|Sunset Lake Story Snapshots||Email | Print|
by David Yeagley; Source: Sunset Lake Camp, firstname.lastname@example.org
by David Yeagley, Sunset Lake director
God is doing miraculous things at Sunset Lake on a daily basis. He has taken a group of young adults who have dedicated their summer to God and is transforming lives in a way that is seldom seen within other traditional forms of evangelism. Here are some story snapshots from our summer at Sunset Lake Camp.
At our barn we have a horse that was abused prior to coming to Sunset Lake. She is a sweet horse, but shows fear every time someone tries to touch her head. One young camper, after riding the horse all week, went to pet it. Not realizing the animal’s fear, she reached for its head. But the horse didn’t flinch. Instead, as the girl pet the horse’s head, the animal relaxed, closed her eyes and bent her head down, letting this camper touch her face. It was beautiful to see a young girl teach this animal how to trust again and was a powerful learning experience for this camper.
We had a young camper this summer who had never heard about Jesus. She came from a non-Christian home. In the child’s words, her family worshipped a goddess. She was fascinated with all that she heard about Jesus. Her counselor offered to get her a Bible so she could learn more. With the counselor’s permission, she stayed up late reading the Bible and asked many questions. As she got ready to go home, she was in tears. “I can’t promise you I’m going to read my Bible every day, but I’m going to try as hard as I can. I want to know more about Jesus.” We have been praying for miracles at camp … we just got one.
Friday night we share four stories from the gospel of Mark, but in set in modern times. We address tough issues such as divorce, abandonment, depression, not believing in God, grief and loss. At the end of the play, each of the characters in the play make a call for campers who have experienced what they talked about to meet them at a cross for prayer. I was moved as campers streamed to the four crosses and the staff wrapped their arms around these kids and prayed for hope and healing. As a result, one young boy stood up at our Award Ceremony with the parents and said, “I used to think I was the only one going through pain in my life. This week has taught me that I am not alone. There are others who have experienced what I am going through.” Camp heals hearts!
Our athletic director worked with a blind camper to help him make a shot in basketball. After 15 minutes, a lot of air-balls and a silent prayer, the shot finally went through. “That’s the first basket I’ve made since I went blind 12 years ago,” the camper beamed. That’s what camp is all about!
A Fresh Start
Another camper testimony from the award ceremony: “When I was younger I used to think I was a Christian, but I wasn’t. I never went to church and didn’t read my Bible. But this week taught me how good and awesome God is and I wonder why I never I never wanted a relationship with him before. When I go home I want to start going to church and get to know him better.” Camp changes lives!
Family of God
I had the privilege of baptizing a camper on Sabbath. His family reminded me that I have baptized every one of his older siblings as a result of the ministry of camp. What a privilege. Continue to pray for God to do miraculous things this summer at camp.
Place of Safety
Our Friday night program focuses on God’s healing in difficult circumstances. One young girl was moved to tears by the program. It was the first time she had cried since her parent’s divorce two years before. They were, “healing tears,” as one counselor called them. For the first time since the divorce she felt peace. She promised her counselor that she was coming back next summer. Sunset Lake is a place of safety, where children can find comfort in the midst of their pain.
Moments of Wonder
All week we share “moments of wonder” with our campers … times in our lives when God’s presence was felt and we were changed. A camper who, comes from a non-Christian home, said to his counselor, “I had a moment of wonder this week … I was walking outside at night and looked up and saw the stars.” “How did that make you feel,” the counselor asked. “My parents wouldn’t want me to say,” he said. “Why is that?” the counselor asked. “Because in that moment, I felt God’s presence.” Camp gives God the opportunity touch the lives of campers who would never know him otherwise. This is front-line evangelism.
One girl shared her experience during our Sunday awards ceremony. “When I came to camp I was selfish. Now I realize that all I needed and wanted was God.” That’s why I love camp.
A mother and daughter were baptized together this past Sabbath. It was a fantastic moment as Janis was coming back to faith and Sydney was beginning her journey with Jesus. In the first four weeks of camp, we have already had more than 150 decisions for baptism. Our counselors are calling the local pastor about every one of these decisions and inviting them to prepare them for baptism. We have an end of summer celebration and baptism coming up on August 16. It is our hope that some of these young people will get baptized on that day.
The Power of God’s Word
One girl informed her counselor that she used to have a Bible, put her mother threw it away. “Now I sneak into my Grandma’s office and read her Bible when no one is looking,” she said. “It’s sort of a sin, but not really, right?” Her counselor gave her a new Bible and she carried it with her wherever she went for rest of the week, reading and asking questions.
Our assistant boy’s director had a Divine Appointment on Friday night at one of the crosses that the campers were called to. This boy’s parents just went through a divorce. As Jesse sat with this boy and listened to his tear-filled story, he realized that is own story was almost an exact duplicate of this boy’s story. Together they sat, shared, prayed and wept.
Beauty in Christ
We had a cabin of girls that was made up of girls who normally struggle to fit in. This cabin formed a beautiful community where everyone belonged. One girl in the cabin was constantly tearing herself down and saying that she was ugly. Her counselor pulled her aside and asked, “Will you allow me to tell you why I think you are beautiful?” She said yes … and for the next twenty minutes the counselor told her of her value in Christ. When she was through, the camper was in tears. “Whenever I looked at myself in the mirror it seemed all cloudy. But when I listened to you talk I finally saw myself as I really am.”
Show Me Jesus
There was a young boy who came to camp from the Wilkeson area. He and his mom came at the start of summer to look over the camp. We noticed that the mom had cancer and so we offered to pray with her. At the end she was in tears … here’s the rest of the story. On Friday night at the end of the program, one of our staff was looking for someone to pray with he found this boy and the story of his mom’s cancer came tumbling out. “Do you pray for your Mom?” the staff member asked. “No,” the boy replied. “Do you want me to pray for her?” the staff member asked. Again the answer was no. Finally the staff member asked, “Do you know who Jesus is?” “Not really,” the boy replied. And so early on Sabbath morning, this staff member went to this boy’s cabin and opened God’s word, sharing every story he could think of that portrayed Jesus as a healer. At the end the boy brightened, “Thank you for showing me Jesus.” That is what our staff do, day in and day out!
This week a former staff member and some of her friends headed up the back road beyond camp for some adventure. When they tried to head home they discovered that the battery on the truck was dead. They walked 12.5 miles in cowboy boots back to camp for help, arriving around 2:30 in the morning. As I was driving them back up the road to jump their truck my former staff member said, “I knew if I could just get to camp I would be safe.” We strive each day to make camp a place of safety. It was good to know our efforts have paid off.
Here are a few comments that came in yesterday from a camper survey. The question was, “How has camp changed your relationship with Jesus?”
- “I’m now a Christian! Without camp I wouldn’t know about Him or the things he did for us, so this camp has changed my relationship with Jesus and God forever!”
- “Every week I feel like I grow in Him and the Friday night plays are always very emotional for me and I always cry. I love it here. If I could I would stay forever. I want to work here!”
- “I actually decided to get baptized two years ago because of camp … Jesus was always a mystery to me till I came to camp.
Brokenness and Healing have been common themes at camp this summer. Young people are dealing with an unprecedented level of hurt in their lives. But they are seldom given permission to give voice to their pain. But the acceptance that campers find here gives them freedom to share their struggles and find hope and healing. Here are a few stories from this week.
- Her home life is a mess … divorce, alcoholism, drugs, abuse, her mom is dying of cancer … she struggles to take care of her sisters and to try and hold things together. After a long difficult year, this is her one week to be a normal child. “I look forward to coming to camp because I know it’s a safe place and I will be accepted. I feel free here. This is my one week be myself.”
- She was told by her parents that she could only share what was going on in her family with a therapist. But she didn’t like her therapist and was left with no one to talk to. This Friday night her story came tumbling out … her parent’s marriage is in shambles, her sister has been prostituting herself and she has been experimenting with marijuana and alcohol. Our art instructor took her under her wing and shared Christ with her and gave her resources that will help her when she gets home.
- Seen on the prayer wall, “Dear God, recently it has been getting harder to be myself. Can you make it easier for me? … p.s. See you in heaven.”
- “When I came to camp, I didn’t want anything to do with Christianity. But after seeing it lived in my counselor and the rest of the staff, I’m ready to give it a second chance.”
She came to camp excited about being baptized; with her testimony all written out. She was baptized when she was seven, but didn’t know what it meant. Since that time she and her family have gone through hard times. It got to a point where she wasn’t certain God even existed. But five years of camp opened her eyes to a new picture of Jesus and convinced her to reconnect with him. What a privilege it was to baptize her this Sabbath and see the joy of new life on her face.
Here are some comments from campers. These were gleaned through a survey we took on Sabbath. The question was, “How has camp changed your relationship with Jesus?”
- “Camp has changed my relationship with Jesus because now I want to get baptized.”
- “I feel like he is here hugging me all the time. I knew it before, but now I can feel it. I feel special.”
- “I stopped believing in Jesus at one point my friend killed herself. I didn’t understand why Jesus let my friend take her life. But I realized Jesus and God have a plan for all of us, not just some. God, now, is keeping my friend alive in my heart.”
- It has impacted my life because last night I felt the Savior’s presence at the Friday night program. I’ve never been more emotional in my life. I’m hoping I can come back every year.
- There is no other place that has ever connected me to Jesus quite like SSL. I am now comfortable saying I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I love Jesus.”
- “When I came here I wore a fake smile. I didn’t want to even come here. But I had an urge to come. My life was changed by everyone’s attitude towards life and God. Friday night brought me so close to my roommates. Seeing that I’m not the only one going through hard times. But when a staff person prayed with me, I felt at peace … I felt that God said, ‘Don’t worry. I got you! Don’t be sad.’ I never thought that God loved me; I just felt that he left me. But now I can say, ‘Christ is enough for me.’” (Our theme song.)
This Friday night God blessed us with 33 decisions for baptism. One out of every four campers took this important step! Our summer total is now more than 180 decisions for baptism. But camp isn’t just for campers. Over the past two weeks we have had two staff members make decisions for baptism. The latest took place last night as our culinary instructor announced to the cheers of the staff that she had made her decision. God’s miracles continue at Sunset Lake.
So far this summer 200 campers have made decisions to prepare for baptism. Our counselors have been calling the pastor of every young person who made a decision and personally encouraging them to follow up with these campers. We have set aside the evening of August 16 for a baptism. We hope that some of these young people will be baptized on that day. Praise God for each decision.
Our guys director tells the following story: “I got to know, Justin, one of the guys in Cabin Hemlock this week, pretty well. On Friday he shared with me how he had just moved from California a few months back in order to escape his drug addiction and gang life. He had only recently quit smoking (both cigarettes and marijuana) so he was still feeling withdrawal symptoms while here at camp. After talking with him for a few minutes, he looked at me and said ‘can I tell you something I've only told two other people?’ I said ‘sure.’ He began to tell me the story of his gang life … and how he witnessed the shooting of his best friend … He told me how haunting it was for him, how he carried guilt around and wished he could change the past. Later on that evening, I joined Hemlock around the fireplace, and got to witness the story again, as he found the courage to confess to his cabin. His counselor used the story of Justin's friend to compare to Christ. It was amazing to see the light come on for him. Right before we ended, Justin confessed that he has never been to a place where he felt totally accepted, where he could tell anyone anything, and not feel judged. All the guys in the cabin agreed that they were best friends, and would keep in touch. God was definitely working!”
Another counselor shared the story of his camper, a devout Catholic. Even though he was of a different religious background, he really enjoyed this week and said everything (Sabbath, haystacks, etc) was pretty "normal" even though it was new to him. At their torch on Friday, after James had handed out his decision cards, he noticed this young man had left a note on the bottom of his. "Thanks for such a great week! I was worried at the beginning because I thought I would be judged and criticized for what I believe, but there was never a time when that happened. I felt totally accepted here and it was really cool!"
Atheist No More
Another counselor, Adan, had two friends in his cabin who thoroughly enjoyed camp this week. Near the end of the week, on Friday, Adan challenged his cabin to accept Jesus as their savior, and light a candle as a symbol of that decision. One of the friends stood up and did it with the rest, and asked Adan if he could have a Bible. Later on, the second friend told Adan that he was very surprised his friend lit the candle because up until that point his friend had been an atheist. This young man went home with a Bible and was excited to get to know this God he thought didn’t exist.
Never the Same
One young man told our guys director, that while he has been going to Sunset Lake for eleven years, every year was a repeat of the last. He would come to camp, feel God calling him to something more, sign the card, and then go home and fall back into his old ways. His pastor would call him for baptismal studies but he felt like it was just too much work. He said it was hard for him to maintain his relationship with God because after camp it would last for about a week or so and then he wouldn't know what to read or what to pray for, and it would dissipate. On Sunday morning, Anthony was able to give him a copy of the New Testament, and Steps to Christ. They talked about prayer and he was able to encourage him to stick with it! Pray that God will continue to work in this young man’s life.
On Friday night one young woman came to the cross for prayer. After the counselor prayed for the group, she fell on her knees before the cross and began to pray out loud. She asked God to take away her burdens and to free her from her drug addiction. Her counselor knelt beside her and prayed with her and anointed her. Pray that God’s Spirit will continue to bring healing to this precious child of God.