Celebrating the Impact of Camp

Sep 12, 2023

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Youth Works Spotlight by Layne Peters

Summer camps create space for life-changing encounters with Jesus.


Two days have passed since getting home from helping with Junior High Summer Camp, and I just got off my third FaceTime call of the day with Seth*—one of the students in my cabin that I formed a very close relationship with.

He starts each call with the phrase, “Did you miss me?” He has been persistently asking me when we are going to hang out or have a camp reunion.

Seth’s heart changed dramatically this summer. He has always wanted to hang out with us but has never really had much interest in diving into the tough conversations about life or Jesus in his life. But all that changed at camp.

For five days, I got to see his heart and posture open up so vulnerably and change as a result of time spent in worship, talks, and cabin times.

Seth decided to give his life to Jesus at the end of the week, and I have gotten to walk through that change in relationship with him since he has been home and shifting back into his community and life.

Seth has been a foster care kid and comes from a rough childhood of violence, addiction, and abandonment. This guy has been through highs like achieving the youth national champion boxer in his division and incredible lows like getting stabbed in a street fight at the mall. But, at the end of the day, he is a good kid searching for anyone who will take the time to see him—anyone who can offer him safety and love.

Because of my job, I get to be that kind of person in Seth’s life and point him to Jesus—the one who can truly be there for him. It is so amazing that he understands that kind of love and wants to follow Jesus.

At camp, I had seven campers in my cabin, and four of them I knew well from what I get to do on the South Side. Every year, I look forward to going to camp. It is a blessing to spend all year pouring into these kids, but most of the time, I never have the opportunity to see the needle move in their lives.

I see the most tangible movement when I spend time with kids during experiences like our ski trips, camping trips, or summer camp especially.

During camp, they get to step away from their everyday life, have no cell service, have routine intentional time with healthy adults and peers, get to see Jesus in both word and deed, and, through games and free time, just be kids!

Camp isn’t the be-all end-all, but I understand why many youth workers do everything they can to help as many kids as possible experience summer camp.

There’s something about the atmosphere of camp that invites these young people to hear and experience Jesus in a way that is so much more direct and clear than back home.

It’s profound to witness God move again and again in the lives of these amazing kids.

*Name changed to protect privacy

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