So, we took 51 students, 7 adults, and 5 people from another church to camp at Jenness Park this weekend. It was amazing. It’s as if every camp we take God moves more and more specifically in the lives of those attending. It was everything our students needed in this time of life. So many of our VCC family has donated to help send kids to camp. This year, 11 of the 51 student were able to receive scholarships and I am forever thankful to those people. I wish you could have witnessed with your eyes what that donation did for the Kingdom of God.

I remember back when I was in youth group, I’d come home and when my parents asked me how camp was, I’d respond with, “It was awesome!” and add a funny story of something my friend did. Thankfully, my parents knew that more than just fun stuff happened at camp, but we do know that students won’t always tell the whole story to their parents. So, here’s a [longer] recap of the trip…

The bus ride to the snow was awesome! It was our first time taking a bus anywhere and we listened to our band’s new worship album for about 2 hours straight (check us out! Inspiration Drive Worship on Facebook, and Spotify – iTunes coming soon). It was so fun being together on the bus and looking out the window at the snow – we were constantly checking the web cam (until all cell service ended) and we were just hoping it wasn’t a really old feed on a loop. When we saw the trees covered in white, the excitement of 51 students on the bus was… precious. We had a few kids who had never been in the snow before!

We arrived, had an amazing dinner, got loaded into our cabins (HS Boys, MS Boys, 8-12th Grade Girls, 6-7th Grade Girls), and then service started. Chris Scoz preached all 3 messages for camp. His story is that two drug addicts raised him and 4 younger brothers. He got radically saved at 12 years old in his bedroom, and went on to lead a huge Christian Club in Manteca High School where they counted over 700 salvations in one year! On night #1, we had students trading in their bad moments for God moments, seeking a real experience with God that was all their own, and deciding to follow after Jesus for themselves. This was the set up. The altar time lasted so long we didn’t have time for free time, so we headed to our cabins where we each stayed up way too late!

The MS boys decided to do arts and crafts making bracelets – which ended up bonding them into a super tight band of crazies all weekend long. They took on the role of torturing every other cabin with relentless snowballs, and terrorized the HS Boys with morning wake up calls with an air horn. If you weren’t a MS boy, you kinda wished you were one so that you could be in their club, and then the other half of you remembered that they were still middle school boys. By the end of the trip, all the leaders pranked them back by convincing them they were in serious trouble for all the rules they broke during the weekend. Anthony even had them bow their heads as he prayed for more character in their lives, and as he said, “Amen” we blasted them with the air horn. It was priceless payback for a weekend of torture!

Alright, back to serious stuff! Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny. We had breakfast, personal devotions, and snowball fights before our 10am service. The sermon in the morning was focused on Chris’s story of how he went full-out radical, giving everything to Jesus and it was through his sacrifice, devotion, prayer, fasting, and filling of the Holy Spirit that God enabled him to lead such a massive movement in his High School. We focused on the book of Esther, and each student was shown how he or she was created for “such a time as this.” He talked about how the minute we decide to follow Christ, we are all ministers — FULL TIME ministers. We all have a specific person (or group of people) that God can only reach through us. It was a great time where students really understood the sphere of influence they have at this time and what to do about it. During lunch, students who felt called to start something on their campuses were encouraged to eat with Chris so that they could brainstorm together.

That afternoon, we had 5 hours of free time on the campus. We played ninja, cards, ping pong, foose ball, sledding, built snowmen with the snow that was left, took naps, went to the camp store, talked, hiked… you name it. The campground there is big enough to have lots of great options and locations to hang out. It’s always really cool to see students without their phones on this trip. They’re disconnected and on day two they really begin to show signs of letting go of the stress of life – being phone-less helps a TON with this process. They laugh together, make memories they wouldn’t normally make, they dance, joke around, and just talk about whatever. We love it when they don’t have phones. They become kids again.

The night service that evening was so powerful. We worshiped and had so much fun together in worship that we ended up creating a conga line to the song “Deep Cries Out.” I’m sure videos of this awesome moment will surface… but to dance together and enjoy the presence of God was so full of pure JOY. Chris preached on John 16:7 and being convicted of sin. It sounds like a harsh message, but he showed the students that true freedom comes from real conviction. We talked about being convicted of our sin, but also convicted of who Jesus is and how he frees us from shame, condemnation, guilt, and all the chains of sin. We prayed this prayer together, “Holy Spirit, convict me!” and the Holy Spirit fell in the room, leading students to tears of a revelation of the love of Jesus, and some even were filled and spoke in tongues for the first time. We talked about letting go of the past, looking forward to what God is doing, and so many kids were set free of their past mistakes.

Our last service on Sunday morning was a testimony service and almost every student stood up and shared what God did in their life. I’m not all about putting students on blast to a whole group of people, but these testimonies made me cry! Kids were called into specific forms of ministry, talked about what God wants them to do when they go home, talked about what God showed them in prayer, and even shared specific things God freed them from. It was so beautiful to see the individual stories of how much God freed students and gave them vision for their lives.

VCC, thank you for allowing Anthony and I to lead the youth ministry. It is so incredibly fulfilling to watch lives transformed for eternity. There really isn’t anything more exciting on the face of this planet.

Pictures from camp will be on our Valley Christian Student Ministry Facebook page if you want to check them out.