing!

God has put together a great team through whom He works in this ministry, but it’s not just the staff members. All the volunteers who spend as little as one hour or as much as a full day are vital members of that team. And our supporters are vital members of that team as well. Whether they send a small donation or large, every member of this team is important, and we deeply appreciate all of them.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Castaways

You never know who you’re going to meet. I found this to be true last month when we attended the Christian Camp & Conference Association’s national conference. Our entire staff was looking forward to some great training, networking, and inspiration. And we received just what we were expecting. What I didn’t expect, however, was to meet Rob Mitchell.

Rob briefly shared his story one night about how he had been discarded by his family at the age of three and raised in an orphanage. He grew up angry and bitter until an experience at a Christian summer camp changed his life. Once he let Jesus into his heart, his life began to change direction. Today Rob is a multi-millionaire, and his entire story is detailed in his book Castaway Kid, available through Focus on the Family.

Afterwards, I had a chance to meet Rob and talk with him briefly. I found Rob’s story to be particularly inspiring because so many of the kids who come to our Camp have a story similar to his own. Many have been abandoned by their parents and have no hope. Many have been raised in group homes and are angry, bitter, and resentful. Many are on the path to destruction. But, just as Rob’s life was changed at a Christian camp, our campers too can have an experience with God that will impact their lives forever.

Rob told us at the conference that his opportunity at camp came because someone sponsored his attendance. As you may know, the vast majority of our campers attend under similar circumstances. Eighty percent of them come on scholarships provided by our supporters. Most of these sponsorships come anonymously in the sense that the campers never know who paid their scholarship and the sponsors never know the camper who benefitted from their generosity. But the impact on their lives is not diminished in the least.

We never know who we’re going to meet during Summer Camp. A lot of campers come our way, and we never know who among them might be the next Rob Mitchell—a castaway kid who found love and acceptance in the arms of God. It is the generosity of God's people that enables us to reach out to them every year.

If you'd like to make a donation of any amount toward a camper scholarship, you can use the donate button below.