Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Holy Ghost in the Catskills

This week on Kingdom Bloggers we are talking about summer and Jesus.  When I think of summer and Jesus, I think of camp.  The equation for that is S + J = C.  That got me to thinking that as people are prayerfully packing their children off to camp, you might like a few camp stories.  As with so much else, I have lots of camp stories.

My first experience of camp must have come when I was about 6 or 7.  Our church staunchly believed in the sovereignty of the local church.  However, they had a group of daughter churches that they fellowshipped with regularly.  Eventually these churches and some other churches around the country would form the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.  The group of churches in the greater NYC area rented a camp.  They called it Camp Challenge.  I don’t know what the history was before my first Camp Challenge experience.  I do know eventually they bought property for a permanent camp.  This year, however, it was a rental camp on lake in the Catskills.

I remember that there were teenagers at that camp.  I think I went because my mother was to work at the camp in some capacity.  I also know my mother and I weren’t in the same cabin.  Maybe the teenagers and older youth were the counselors.  I was young, I really don’t remember. 

What I do remember is swimming in the lake.  That was something as a child of Brooklyn I rarely got to do.  I knew all about pools.  I regularly went with my father to the Sunset Park pool.  I also knew all about the ocean.  I loved long sun filled afternoons at Coney Island.  My mother liked neither.  She didn’t swim well and never had the taste for the water that my father and I had. 

I remember the camp was rustic.  How rustic it was is debatable.  Anything with a lot of trees and no sidewalk was rustic for me.  One night as we headed to supper my mother was chased down the hill by a small snake.  Such excitement!  I imagine now the snake was more frightened than my mother was.  That was the year she also mistakenly sprayed Right Guard in her hair rather than hair spray. 

Most camps have a canteen for buying snacks and candy.  The leaders came up with an interesting way to keep things litter free.  All those wrappers were saved for an auction to be held at the end of camp.  For being environmentally cautious, you could bid with those empty candy and gum wrappers for a prize.  Had I known, I probably would have brought a suitcase full of candy wrappers from the sidewalk outside my house. 

The thing that stands out the most to me about that camp was the Holy Spirit.  Ahhh, as I write this short series, you’ll hear lots about the Holy Ghost and camp.  The Spirit seems to show up and you meet Jesus, usually many times.  Seems the world gets a hold of you each year and you need to come back to camp and find Jesus again.  I know I did.

This year I was too young to have guilt.  I don’t remember long altar calls.  I don’t remember finding Jesus that year.  What I did see was my first experience with the Holy Spirit.  Our church had regular altar services.  I was used to hearing the saints pray out loud.  But these were Norwegian saints, and the prayer was never too loud.  At camp, the Spirit moved and the prayer got much louder.  I remember clearly a group of four or five teenage girls praying.  They were storming heaven.  They were tarrying for the Holy Ghost.  My mother called me over.  She said, “Joyce, look at their faces.”  I did.  They glowed.  I will never forget it.  Then she said, “When the Holy Ghost comes, your face will shine with His presence.”  I wanted my face to shine.  It would be several years before I encountered the Holy Spirit for myself.

Camp is a special place.  As parents are checking lists, labeling clothing, and getting ready for camp, they are praying like my parents did that I’d encounter the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit.  I hope they do too. 
What was your first church camp experience?  Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Ashford Hills. 

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