2018 started with a very low snowpack. The SW corner of Utah was below 30% of normal snowpack, and yet the Lord gave us all the water needed.
Usually on January 1st the camp has over 4’ of snow. Lorene and I drove in and the road was dusty most of the way.
We started pumping water into our storage tanks on May 10 and had them filled 3 weeks later. We didn’t have any rain for 4 months and then it started rain at our last camp and we received almost 4 inches in the next three weeks.
18 teens were invited to our leadership camp (first camp) and were trained on topics such as how to share the gospel, how to prepare and present cabin devotions, apologetics and how to unplug a toilet among many other things.
Our teen camp and Jr. camp were small but then our Middle school camp was the largest we have had in a few years. I had been praying for a family that had never been to church and their kids. Two of their kids went to camp and were saved! What an answer to prayer! We had at least 20 kids that were saved this summer. Some of the campers gave their testimony of salvation around the campfire but didn’t tell their counselor or write their names down in the CMR book of life, so it’s difficult to know the exact number that put their faith in Christ, but God knows and that’s all that counts.
The things that stood out to me this camp season was the spiritual growth of our leadership kids. The training and responsibility they are infused with changes them through the summer. Leadership camp is a very busy time for me but I am enjoying that camp more every year.
The other thing that stood out was the campfire time at the last camp. Many of the kids didn’t know Christ as Savior on Monday. Nathan Reichert spoke all week (two chapels a day) on ‘giving your all to God’. With Chapel services and devotions in the cabins, most of the unsaved kids were believers by the campfire time Thursday night. Often it takes the word of God a few chapels before they start understanding what salvation is and who God is. But the testimonies at the campfire were wonderful even though some of these young kids have come from some tough situations. But the important thing is they now have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
This summer reminded me of a letter that Tara Reichert wrote years ago after she was a counselor at camp. I will close with a copy of it. Have a great week and God bless-- Dan
No other experience in my Christian life has impacted me spiritually the way counseling at camp has. During the weeks I spent counseling I learned that God could use me, God could change me, and God could sustain me. I saw God save kids and change lives. Over the summers I was there, I saw Him change entire families. During leadership camp we were thoroughly trained in our role for that camping season. We were impressed repeatedly that our focus was to see kids saved. And they were.
Anyone who knows me well, knows there is nothing I like better than to sit at home and read a good book. I am shy and quiet. I prefer not to be in large crowds of people, particularly with people I don’t know well. I like to be warm and clean. I despise spiders and have no athletic ability. I would seem to be the worst candidate for a camp counselor there could be. When I attended CMR it was even more rustic than it is now. The first year I was a counselor we had bright blue port-a-potties, one outdoor sink, a cold water shower that consisted of a tarp and garden hose, and a pavilion with dirt floors and tent walls. There was so much more to camp than the lack of amenities, and God used me despite my natural inclinations.
Were it not for those summers at camp, I don’t know if I would have understood that God could use me in any situation; even a ministry I am not naturally suited to. Not only did He use me, He gave me a love for that place and those kids that I could never have had on my own. The girls in my cabin for that week were mine. I was responsible for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I loved and prayed for every one of them. Those days at camp may have been the only time in their entire lives they would hear the Gospel, or read the Bible, or interact with a Christian. What a tremendous responsibility with which we were entrusted. Our goal was to see every child go off that mountain assured that they were going to heaven one day. And though I don’t know if that ever happened, I do know that at most of the camps I was at, every child had the Gospel explained to them personally, one on one, by a counselor or staff member. And though not every child responded at that time, they heard how much God loves them. At some point in their lives, the Holy Spirit may prompt them to respond in faith to something they heard years ago at a summer camp. There were girls I spoke to that didn’t seem impacted when I shared the Gospel with them, but told me years later they had accepted Christ after our talk. How incredible that while I felt like a failure, God was at work! God is always at work. The only failing is in never talking to people about God, never reaching out, ignoring God’s prompting. Those children were entrusted to me and I was responsible for sharing the Gospel with them, but only God could work in their hearts
At camp I learned that through God I can overcome my weaknesses. I am a quiet, calm person most of the time, but I had to let go of my shyness on the mountain. I remember very well one rule we had at camp for the counselors. Be enthusiastic! And I was enthusiastic about everything.
The only personal time we had all day was before our counselor meeting at 7:00. After that the campers were up and our work had started. So if we were going to do devotions or wash our hair, (did I mention we didn’t have hot water? We didn’t even have tepid water) it pretty much had to be first thing in the morning. There was no guarantee we would have an opportunity later in the day. Any free time was spent building relationships with our kids. That was why were there.
As a counselor I was also able to see pastors in a setting much different from Sunday mornings in a pulpit. It shaped how I view people in full time Christian service. Those men didn’t wear suits and ties and sit behind a desk at camp. They wore grubby clothes and shoveled trenches and cleaned bathrooms and cooked and gathered trash. We got to see pastors as real men of God, dedicated to preparing camp for the souls of kids that would visit that summer. They talked to us, spent time with us, we saw them interact with each other and laugh. It was such an important thing for me to see how much more there is to ministry than giving a sermon. I gained so much respect for those men as they demonstrated a dedication to God through their work ethic and humility.
I saw through working at camp how important small jobs are. The camp speaker is an integral part of camp. It would be difficult to have a camp without him, but you also have to have the cooks, people to clean the bathrooms, haul trash off the mountain, buy the groceries, and pump water. There is joy in knowing that you are doing something for the Lord, even when no one else notices. And there is joy in knowing that it is important even if no one else realizes it.
It doesn’t really sound like a fun job. The schedule was 24 hours a day, there was no pay, the conditions were rustic, and sometimes the children were very difficult to the point of being frightening. In particular I remember a little girl, who we speculated was demon possessed, and a teenage boy that pulled a knife on one of the pastors. We had some very troubled kids. They came from all kinds of backgrounds. A lot of them were kids we knew from our home churches, and it was great to grow closer to them, but the point of camp was for them to bring their friends that didn’t have the same church opportunities. So we saw a lot of kids from very difficult home situations. It was heartbreaking to send them home at the end of the week, to less-than-ideal family situations. But often we sent them back with a Savior, and we trusted that He would protect them. I remember holding a bucket in the middle of the night for girls that were so homesick they made themselves literally sick (not very glamorous, but excellent training for parenting), and even when the job was gross, if you really loved someone, you didn’t mind doing it. And I didn’t. I loved those girls. For that one week they were mine, and I cared for them the best I knew how.
Despite the grueling job description, there were incomparable perks. Friendships: though we weren’t there to hang out with our friends, we did share bunks and tables with them. There were late night discussions and hurried conferences during the day and occasional opportunities to talk. We shared each other’s burdens in prayer, we looked out for each other’s kids, we rejoiced in victories together. We laughed when we were too tired to do anything else and we cried together when it was over. We made memories together. Cookies: there was always a secret stash waiting for us in the kitchen when we had a few minutes to enjoy one. It let us know that someone thought what we did was important and deserved some small reward. Counselor Parties: the last night of camp, we were allowed to sneak off for a few hours together. Usually the kids were too exhausted by then to notice we were missing. Sometimes we were too exhausted to leave. They were usually full of silliness and food. It was a time to decompress when we had just about reached the limit of what we could endure. Memories: I wouldn’t trade the memories I made at camp for anything. A hot shower: there is nothing like being clean again after a week at camp.
Though camp was not all fun, it showed me that God can use me for His purposes. Even though it may not be something I feel adequate for or under conditions I am comfortable with, there is a joy in serving the Lord that is unmatched by anything else. There is a contentment and satisfaction in knowing something of eternal value has been accomplished.
I gained so much from serving at camp. It shaped my life. It was there that I realized I could be involved in ministry. It was there that I realized that I wanted to be involved in ministry. At camp, I realized there is a world of lost people that are only going to hear about Jesus if someone tells them.
It has been eight years since I counseled at camp. Those experiences helped form who I am and what I believe about God. Girls I counseled are going to Bible school, becoming missionaries and pastor’s wives, and serving God. I don’t claim responsibility for the choices they have made, only God can do that, but I do thank Him that I was allowed to be involved in such an enduring ministry.
I wish every Christian could experience a campfire at Cedar Mountain Retreat. Those are some of the purest examples of worship I have ever been part of. The singing sounded subdued without any walls to amplify it, but it seemed free somehow as if it were somehow being lifted straight to heaven. Testimonies were shared, often amidst tears. God was glorified. Reluctantly, the campfire would draw to a close. We would softly sing “I Love You Lord”. To this day, when I hear that song, I smell wood smoke. I don’t know if there are campfires in heaven, but I think there will be the same hushed awe of worship, the shared love of God, and the warmth of fellowship. Nothing on earth will compare to heaven’s glory and the presence of God, but at Cedar Mountain Retreat I was given an idea of what I have to look forward to.