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.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Leaving Misery Behind

As soon as little Jacob stepped off the school bus, his eyes locked onto me. His bright smile was accompanied by an enthusiastic wave, and I knew that he must be one of our summer campers. Today he was here for a school field trip to learn about the design of nature, but his mind was on camp.

“You baptized me!” he said as soon as he was within earshot.

“That’s right,” I replied, “You were here for summer camp!”

All day long, Jacob took every opportunity to talk about camp with his fellow students. He pointed out his cabin, shared his favorite activities, and told his classmates where each trail led. When I asked him if he was going to come back next year, I was surprised that there was a slight pause in his eagerness.
 
“Well…I want to,” he said.
 
I didn’t press the issue any further, and we continued through the day, learning all about creation.

At the end of the day, a conversation with his teacher brought some clarity to the situation. She told me that Jacob was a new student at the school. He had just moved to North Carolina to live with his grandmother because both of his parents were in prison. He'd moved here just in time to get enrolled in the last week of our summer camp program. During his week of camp, Jacob had given his life to Christ and was baptized.

The teacher went on to share that one of their vocabulary words a few weeks ago was misery. When she asked the class, “What does misery mean?” Jacob shot his hand up and responded, “Misery is what you have in your heart before you give it to Jesus, but, when Jesus comes in, He takes all the misery away!”
 
I was stunned. What an impact summer camp had on little Jacob’s life! Both his parents are in prison, he’s living in a different state and going to a new school, but he is absolutely full of joy because he met Jesus here! I am humbled and thankful to God for what He accomplished in Jacob. And I'm so grateful that the Lord gave me this glimpse into the ongoing change taking place in his life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Quiet Faith


From the moment he first laid eyes on Nathan, his cabin director, Daniel, could sense that something was amiss. It wasn’t just that Nathan was small for his age, and it wasn’t because he was so shy. Daniel had seen plenty of kids all summer long that fit those categories. No, this was something deeper. Daniel sensed in his spirit that Nathan didn’t know Jesus. There was no outward reason to think this was the case, but he began to pray especially hard for Nathan, that God would give him a spiritual breakthrough during his week of camp.


During cabin devotion times, Daniel made a particular effort to keep Nathan engaged in the teaching. This was difficult because Nathan was so shy that he barely spoke to anyone. He would just sit quietly with his head down until the small group time was over. He never commented or asked questions about chapel time either. In fact, he hardly spoke at all. He would answer direct questions with the shortest possible answer and never seemed willing to open up about his relationship with God.

 
Imagine Daniel’s surprise then, when Nathan approached him out of the blue and asked Daniel to pray with him! Daniel’s spirit leapt inside, but he tried to remain calm outwardly, afraid that too much excitement might cause Nathan to clam up again. They sat down together, and Nathan quietly asked Daniel to help him pray to give his heart to Christ. Daniel then realized that, through all of the cabin devotions, chapels, and prayer times, even though Nathan was quiet, he was taking in every word. His faith was growing more and more like a fire, until it finally strengthened enough to overcome his fear. In that moment, Nathan surrendered his life to God, and he was transformed!


At the end of the week, Nathan made a public confession of faith before the entire camp (over 100 people) and was baptized in our pool. What a miracle! It's a great reminder that faith often works quietly, in the heart, where real change takes place.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Love and Lust

Love vs. lust. What’s the difference? Is there a difference? You bet there is. But don’t take it from me, the old married guy. Take it from guest blogger Mikel Collins, a teenager currently immersed in the turbulent subculture we call high school:

 
Many people can’t tell the difference between love and lust, especially the modern teenager. They think that they love someone, but all that “love” just tends to fade away over time.
 
I believe this is also one reason why so many marriages end in divorce. A couple becomes infatuated with each other, and they get married based on those feelings. They think the infatuation will last a lifetime, but it doesn’t. Some people just want to take advantage of their boyfriend or girlfriend. Once one convinces the other that they are in love and it is ok to sleep together, they break up and move on.
 
But what is love? What is lust? Love involves wanting to be around someone all the time. Not to hold hands, and not to make out. Just to be able to spend time with them and talk about the day. When you’re in love, you’re willing to give up everything just to be able to spend time with another person. Lust is a very dangerous thing. Lust make you feel like you can’t be around someone without touching them or staring at them. One signal of lust can be when a couple gets together and does more touching than talking. If you are together with someone you lust for, you will probably end up doing something stupid. Love is pure, selfless, miraculous, and holy. Lust is dirty, deceitful, selfish, manipulative, and sinful.
 
I am a Christian, and I believe that sex before marriage is wrong. People can get so caught up in what the world tells them that they think they have to sleep together to prove they love each other. The truth is, they probably don’t feel love at all, just lust. They wind up having sex and often end up feeling shame and regret for their decisions.
 
In the Bible it says that God IS love. God created love and sex, so they are very good and holy things. With lust, people abuse those things. God is the only one who has agape love, or unconditional love. He loves us so matter what we do, and that is truly amazing.
 
Love and lust do have one similarity, which is probably why we tend to get them mixed up. The one thing that they have in common is the fact that they both have something to do with being attracted to another person. Unfortunately, most of the time, people are too naïve to notice the difference.
 
Another problem is the pressure and drama in school. Kids feel like they have to have a girlfriend or boyfriend to be cool. They end up getting one, but all they feel is lust. It only gets worse as they get older. They feel like they have to have sex just to fit in.
 
Teens need to experience God’s love before they can truly know how to love another human the right way. There is so much crap going on in schools these days that it is extremely hard to help them experience love in its fullest. It’s tough, but not impossible.
 
Love does not necessarily have to mean romance. If we will just reach out and love each other, people will notice. They will want to experience this real love, and we will be more than happy to share it with them. Love is an amazing thing. It helps millions of people and saves lives every day. The problem is that we just keep abusing it. Loving someone is one of the easiest and most powerful things you can do to help someone. Yet some people still don’t want to do it.
 
People get so caught up in lust and infatuation that they hardly notice anything other than their boyfriend or girlfriend. That is a very dangerous place to be because it will always end badly for both people involved in the relationship. I’ve seen couples who act like their sides are glued together. It is sad how our minds can be so easily taken over because of some hormones.
 
It is amazing how two things can be so similar but so different. Someone who has never experienced true love can easily think that lust is love. They can feel so alike at times. The best way to tell the difference is by becoming aware of how you act around the people you’re attracted to. If you are in a relationship, and it isn’t real love, it’s better to slow things down or end it right then and there than to go on pretending like you love someone who you do not.
--Mikel
 
I couldn’t have said it better myself. But listen: If you've already messed up, you need to know that we serve a God who specializes in fresh starts. You can't undo what you've already done, but He can. That's what grace is all about. Past mistakes don't disqualify you from making good decisions today. Change, by it's very nature, must have a starting point. For you, it can be right now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

He'd Never Heard


Ryan only came to camp to get out of his house. He didn’t really want to be here, and he certainly didn’t want to hear about Jesus. He had five siblings (from five different fathers) living in the same home with him, and they all got on his nerves. Camp was just a chance to get away from them for a while.

During the first part of the week, Ryan amused himself by pushing against the rules to see how his cabin director would respond. The results were not what he was expecting. Rather than exploding in anger as most adults in his life had done, Ryan’s cabin director, Eli, continued to correct him with patience and love.
 
So, Ryan pushed harder. This earned him a talk with the Assistant Director and a stern warning, but still no explosion.

Then, one morning during cabin devotions, Eli explained how Jesus died to take away sin. Ryan tried to tune it out, but he had to admit, it was an interesting idea. When other campers starting sharing how Jesus had changed their hearts, Ryan’s chest began thumping loudly. He wondered if he was missing out on something.
 
Then Eli explained that this salvation was available to anyone who would surrender their life to Christ. The news was overwhelming. Could this be real? he wondered. Is this why Eli is so different? Ryan began sobbing. He’d never heard about a God who loved so much.
 
The small group gathered around to pray for him, and there in that small huddle, Ryan gave his heart to Jesus and received the free gift of eternal life. He left camp at the end of that week changed forever.

This is what South Mountain Christian Camp is all about, and this is no isolated incident. Stories of young lives that have been changed have been pouring in all summer long, and we give glory and praise to God for each one!

If you'd like to support the ministry of South Mountain, you can make a donation using the button below:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Cries For Mercy


Little Hannah burst into Cabin 1 on the first day of camp bright-eyed and beaming. She loved everything about camp and never stopped smiling. That night, however, things didn’t go so well. At 1:30 am, her cabin director, Rachel, was startled awake by the sound of Hannah screaming, “Help! Help me!” Rachel was there in a flash, offering comfort and reassurance until she fell back asleep.
 
Hannah suffered from night terrors.

Each day was a repeat of the same. Hannah was as bright and cheerful as ever during the day, but she grew apprehensive and fearful as darkness fell. Despite prayers that the campers would have a peaceful night’s sleep, Rachel was awakened each night by Hannah’s cries for mercy.

Then Wednesday came, and Rachel felt she really needed to emphasize the importance of asking God to be the Lord of your life. That night, back in the cabin after chapel, Hannah asked Rachel to pray with her that Jesus would come and live in her heart. Rachel was overjoyed! They prayed together, and Hannah was transformed. Now she had the living God inside of her!
 
Rachel gave Hannah her Bible to read that night and pointed out Psalm 63:6-8. That night here were no screams, no cries, and no night terrors. When Rachel awoke the next morning, she found Hannah sleeping peacefully with the open Bible covering her face. The nightmares never returned for the rest of the week!
 
This is just one example of how God is moving in the hearts and lives of our campers this summer. The powerful truth is that these encounters only happen because caring individuals have made donations to provide camper scholarships for kids like Hannah who otherwise would not be able to afford to attend camp.

As you can see from this chart, our 2013 Scholarship Fund is well short of the total need. If you would like to make an investment in a child's life, you can make a contribution with your credit card through the "Donate" button below, or send a check to South Mountain Christian Camp, PO Box 9, Bostic NC 28018. Be sure to indicate that your donation is for a camper scholarship. A full scholarship for one child is $165, but donations of any amount are deeply appreciated!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Frozen by Fear

Ever wondered what it's like to experience the High Ropes Course at South Mountain Christian Camp? I've been leading these activities for over 15 years now, and have had some very interesting encounters at the top of the tower.

I've written an article called "Frozen by Fear" about one such encounter, and it's featured as the cover story in this month's issue of Shout! Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine. You can read the full article online at http://www.shoutlifestyle.com/frozen-by-fear-hcc

I hope you enjoy it!

Steve



Friday, April 19, 2013

One Body, Many Parts


Last week, the flu moved into my body and began a six-day reign of terror. I was amazed at how quickly I became ill. The day my symptoms began, I felt great. I ran three miles and played 14 holes of disc golf. That afternoon, however, I crawled into bed with body ache, fever, chills, nausea, and a monster headache. My priorities immediately shifted from enjoying a beautiful Saturday with my family to trying to find some way to relieve the pain.

As I began my slow recovery, I reflected on how my body reacted, and how it is an example of the believers today. The Bible says that we (as the church) are the body of Christ. Every part of the body is important, although some parts get more attention than others. When something goes wrong, and one part cannot serve its purpose, it affects the entire body.

You and I each have a vital role to fill as members of Christ’s body. South Mountain Christian Camp does as well. We realize that we cannot be everything to everyone, but God has given us a specific purpose. We seek to fulfill that purpose to the best of our ability. If we were to try to perform a function other than our own, our best efforts would end in futility and chaos. But when we accomplish the purpose for which we were designed, we find contentment and peace.

I want to encourage you today to be who God designed you to be. The full scope of what God is able to accomplish through you can never be truly measured. God has gifted you uniquely to be a blessing to the body of Christ.
 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

They Never Forget


“Is this Steve?” The voice on the phone sounded cautious and despairing. “I need to talk to you, man.”
 
When he introduced himself, I remembered him immediately. David* was a former camper who came here every summer until he outgrew our program about 8 years ago. I haven’t seen him since then, but I could tell by his tone that he was in distress. Immediately I laid aside what I was working on, and gave him my full attention.

David explained that he felt his life was going nowhere, and he didn’t know where to turn.
 
“I don’t know why, but I just keep thinking about camp, and I really wanted to talk to you,” he said.
 
I told him I was glad he called, and I listened intently as he expressed to me the struggles and anguish he’d been experiencing. As he spoke, I silently prayed the same prayer I pray before every summer camp chapel—that God would use my mouth to speak words of life. When he was finished, there was silence on the phone. It was my turn to speak, but I didn’t know what to say.
 
Then, slowly, like a locomotive pulling out of a train yard, the words began to come. It was just a few thoughts at first, but the Holy Spirit began to pick up momentum as I yielded to Him. Soon words of encouragement, hope, and restoration were pouring out of my mouth faster than I could think of them. Tears began to flow from David’s wounded soul as the words wrapped around him like a warm embrace. Thirty minutes later, as the conversation drew to a close, I told him that he was welcome to call any time, but also to remember that God is always there for him.

Why would David call me after so many years? I believe it was because South Mountain played such a significant role in the development of his faith. David was saved and baptized here at camp in 1998. He’s a young adult now, but the experience he had here with God is not forgotten.
 
This is why we do what we do. South Mountain Christian Camp is not about the hiking, the swimming, or the ropes course. It's about lives being impacted through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The activities, the facilities, and the setting all contribute to make it work, but these things aren't remembered long-term. What stays with our campers is the fact that they experienced God here. This continues to be our purpose today.
 
*name changed

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Quest for $20

How far would you go to save $20? Would you clip out a coupon? Would you fill out a page of paperwork? Would you spend half your Saturday at a VBS presentation? That’s exactly where I found myself one day last month. A flyer said I could save 10% off the curriculum I needed for Summer Camp by attending a Saturday morning presentation. It seemed like a good idea at the time.  

You see, we work on a tight budget here, and 10% off the $200 curriculum would save us—that’s right—$20. So I jumped at the opportunity. As the date approached, however, I began to question my decision. I don’t get very many Saturdays off, and now I had given up half a day with my family to save the Camp twenty bucks. Was it worth it? As I prayed about it, I began to sense that the Lord had additional reasons for sending me to this event. So, on a cold, icy Saturday morning in January, I got up early and sleepily made my way to the church where the event was being held.

Shortly after I arrived, the event coordinator asked me if I would be interested in telling everyone a little bit about South Mountain Christian Camp. This took me by surprise, but I eagerly accepted the offer. A short time later, I had the opportunity to share with a room full of children’s ministry leaders from various churches about our Summer Camp programs. As I told them about the ministry of SMCC, I saw several of them eagerly scribbling notes and jotting down my contact information. Afterwards several more approached me asking for more details and expressing a keen interest in sending their children to our camp this summer.

It was then that I realized that my sacrifice of half a Saturday was not just about the twenty dollars. If even one of those churches sends kids to our camp this summer, and just one child comes to know Jesus as a result, then the half-a-Saturday was time well spent. Because that’s what SMCC is all about—impacting lives for the Kingdom of God.
 
I love it when God tricks me into a blessing. He used the twenty bucks to get my attention, then accomplished so much more than I would have imagined. I'll bet He does the same in your life. Look for the unexpected blessings, and you'll find them. And God's fingerprints will be all over them.
 
(If you’d like more information about our Summer Camp, visit our website, or give me a call at 828-245-3322 and I’ll send you some brochures.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Success

I love a good success story—especially when it comes to our campers. It’s amazing to watch these untamed, grubby cyclones of sweat and laughter develop into productive members of God’s kingdom. Buddy Robinson is a good example of that.
 
When Buddy first came to camp at age seven, his contagious, gap-toothed smile and enthusiasm spread to everyone around him like a cool breeze on a steamy afternoon. He absolutely loved camp. That summer was life-changing for Buddy because he gave his heart to Jesus. He announced his decision to the whole camp at the end of the week, and I had the honor of baptizing him here in our pool.

As he came back to camp each year after that, I watched Buddy grow from a tiny ball of giggles to a big, strapping football player. After he aged out of our summer camp program, God enabled Buddy to attend Rutherford Early College High School where he earned both his high school diploma and his Associate’s degree by age 18. Buddy’s heart contained a light that shone in everything he did. He was greatly admired by his classmates and teachers for his joy and crazy antics.
 
From there Buddy went on to Western Carolina University where he played football and earned his Bachelor’s Degree. He had big dreams, and he wasn’t done yet. Buddy went back to WCU to take graduate courses, and was working toward his master’s degree, when he was shot and killed last spring.


Wait a minute. I thought this was supposed to be a success story. How can that be the end? Well, it’s not the end. In July of 1998, Buddy’s spirit was transformed by the blood of Jesus Christ and his forever life began. I grieve because I miss him, but I know I’ll see him on the other side. Then we’ll relive our favorite camp memories like when he raced my daughter on her tricycle and the summer he finally beat me in a game of foosball. And we'll worship God together again. In this life, Buddy did experience some failures; but in his forever life, it’s just continuous, ongoing success with Jesus.
 

Now, here’s the kicker: Buddy came to camp on a scholarship. That’s right, his life-transforming experience happened because someone decided to invest in a child’s life. Now Buddy is reaping eternal benefits because someone cared enough to write a check to sponsor a child that they didn't even know. That's what I call success.

If you would like to sponsor a child to come to South Mountain this summer, you can make your donation through the button below, or visit our scholarship page for more details.