Though I ultimately know the answer to this question, this morning I found myself asking, “What do we at Camp Rockfish do that really matters? Specifically, what matters eternally?”
The question came from two places. First, as many who have visited the camp over the last year already know, the Lake Upchurch dam was damaged during hurricane Matthew. Since Oct 2016, we have not had a lake. God graciously gave us the means and imagination to create an exciting alternative we call “the River Run.” The “Run” was a huge success. We sent over 1600 campers kayaking, bellyaking, and tubing down Big Rockfish Creek (“River”) over the course of the summer. Honestly speaking, though The Run was a hit, we’d love to have the lake back.
This past week, a meeting was held with the owners of the dam regarding the fate of the lake. The purpose of the meeting was to allow the land owners to share their thoughts (and a lot of feelings) about the impact of the lake. The vast majority of the “discussion” revolved around decreased land values since the lake’s disappearance. At one point in the meeting, one of the Lake Upchurch Association leaders stepped up to the microphone and said (paraphraising), “Ok folks, we get it. Ultimately this is about business. Land values will decrease if the lake doesn’t come back.”
I was sitting about half way back in the room and raised my hand. After a few others in the crowd pointed out a myriad of other benefits of the lake, I was given an opportunity to share. I stood up and acknowledged everything that had been pointed out previously, but then stated that the lake had a significantly greater impact than just business. Before I continued, I reminded the 200+/- attendees that Rockfish is a Christian camp and we’re firmly convinced God is bigger than a lake or no lake; a dam or no dam. Rockfish camp will continue to be used by God to touch lives now and eternally. Regarding the lake, the question is how many. I then shared that all Christian ministries are competing for the attention, mind, hearts, and ultimately souls of our young people who are constantly being bombarded with other alternatives (some good, many not so good). “The lake,” I said, “is a major draw. We have exciting and engaging activities, but the lake is a huge attention-getter. How many children and youth,” I asked, “won’t come to Rockfish, won’t meet a Christ-centered staff, won’t hear the gospel, and won’t have the Spirit of God change their lives now and eternally because they looked elsewhere?”
Those in attendance responded very positively to the words God graciously gave me. I was glad I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth or get in God’s way…too much. However, later that night, I found myself asking whether those were nice, religious words, or are we a place where lives are changed; where souls do find eternal forgiveness and new life?
The Second reason for the nagging question was prompted by a book I’ve been using for the last few weeks as a part of my daily devotional time. Along with the Bible, an aspect of my regular studies is to work through a Christian book that either digs deeper into a certain aspect of a biblical teaching, or focuses on a person or ministry dynamically living out the Christian faith. Per my wife’s suggestion, I’ve been reading two books by Katie Davis Major. Never one to do things in the right order, I’m reading them out of sequence and am currently reading the first book, Kisses for Katie, after having read her second book. Before any guys reading this blog say anything about me reading a book entitled, “Kisses for Katie,” I’d encourage you to read it. It tells the true story of a young 18-year-old girl from the Tennessee who takes a three week mission trip to Uganda that turns into a life-long calling to be the hands, feet, and voice of God to people who live in abject poverty and destitution. The eventual mission God created through this faithful and strong young lady is called Amazima. Look it up at Amzima.org. It’s unbelievable how God has used this petite young lady to change an entire community and countless lives for the Kingdom.
After finishing another chapter where I found myself wondering how she could be so faithful, and why do I continue to fall so very short, my mind jumped to how Amazima is funded and what is done with the money faithfully donated to them. After having read so much about Amazima, I had a pretty good idea regarding the answer to my question, but I logged onto Amazima.org just to see how they communicated it. In essence, donations to Amazima feed hungry (and often starving children), provide education where there would otherwise be none, and ultimately lead young lives (not to mention many many adults) to the saving knowledge of Christ.
I said a quick prayer for Amazima that God would prompt others to support that vital ministry, as well as direct the leadership of Amazima to faithfully use the funds for God’s glory. Almost immediately, I sensed the Spirit inviting me to ask the question, “What about the funds Rockfish camp receives that help send children and youth to camp in the summer? Does a donation to Rockfish’s campership fund have as significant an impact on young lives?
Many readers may not be aware that over the past two summers, we’ve provided almost $150,000 in camperships to families who need financial assistance so that their children could experience what God is doing at Rockfish. Camperships help send children from the Lumbee tribe, inner city children, kids from broken homes, families struggling because of job or health issues, and the children of the women and men serving our country. It’s an honor to make the summer camp experience available to those who would not otherwise be able to come. However, again the question came to mind, “What do those sacrificially given funds support? Is Camp Rockfish doing something eternal?”
As a personal testimony, I’m in camping ministry because I love almost everything about camping ministry. I love to see kids who are all too often hypnotized by some type of screen finally get outdoors, run, play, and breathe some fresh air. I love to see people do something they never thought they would be able to do; to learn something they would not have learned had they not come to camp. I love the laughter, the crazy songs, the friendships, the bitter sweet moments when campers are leaving with a mixture of remorse about walking away from a life-changing experience and excitement because of the new life that lies ahead. One of the main reasons I moved from serving in the local church after 30 years to camping ministry is because over the course of those 30 years I saw time and time again the significant life change when people (young and old alike) were removed from their comfortable and familiar surroundings and taken to a place set apart. It is a thrill for me that we have the privilege of creating a place apart for the churches, confirmation classes, youth groups, etc. who use the camp as a retreat center, and who experience a powerful movement of God while they’re here.
But are WE at Camp Rockfish being used by God to make a significant and eternal difference, especially in the lives entrusted to use during the summer? Will a young girl, starving to know she’s loved, experience the unconditional love of God? Will a young man who has been belittled by family or “friends,” find the uplifting power of the Lion of Judah? Will souls be reborn? Will hearts be set on fire to take the light of Christ back into a world that needs hope, rebirth, and renewal? Will there be a young lady who, because of what God does in her life this summer, become the next Katie Davis Major who takes the gospel into another hurting part of the world? Could the seed for the next Billy Graham be sown in the heart of a young man during an evening worship around a camp fire? Will there be a teen who discovers the unconditional love of God so that when he or she has a child of their own, will know how to be a godly parent? I hope so. We pray for this. We are working hard to this end. God changing lives now and eternally is the reason we do what we do.
Continue to pray for us. Pray that the campers God wants here this summer will come. Pray for the funding to make that possible for those who can’t afford it. Pray for our staff. Pray that every donation made to Rockfish will have an eternal significance because by the grace and power of God we’re doing eternal things. Pray that we live into the mission to which God has called us: To help people experience and grow in the love of God in Jesus Christ, AND then go into all the world and share it.