Ben Peeler, Bob Jones Seminary Student
I do not know what mental image or emotions come to your mind when you think about summer camp. Maybe you are like me and would be homesick Monday afternoon, 5 minutes after you arrive. My friends never seemed to suffer from “homesickness” like I did. For many of them, camp was not just the highlight of the summer, but it fueled memories and jokes for the remainder of the year. But regardless of how nervous I was or how much I really did not want to be there Monday afternoon, Saturday morning rolled around—I would have to say goodbye to my counsellor and cabin mates whom I did not want to leave. There is something special about any camp that takes children and teens out of their normal schedule and gives them the opportunity to experience unique things, meet new people, and get away from life’s distractions. There is something even more special about a Christian camp. I was a frequent attender of summer camps during my junior high and high school years. I had the opportunity to work at three separate summer camps during my college years. I now have the opportunity to attend summer camp as a youth sponsor and am so excited!
I want to offer three reasons why as a college student, you should commit to working at least one summer at a Christian camp.
Serving becomes a lifestyle
Jesus explained to His disciples in the book of Mark, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45) College is a very selfish time. Students are consumed with their homework, their schedules, their jobs, their friends, and their futures. Those are not inherently bad but can become consuming if not kept in check. Serving at a summer camp makes it obvious, quickly, that life is no longer about you. Your energy, time, and resources are spent serving campers who often use and abuse your good efforts.
While that goes against your nature, fed by college, eventually you adjust and even find serving others to be rewarding and fulfilling. Fellow counsellors struggle alongside you, encourage you, and work with you to accomplish one goal: pointing campers to Jesus. Then the summer ends, and you return to school, but you do not return unchanged. Rather, you carry with you that heart for service. You begin noticing the needs of your roommates, teachers, and friends, and try to help where you can. A life spent serving is never a life wasted.
Christ becomes your main motivation
I can remember meeting my camper who was able to attend camp because someone had paid his way. After about 3 minutes of talking with him, I realized that if someone had not paid his way, there was no way he would have chosen to come to camp. His language was foul, his jokes were crude, and his personality was abrasive. By Wednesday I was ready for him to get back on his bus and go home, because he was corrupting the other campers in my cabin. But I continued to pray that the preaching and personal time in the Word would change his heart. I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I sat with him Friday night and heard him cry out to God asking for forgiveness for his sins. What motivates someone to persevere and continue to pour into the life of a teenager? When you strip away all other motivations, the only thing that remains is Christ. Loving and serving others find their strength in the cross. You stop loving people because it makes you feel good. When you are running on little sleep and every part of your body aches, it no longer feels good. You stop serving people because it is easy, or it is the “cool” thing to do. You serve and love people because Jesus Christ perfectly demonstrated love and self-sacrifice by His death on the cross. Summer camp places a college student in positions to show the grace of God to those who are, like us, underserving.
The Gospel becomes real
This is not to say that a college student cannot experience the gospel in a secular job, but summer camp offers a unique opportunity. As the college student is submerged into a culture of constant spiritual warfare, the gospel ceases to be a nice thought, and it becomes one’s sole life-source. Every part of camp--from carrying a camper's luggage to playing a meaningless game for the hundredth time--immediately takes on more meaning. Steps are intentionally taken to break down walls so that the gospel can take hold of their hearts. As the college student returns to school in the fall, they cease to view the Dining Common as just a place to eat. They stop seeing societies as just a time to make friends and memories. These everyday experiences can and must be leveraged for the sake of the gospel. When they are, lives are changed. One final unique aspect of camp is that the college student has to verbalize their faith. One camp I worked at offered thirty minutes a day for a cabin discussion. I took each day and walked through a different aspect of the Christian Faith. We discussed the origin of sin, the narrative of the entire Bible, the life of the Apostle Paul, and why the Bible must be treasured. Through those seemingly large topics, I was able to meet my campers where they were at spiritually and proclaim the gospel in 4 unique ways every day. But for me to speak and teach, I had to study and confirm what I believed about the gospel. I remember coming back to school that Fall, and because those 4 topics were in my head every day for the previous 12 weeks, I could not help but share it with my roommates and friends who needed to hear. I have seen many summer camp workers return to school, and their passion for the gospel burns so brightly that they make an immediate impact. The gospel is not merely for the unbelieving, but it is truly for everyone. The good news of Jesus Christ never loses its power, and working at a summer camp positions you to be captivated by it all the more.
As I conclude, I wanted to make something clear. Jesus died on the cross and rose again, giving power to His church: the body of believers, fitly joint together. Jesus did not die for “summer camps.” He also did not die so that we could waste our lives going through the motions of “cultural Christianity.” All para-church organizations exist to encourage the church. Summer camps are an invaluable training ground for a young Christian. You will never regret committing a few weeks of your life growing, serving, and loving others as you stretch yourself and train for a life of ministry to Christ and His church.
Kaitlin DalPorto, BJU alumnus
During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to travel on the Southeast Asia (SEA) mission team. This team was very unique in that we only carried a backpack to five different countries, during our six-week trip. It was an amazing experience! I learned so much, not only from the missionaries and church leaders, but also from the people that we ministered to.
You might be skeptical about going on mission trips because of the expense, I was too; but little by little money comes in. Churches who aren’t able to go may still be passionate about missions and would love to help send you! I’m sure you’ve heard stories about how God has provided money in amazing ways for mission team members. God will give what is needed to do what He has called you to do!
So why should you “give up” a summer to go on a short-term mission trip? Not only are we called to go, but going on a mission trip will also open your eyes to the world, the gospel, and the body of Christ in a way you never thought possible. Mission trips grow your understanding of culture and challenge your ability to share the gospel with those who surround you every day.
There are many reasons for going on a short-term mission trip. One of the main reasons is to learn what your role is, in missions. Missions, the Great Commission, is not an option. It is something that God has commanded us to do. It does not matter where you are, you should be working to further the gospel. It is important to know how to pray for, send/give, help, and encourage our brothers and sisters on or off the field. It’s difficult to effectively and sincerely do that without seeing the ministry first-hand.
One of my favorite memories from the SEA mission trip was talking with ladies from the church in Kachin State, Myanmar. While there, the mission team helped with the sessions at a pastor’s conference. We had been there for a few days before we were able to really connect with the people. Although there was a significant language barrier, we were still able to have special fellowship with these dear sisters in Christ!
Another highlight of the trip took place in Thailand, where we were able to be part of the Southeast Asia Missionary Kid Camp! Our team members were “counselors” for the week. I loved how the missionary kids enjoyed being together, learned about God, and had fun (regardless of what others thought). Being at this camp helped me to realize how often MK’s are overlooked, whether on the field or on deputation. Missionary kids have a major role in their parent’s ministry.
In Bangkok we got to help one of the churches with their English class outreach. There I realized the usefulness of teaching English as a tool to build relationships and share the gospel.
I think the most eye opening and convicting experience happened in Indonesia. The religion there is predominantly Muslim. One day we went to an island a couple hours away. We had to take several different water taxis and ferries and basically island hopped to get there. It was not an easy journey. Once there, we noticed that everything was closed and there seemed to be no one around. We were told that the island was 100% Muslim and today was a special holy day spent at the mosque. After the service time ended, we were able to talk to the man with whom our friend has been building a relationship with for several years. We only spent a couple hours there before our long trip back. To see the dedication and effort put into simply building a friendship, not even sharing the gospel yet, was so convicting. How much do I go out of my way on a daily basis to share the gospel?
One of the biggest things that God taught me was the unity that we have in Christ. I was able to see it all throughout the trip. There were countless times when we were with people who ate different food, wore different clothes, sang different songs, lived a different way, enjoyed and gave value to different things, and even spoke a different language. We had literally nothing in common it seemed. But you know what? We did. Christ. And we could worship and praise Him together! Attempt to share with one another what He has done for us! Pray for one another in our own tongues, because we serve an awesome God who can hear prayers in any and all languages. Our Creator made both me and the sweet older lady in the mountains of Myanmar to each play a specific role in the Body of Christ. To see and meet my brothers and sisters in Christ literally around the world is an experience like no other! Knowing that we serve the same God and will spend eternity together praising Him is an incredible thought.
One of the conversations we had with a missionary in Thailand opened my eyes to a valuable reality. The most critical part in missions, and really in life, is to have a gospel minded focus. Geography does not define missions. We have a single goal in life: to glorify God and share Him with those around us. While it will be carried out and implemented differently based on the place or situation, that doesn’t change what God has called us to do, nor does it make serving in your own neighborhood inferior in any way to that of one serving in the heart of Africa.
God used this trip in many ways. Yes, I was able to learn much about the world, different cultures, believers in various contexts, and a better understanding of the body of Christ. And that alone is incredible and life changing! But, through this trip, I met a family with whom I’m now serving on the field. It is a story I love to tell because God’s hand and leading in it are so clear.
My church in the US supports the Wagner family, currently serving in Myanmar as they help to translate the Bible. Every week we pray for a different supported missionary. Over Christmas break the Wagners were the missionary family of the week. Because I was with them the previous spring I decided to message them that we were praying for them. Several messages later they asked if I had plans for the fall because they needed someone to come and homeschool their three oldest kids. I was shocked but so excited about the possibility. My major was International Studies, so think history, politics, culture, language. I had never seen myself teaching nor did I learn anything about it in college. But I did have a desire to spend more time with a missionary to learn if God might have me serve in that way eventually. This was a perfect opportunity!
I have been in Myanmar since the end of August last year. Collectively, my time here will soon be almost exactly nine months. I have definitely done and seen some incredible things! No, it hasn’t been easy or the “glorious life abroad” that some might envision. I am just living my day to day life here. I go through the same (if not more) sin issues, struggles, and heartaches (albeit with less ice cream). I’ve had the joy of seeing the work and fruit of Bible translation here. I’ve visited villages, made friends with local people, and grown to love it here!
It all happened because I went on that SEA mission trip almost 2 years ago. This opportunity wouldn't have come up had I not been on that trip. Just because you go on one of these short term trips doesn’t mean you’re signing up to move across the world. God may call you to do that. But no matter what, through a trip like that you will be better able to serve the church and the body of Christ as a whole, all while accomplishing the great commission.
How are you working to carry out Matthew 28? What steps are you taking to “go”? If this is something that you have struggled to do, a short term trip is a perfect way to open your eyes to your role in God's mission around the world and in your own neighborhood.
Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Have you ever wondered what God is calling you to do with your life? After all, no one wants to be a ship without a sail. But sometimes it seems like there are a few good options or even a world of possibilities from which we can choose. For me, it was two years ago. I was wrestling with what the Lord would have for me long term. Should I pursue international missions or continue to walk through open doors for ministry here in the States? Through the course of a 6-week mission trip, the Lord used His Word and the many encounters with missionaries and pastors to give me some clarity on the future.
I had been asking the wrong question. I had been so focused on the ‘what’ that I hadn’t been listening to my own teaching on the Word. The ‘what’ was decided for me the moment I decided to follow Jesus as his disciple. The what is the great commission. In short, make disciples (evangelism) and teach them to observe everything the Lord commanded (discipleship). The questions that I wanted answers for were ‘how’ and ‘where.’ I haven’t figured out where I will be long term, but for now, God has called me here to Greenville and my church in Hendersonville.
So, what does this have to do with you? How does my story intersect with you as you go home to work for the summer? Well, you may want to be headed home for the summer, or you may be wishing you had the finances to work at a camp or take a mission trip, but God has called you to go home and work. But just like in my story, as a disciple of Christ, you too have a clear calling for what to do this summer: evangelism and discipleship.
Don’t be the student that waste their summer on Netflix and video games or other time-wasting frivolities. I know because I was that student. My one summer at home was a wasted summer. I don’t get it back, and one day I will give account for it. Make your summer count for eternity. Get engaged in God’s mission for you.
Your summer will probably look quite a bit different than almost everyone else’s summer, but you can take advantage of different avenues for evangelism and discipleship there in your hometown that you would not have otherwise. I am going to separate some possible opportunities into two categories: work and church.
You can be strategic about the job that you take this summer. There are many factors that influence our decision for work: Location, salary, and job description to name a few. Of course, for some the decision is made for you or you may not have options. But if you do have a choice, what if you also considered the role you could play in evangelism in the job you choose? One of the biggest hurdles in evangelism I continually hear from students is they don’t know unsaved people. This summer you could build meaningful relationships for gospel advancement that perhaps you have never experienced before. Just imagine how rewarding a summer at home could be if you were having natural gospel conversations regularly!
As you make your decision, could I plead with you to also consider how your job might affect your church attendance and participation? Sometimes life is tough and takes our church attendance out of our own hands. However, when given a choice, Christ is always most glorified in our faithfulness as a part of His Bride.
As you find time to invest in your church, let me suggest a few ways that you can have an impact this summer. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully, it will get your brain engaged in thinking through opportunities you may have.
First, ask your pastor and youth pastor. They probably know the church and its needs better than anyone. Tell them you want to make your summer count and ask them how you can best invest time into the growth of the church, both externally and internally. After they answer, be ready to serve! One of my close friends continually reminds me, “Everyone wants to be a servant until they are treated like one.” Be prepared to serve in whatever way you are called upon to do so. Remember that when we dictate how we will serve, we are only serving ourselves.
Next, volunteer for VBS. Lifeway Research revealed that 60% of adults in America attended VBS growing up. Their research also found that “78% of churches say they use VBS as their largest outreach to unchurched kids in a given year.” VBS can leave a lasting impact on a church and the community. If your church has VBS, be the first one in line to volunteer!
Finally, know and be known. What I mean by that is find someone to disciple and find someone to disciple you. Maybe you have a high school student or students you can spend time with regularly. Look for those opportunities, invest in their lives, and help them to take the next step spiritually. And then find someone that will do the same for you. At the end of your summer, you might find that you don’t want to leave your church and that’s a good thing.
How will you spend your summer? You only get one summer 2019. It will be here before you know it and will be gone before you realize it started. Don’t waste it. The world will tell you a million ways you should spend your summer. It will tell you that you have worked hard this year and you deserve some Me time. But consider your life as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Make this summer count for Christ because, after all, this summer is not yours but Christ’s. Enjoy your summer at home and glorify God through the way you spend it.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.