By Tom Carter
I remember the first time I had the opportunity to attend youth camp at Falls Creek in Oklahoma with my church back in 1991. As a somewhat introverted 14-year-old adolescent this was a big deal. It was an exciting time that summer as many of us in the youth group had to participate in fund raising efforts and help prepare and pack for camp at the church and at the camp cabin.
For a kid that had never been on such an adventure this was all very mystical. I remember things like the old Dodge van that would barely start and had no air conditioning, I remember loading ice chests with food, and squeezing into those old vinyl seats with bags and friends.
Then there was the musty old cabin that would make a modern helicopter parent have a heart attack, with moldy windowsills and the hum of window units working to keep the brown paneled rooms cool. But church youth camp is all about spiritual development, right?? Well, yah, kind of…
There were daily devotions in the cabin and great worship services with inspiring music at tabernacle at night. But really for this 14-year-old kid it was just living among other Christians for a week that was important. It was important to see these leaders outside of the church building. It was eye opening to strip away the idealizations and see people who were always in a suit at church with bed head at 7am.
In fact, one of the most memorable moments was when our youth director got “busted” for wearing shorts that were just a smidgen to short to pass muster. Realizing that my spiritual leaders were regular people was perhaps my greatest take-away from camp.
And isn’t this what we struggle with so much with young people who are just grasping that the world is a very different place than we imagined as a child. So much of the conflict between parents and children is centered on who is to blame for all the confusing problems that the young person has just realized exist.
As parents we struggle with what happened to our babies and why “raise them up in the way they should go” doesn’t seem to be working. But reality dictates that at some point we all had to grow up and summer camp and getting out where real decisions had to be made was part of it all.
I still look back on those days fondly and am grateful for all the people who took time to show me and my peers a little slice of life and what lay ahead.