I checked my phone for the twelfth time in a half hour, the hundredth over the last six hours. My shoulders drooped as did the corners of my mouth—no text message. I calculate the time frame in my mind once again.
“Let’s see…she likely received her phone around 7:00 a.m.…they’ve been driving for approximately seven hours…they should have good reception on flat land by now…Hmmmm…still no message.”
Then at 5:42 p.m., I heard my text jingle! It read “love ya’ll we will be home in like two hours and 30 minutes.”
Excitement, relief, and anticipation swept over me. My girl would be home from camp in a few short hours. I couldn’t wait to hear about her week. And what a week it was!
On Sunday, June 25, the group assembled for the trip at the Legacy campus at 6:00 a.m. There were 205 campers from Chase Oaks Church. Only 26 of those were leaders. It took four buses to transport the group to their destination—Horn Creek, Colorado, a mere 12-hour ride from Plano, Texas. My daughter, who embarked on this journey without the comfort of a buddy beforehand, saw the bus ride as an opportunity to chat, watch movies, and make friends—and make friends she did! By the time the campers stepped off the bus at Sky Ranch, she was joined by two friends ready to embrace the experience. Good thing, too, because weary from travel or not, the action got started.
They sat down to dinner in the mess hall before putting their suitcases in their lodgings. After a quick drop-off, the group met for worship where they learned the camp’s theme, “Encounter.” Throughout the week, the campers explored the various ways we encounter God in our everyday lives using examples from the Bible as their guide—Mary, Abraham, even a demon-possessed man.
“Our kids were challenged to consider their time in prayer, in the community, in leisure, in worship, and small-group discussions as opportunities to encounter God,” Jeremy LeBlanc, the Student Ministry Pastor, shared.
With the theme introduced and the challenge issued, the staff divided the campers into teams of mixed ages and gender for week-long color wars, and then, they all retired for a night’s rest after the long journey.
A typical day at camp included a wake-up call, breakfast, a devotional and quiet time, morning rally, team time, lunch, free time, worship service, small-group discussions and a pre-bedtime event. (And we think our day is busy!) My daughter and her friends spent devotionals and quiet time in hammocks, rocking chairs, and various places outside, chosen by the youths themselves to foster a personal opportunity to encounter God. In the midst of the peaceful purity of nature, they contemplated the answers to the questions in their devotional booklets. The answers to these questions would help focus their small-group discussions later in the day. My twelve-year-old felt God’s power and majesty in the sharp edges of the landscape around her as she quietly contemplated the devotional.
Then it was off to war, team competition in the color wars. According to Jeremy, one of the values of student ministry is having fun, so team time and free time were built into the schedule daily for the students to appreciate God’s creation, spend time in the community enjoying one another, and just plain have fun. And thus, in the spirit of fun, the teams competed to earn points for their teams. Word on the street is they all played hard, and the competition was tough. At the end of the week, however, the purple team took the crown. Yay purple!!!
Of course, fierce competition led to monstrous appetites, which made post-game time the perfect time to break for lunch. Lunch consisted of typical camp comfort food. With full bellies, the campers headed off for free time.
They had a variety of choices, including horseback riding, bowling, a pickup game in the gym, ziplining, swimming, rock wall climbing, and trying out various weapons at the shooting range. Of all the endeavors in which my adventurous daughter participated, her favorite was wielding a tomahawk. Her second text from the homeward-bound bus, second communication in a week’s time, was a request for her very own tomahawk. What?! She definitely engaged in self-discovery at camp where she discovered a new interest in addition to considering how to recognize encounters with God.
Following free time, the campers returned to the mini-gym for a second service, which was followed by small-group discussions focusing on their morning devotional.
“It was a time to ask questions, deeper questions, about the service lesson,” my daughter recalled. These groups provided depth and clarification about the topic throughout the week, meeting needs on a more individualized basis.
With questions answered, the day ended on a positive note with an event. The most memorable to my preteen were commando (a nighttime hide-and-seek); girl time, which involved making a sugar rub and a discussion about girls in the Bible; and a campfire with s’mores, singing, and an unmatched view of a starlit sky.
Of course, there was one atypical day for those willing to brave the cold, wet rapids of the Arkansas River. That day started earlier than all the rest, and the group was on the bus headed for the rafting launch site before breakfast was even served. After gulping down a pop tart, a green apple, and apple juice, the crew boarded rafts and spent the day alternating between riding rapids and floating the river with a bit of horse play.
“There was a peacefulness, a sense of adventure, and a general awe of God’s creation that really stuck in many of our student’s minds,” Jeremy reported.
The much-anticipated buses pulled into the parking lot, and my girl appeared looking taller, healthier from time in the sun, and happier. Her understanding of the topic, being mindful of God’s presence in our everyday lives, was solid. She had played hard, challenged her mind and body, and embraced new friendships. Her joy was evident as was her fatigue and road weariness. All the campers met their families with the same contentment all weary travelers experience after a gratifying adventure away from home. It was a memorable encounter indeed, an encounter with God on each campers’ personal journey with Christ.
If your child would like to be part of Chase Oaks student ministry, he/she is invited to join the Back-to-School Bash on Sunday, August 27 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the 201 Building at the Legacy Campus. There will be a lot of food and fun! To register, please visit Chase Oaks Back-to-School Bash.