In addition to silly pastors and their whimsical songs, there's also all the fun times had each day with games, rubber chickens, swimming pool noodles, lightsabers, whipped cream on peoples' heads and hands interlaced on tables, meal time announcements, best bunk awards, clean dorm competitions, and so much more. What a blast! For over 15 years now, I have traveled to Roberta, Georgia to serve as Camp Pastor at this rural camp. Believe me when I say that it's a challenge. It's hard work. It's always exhausting. But most of all, it's always incredible to see God work there.
Camp Eunice is a small, anointed camp nestled just outside of Fort Valley, Georgia, south of Macon. I first went there to cover for a summer camp speaker who had fallen ill at the last minute. That was 17 years ago and now I look forward to the invitation to return each year as the speaker for Senior Camp. As I sit here pondering how to best describe the camp, I find myself somewhat at a loss for words. I usually begin by telling folks that the zip code there is E-I-E-I-O and that it's not really "near anything" other than God and a bunch of trees. I have mistakenly described it as a "no frills" camp. After all, the amenities include really fancy things like two outdoor pingpong tables, an outdoor basketball goal, a volleyball net, and a recently added above-ground pool (special thanks to Curt Bode). Along with this award-winning set up though, you also get all things south Georgia, like killer heat waves and killer mosquitos. But, in truth, it's a camp with incredible "frills" if you know how to count and define frills.
Relationships run deep at this little camp. Some of the friendships go back for generations. In fact, the "friendship frill" is evident in every age demographic there. And then there are the "frills" from the Holy Spirit and from God. An amazing hunger and thirst for His Word is always present at the camp, mingled with a near-insatiable longing to see Him show up and show off in a mighty way. There is humble leadership and sacrificial servanthood. And, of course, there's a deep love for the campers and a strong desire to see them fall crazy-in-love with Jesus. This love permeates every aspect of the activities, from the games and Bible classes to the teaching and worship sessions. What we lack in fancy campgrounds or "gimmicks" or "stuff," God has more than made up for in abundance with His presence.
This year, we saw 40 or more students seriously rededicate their lives to follow Christ and die to themselves. The call of our chapel services and my lessons were two-fold: 1) Fully surrender and 2) identify with what God says about you and not what you say about yourself. We are His children and have been adopted by Him. (Romans 8:15-17) He's our Friend. (Colossians 1:21-22) And even though God is all-knowing and all-powerful, immeasurable and infinite (Romans 11:33-36; Psalms 139; Jeremiah 32:17-18), He chose to love, save, and help us. We also learned that God is in charge and that's a good thing. We learned that our unique personalities and abilities do not make us significant, but that our relationship with Christ is what makes us truly significant. Jesus is the most significant one in the entire universe and, if He is your Savior and Helper, then you are significant as well.
All of this should lead us to live differently. We are commanded to live separated from the things of this world. If you are who God says you are, and He is who He says He is, and if we believe that, then we must change. Our choices, our purposes, and our values must be from Him and not from our peers or from our culture. We must live holy and fully surrendered. To follow Christ, we must deny ourselves, get out of His way, and then die to ourselves. It's a serious calling, but it's also an amazing thing to watch as the Spirit of God moves among youth who have their entire lives in front of them. How precious to see one teen after another let go of the "stuff" they were clinging to — the things of this earth — and choose to become who Christ died for: "fully devoted followers." How exciting to imagine what God can do through this generation as they walk with Him and seek Him first in all things. The Big Frill of Camp Eunice is this: The way in which God works among the staff, volunteers, and students in order to accomplish incredible things deep within students' hearts, a place where only God and His Spirit can work.
To all my beloved campers from Senior Camp 2019: Here is a verse that I wish I had shared. In fact, my best buddy Phillip Snodgrass preached this very passage on Sunday at Northside and when I heard it, I realized that it was the perfect verse to close out our week:
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure." — 1 John 3:1-3 (ESV)
Look closely at the love that God has for you: A love so strong that He calls you His child. And notice that the world doesn't "get it" (we are separated from them), but as His children we have a hope of His appearing and this hope means we purify ourselves. The Greek word here is the same word we studied at camp in 1 Peter 1:15 for "holy." So, behold God's amazing love to adopt you as His own and let it motivate you to put Him first and to purify yourselves.