Summer—often it promises time spent telling stories and eating s’mores around the glow of a campfire on a balmy evening. During this summer of change, the camp experience varied from the norm, although the s’mores still stuck around. While Youth Outreach Ministry summer camps had a reduced camp capacity, students equipped with face masks and practicing appropriate social distancing remained eager to share Christ with others.
Pensacola Christian College student Max Taylor (Jr., UT), glad to serve for a second summer, was a cabin leader at Camp o’ the Pines. “Everything we do at camp is centered on growth in Christ—from our camp song to the activities to the interactions between the campers and staff. The camp atmosphere is very structured to provide the campers with a sense of confidence in their leaders and stability without losing the personal touch,” he said. “I love sharing a verse from my devotions each morning, talking about the Bible at mealtimes, praying with my campers while walking to the different activities, and answering their questions about God.”
Over the weeks of interacting with campers in the great outdoors, Max found himself answering the questions of several campers. He was thrilled when one especially curious camper asked about how to accept Christ as his Savior. “Each new week comes with new campers, new challenges, and new questions about God, and I have the privilege of introducing them to Jesus Christ,” he said. “[During training week], camp director David Forbes tells us, ‘You don’t get the procedure down to take the pressure off of you; you get the procedure down to minister to your campers.’ I want my campers to see a glimpse of Christ’s love in the way I treat them so they will come to trust Christ who has a perfect love for each one of them. That’s what this camp is all about.”
“What I find very interesting is that these college students take what they have learned during the summer camping ministry and go back to campus and become a great testimony to the student body,” said Camp o’ the Pines administrative director Dr. Linda Williams, who is PCC education faculty. “Not only that they live a life for God during the camping season, but that they carry it over to their entire year. This is the most exciting part about working with college students!”
PCC Bible faculty Dr. Mike Davis is the camp director for Sports Center Day Camp, where children enjoy a fun-filled, action-packed environment while also learning about Christ and participating in games and activities. “We have an amazing group of college students working at [Sports Center Day Camp] this summer,” said Dr. Davis. “There were multiple challenges that we faced this summer in order to even be able to have camp. Leaders have helped keep equipment clean. They have worn masks that are uncomfortable at times (summer heat); they have frequently used hand sanitizer and helped campers wash their hands. They have done their part to keep campers safe while still having fun by modifying games and practicing social distancing.”
Because campers often come from a variety of different homes, students understand that they might be the first person to introduce a camper to Jesus. “When I found out I was able to work camp again, I was thrilled and knew the Lord opened the door for me,” said Morgan Vaughn (Sr., AL), who served at the day camp last year. “I love watching kids come to know the Lord and getting excited to say their verses to me so they can help their team win. It is an amazing experience, and the Lord can work in mighty ways through you if you are willing to let Him.”
At Teen Extreme, each week brought in new youth groups and church families from across the country, eager to get involved with extreme sports activities, making new friends, and growing closer to the Lord through challenging messages. Camp director Chuck Craig said, “[Our college students] have been nothing but amazing! They are excited, servant-hearted, and ready to serve in any way they can. Best camp staff around! I love watching them grow in the Lord.”
“I pray each week for [God] to speak through me and to guide me with every opportunity He provides,” said Delaine Combs (Jr., FL), one of the student leaders at Teen Extreme. “Every week I challenge my campers to seek God’s purpose for them as He has placed them at camp for a great purpose.”
During “Testimony Tuesday,” a time where camp staff share testimonies with their campers, one camper opened up about similar experiences to Delaine’s testimony. Believing it was no coincidence that she was able to meet this camper, Delaine offered her comfort by sharing verses and encouragement. “In this moment God showed me that He can use every part of our lives for His glory,” she said. “That He takes the broken pieces and puts them together to all work together for good for His purpose.”
“Seeing God change lives through Teen Extreme is my favorite part,” said Delaine. “It is an amazing experience to see a teenager come to camp on Monday, watch God work in their lives through the week, and then on Thursday see God totally change their hearts for Him.”
Summer camps have now come to an end, but in endeavoring to share Christ’s love, the impact these students have made in the lives of campers will make all the difference.