Campers and staff began arriving at the church parking lot bright and early on Monday, July 25, to check in and begin the drive to the Mayfield Lake Youth Camp in Washington. After a three-year break, everyone was excited to be able to hold youth camp again, especially the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade campers who were going for the first time. About 170 campers attended this year, coming from our churches in Grants Pass, Medford, Portland, and Roseburg, Oregon; Chehalis, Neah Bay, Port Angeles, Pullman, Seattle, and Yakima, Washington; Sacramento, California; and Langley, British Columbia, Canada. It was a great opportunity for young people from across the Northwest region to encourage each other in the faith.
The theme for this year’s camp was “The Road That Leads to Heaven,” with the theme verse from Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth until life, and few there be that find it.” Daily devotional sessions in the afternoons highlighted these lessons: 1) Jesus is the “ONE WAY” to Heaven; 2) Getting to Heaven requires a “U-TURN” away from sin; 3) We must “YIELD” our all to God to draw closer to Him; 4) God will give a “DO NOT ENTER” sign for sinful activities that lead to spiritual death; and 5) Every day, we must “STOP” and spend time with God, “SLOW DOWN” to listen for Him, and “GO” in His will.
The camp theme was also highlighted at the morning and evening chapel services through a theme song and the messages. The sermons emphasized the urgent need for each person to be saved. In one message, the minister spoke about how seeds have the potential to become a plant or tree, but only if they stop being a seed. He said that in a similar way, each person has amazing potential to become a new creature in Christ, but for that to happen we must choose to forsake the old life of sin. Another sermon compared navigating through life to flying an airplane. The speaker said that there are times in flight when vision is obstructed and one must rely on mechanical instruments, and in life, when we are not sure what to do next, we can rely on God to guide us. There were wonderful prayer meetings during the week and many victories won. A poster with the word “BLESSINGS” was mounted on one of the chapel walls and campers were encouraged to write down any answers to prayer that were received during the week. By Friday, more than seventy had written a praise report!
One could not help but notice that this year was one of the hottest on record. The daily temperature highs were always in the 90s, and it seemed the lows were not low enough! Yet, the heat did not stop the campers from fully enjoying the outdoors. The lake and water slide were popular areas, as well as the volleyball courts, ping pong tables, and craft barn. There were also about twice as many tournaments this year than in the past. These included the usual favorites such as basketball and volleyball, and some new ones, including archery and a “Down By the Banks” competition with over sixty participants! Another new feature was “gaga ball”—a fast-paced game where the goal is not to get hit by a ball as it is slapped around a pit that is filled with players. Everyone seemed to emerge from the pit dusty, tired, and ready to play again!
Wednesday evening was a highlight of the week with the “Ryan and Ryan Variety Show,” hosted by Ryan Erdmann and Ryan Chasteen. The evening of amusement and laughter included a Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament, an arm-wrestling competition, a bubble gum blowing challenge, as well as a highly competitive round of musical chairs. There were also a few skits. The high school boys cabin had everyone laughing and a bit confused with a very messy skit that ended with a meaningful message: “Life can be messy, but Jesus can help.” A middle school girls group performed a skit that was a modern-day take on the story of Queen Esther, and the counselors closed the evening with a skit about the road that leads to Heaven. Their skit depicted the various tricks the enemy uses to lure people to the broad way, but also showed the wisdom and blessing of choosing the narrow way.
The last night featured the annual lost-and-found auction, where embarrassed campers can publicly reclaim belongings that they had accidentally abandoned around the grounds. That was followed by a slideshow of photos from the week, and then a bonfire and snacks outside. While it was sad to say goodbye to youth camp, it was very necessary since everyone was wiped out from a very full week. Everyone returned home exhausted, but thanking God for so many blessings at youth camp this year.