During the first two weeks of June, more than 500 people descended upon Camp Quaker Haven to participate in our three EFC-MAYM summer camps (181 at Kids Camp, 166 at Junior High Camp, and 168 at Senior High Camp).
I was able to make a personal visit to camp on Sunday evening, June 10, and I can tell you from firsthand experience that the Lord is continuing to do a mighty work among His people through our camping ministries. I was also reminded once again that it was at Camp Quaker Haven, way back in June of 1977, that I began my personal journey with Jesus in earnest. It was a special blessing to be back at camp 41 years later to offer a blessing on behalf of the entire yearly meeting and to pray specifically for my son, Josiah, who was serving as the guest speaker for this year’s Senior High Camp.
I want to give a big shout out to our entire camp leadership team for their endless hours of hard work, and for the many personal and sacrificial investments each of them have made in the lives of our students over the past two weeks. This long list of servant leaders includes a multitude of counselors, college students and program staff from across our extended family of Friends here in Mid America. Special thanks to Joe and Carole Corder (Camp Directors), Jesse Penna (Director of Student Ministries), Jenna Easley (Director of Support Ministries), Manny Garcia and Shawn Penrose (Kids Camp Directors), Katie Newton and Drew Davenport (Junior High and Senior High Camp Directors), Janet Penna (Administrative Assistant) and Spencer Linville (Camp Board Chair). These folks, in particular, were entrusted with doing most of the “heavy lifting” during the past year when it comes to planning and implementing our summer camp ministry. Rest assured that your labor is not in vain, my friends, but will bear lasting fruit for the Kingdom! (cf. Is 55:10-11; Jn 15:5-8; 1 Cor 15:58; Heb 6:10)
I would urge you to join me in praying even more diligently for our students as they return home from camp. We make an intentional effort to constantly remind our students during summer camp that they are not the church of tomorrow, but the church of today. But this message will only ring true if we are willing and able to help these young men and women keep the faith by making space for them to participate fully in the life of our local churches when they return home. That will require much more than mere lip service or an occasional “youth service.” It will require us to include them in each of our regular worship services, in our leadership teams, in our discipleship ministries, in our outreach initiatives, and every other aspect of church life.
After making personal, on site visits to each of our EFC-MA churches in recent years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that, without exception, the healthiest, liveliest, most effective and fruitful churches in Mid America always make a strategic, sustained effort to include student ministry as a core part of their mission. The corollary, of course, is that those churches that fail to do so are generally dying on the vine.
So I want to offer a challenge to each and every one of you who are reading this right now: Find a camper when they return home and ask them about their experience at Quaker Haven this year. Ask them how God is moving in their life, and how He may want to move in their own family, school, neighborhood, workplace AND home church. Pray with them, and ask them to pray for you. Offer to meet with them every now and then, maybe over coffee or ice cream, just to listen, talk and pray together. They need your wisdom and support, you need their passion and hope, and we all desperately need “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament” in order to grow and build itself up in love “as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16). To borrow from Ignatius of Antioch (35-108) …
“Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.”