The Ways that Camp Life is like Family

By CBM National intern, Timmy Martens –

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Over the course of the last eight months, while traveling for my internship with Children’s Bible Ministries, I have had the privilege of building relationships with people from all over the United States. Whether it be the middle of nowhere in Southern Alabama, or surrounded by tourists in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I am blessed with these awesome, short experiences with people I barely know, that leave indelible fingerprints of God in my life. My time at Cornerstone Ministry Center in Southwestern Pennsylvania has been no exception.  I recently connected with someone at one of the events. We had some great conversations, and it became clear that she’s a pretty fantastic individual. She shared with me that she had been struggling with feeling God’s presence. She hadn’t been in the Word lately, nor had she really been to church. It was evident that one of the major problems causing this rift with her relationship with the Father was that she lacked Christian community.

I know just how important it is to have a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. If it wasn’t for the camaraderie that I experienced with other believers during college, I don’t know where I would be today. I encouraged my new friend to find fellow Christians to build her up and to encourage her in the Word, and then I encouraged her to look to camp ministry. Never in my life have I experienced such a close and tight-knit community of people than at CBM camps. Whether it’s the summer staff, the full-time staff families that run the camp during the year, or a national organization of multiple camps, I’ve learned that the people involved in CBM’s camp ministry are a family.

Maybe you’re at that crossroads. Summertime is coming up, and you’re still trying to decide whether you want to be at camp or get a “regular” job. Or maybe you’re trying to figure out where to plug in with ministry. Let me encourage you — if you’re looking for a family of believers, stop your search and consider camp ministry. Here are some reasons why CBM camp life is like family life:

Camp ministry follows a godly model of discipleship. At camp, it didn’t matter what problem I had. Whether it was not knowing how to bait a hook or looking for answers to difficult theology questions, I always had a mentor I could go to for guidance. I always had godly men and women investing in me. Sometimes it wasn’t pleasant. I feel like I learned a lot of lessons the hard way, yet I am thankful for every time I had a sit down meeting with one of the older staff members. Sometimes these meetings were spent talking about life, and other times they were spent in prayer, pouring our hearts out to God late into the night on the front porch of a cabin. The best part about it is that this discipleship has prepared me to be a disciple-maker, so that I can pass down what I’ve learned to others.

CBM camps have an “open home” policy.  I’ve hopped all over the place, and CBM’s camps have always held their doors open for me. One camp in North Alabama, regardless of what is happening on the campus, has always found a place for me to stay. I’ve even had camp families open their pantry to me, and board members that I had never truly met have served me supper in their homes. This generosity without fail demonstrates Christ’s love.

Distance really isn’t an issue. My best friend lives at Ponderosa Bible Camp in North Alabama, where his family serves as missionaries. I have frequent conversations with other close friends from Tennessee and New York, and these friendships were born from the CBM camp community. Even more, I can run into someone I know from camp and we will pick up right where we left off. We understand that distance is real, but we don’t let it get in the way of family.

It can get competitive. I used to make the videos for CBM’s Camp Grace for the annual National Conference presentations. Basically, all of the camps would showcase the new things at their camps and give reports, usually through a video. It was always my goal to make the best conference video possible. I might not be able to win a game of football, but I will try to out-video someone. Camps have this way of challenging others to be the very best that they can be, but in a fun and good-spirited way.

Camps know how to have a good time. A lot of people have bought into the lie that Christians don’t know how to have fun. At camp, we like to show the truth that life with Jesus is exciting!  I know what it’s like to be a camp family, laughing into the night as we play classic games like charades and balderdash, or piling into vehicles to eat together at a restaurant.

Camps get the work done. It’s amazing watching a camp operate in the summer time. Take anywhere from ten to fifty people new staff members, all from different backgrounds, give them one week to get to know each other, and then give them the job of ministering to children. It sounds like a potential disaster, but I’ve always seen the camp staff come together like a family and work together to achieve a very successful and seamless outcome.

Family reunions are the best. The highlight of my year is when all of the CBM camps from all over the United States come together for our annual National Conference. It’s like one big family reunion. Everyone knows everyone else, and it’s this beautiful time of fellowship that is unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced.

We live life together. I know that for any problem I have, I can always talk to one of my “cousins” from another camp, who has been there before. And I whether I am laughing, crying, or going through a hard time, I know that my CBM camp family always has my back. No distance or separation can change that. No problem is too big. Life is just a daily exercise of worshipping The Creator, and I am overjoyed to know that I can do so with the greatest family in the world.

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