It’s official – winter camp season has come to an end for our Student Ministries crew (cue the long exhale from all of our youth leaders and the groans from all of our students).

For those who might have missed it – our high school group spent a long weekend up at Hume Lake last month, and this past Sunday, our junior high group got back from their weekend-long trip up to Camp Pondo.

In total, we took exactly 100 students to our winter camps this year.

That means . . .

  • 100 students paused from the constant hustle of school, sports, clubs, jobs, and other extracurriculars and responsibilities, and just slowed down and breathed.
  • 100 students engaged in dynamic worship experiences.
  • 100 students were fed the Word of God through teaching and small group discussion.
  • 100 students witnessed the Spirit of God transform lives as many students from the various churches at each camp dedicated or re-dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ.
  • 100 students were loved and cared for by our volunteer leadership teams who served so faithfully.
  • 100 students laughed and played in the snow with old and new friends.
  • 100 students ate too much sugar, got way too little sleep, and walked around in soaking wet socks for way longer than advisable.
  • 100 students got away from the constant demands and distractions of preteen and teenage life and spent a weekend with their community and with their Savior.
  • 100 students experienced the grace of God through various means.

Praise God for another incredible camp season!

Here are several more specific highlights from each camp to give you a taste of what those 100 students experienced:
Hume Lake:

  • We secured TWO MAJOR VICTORIES in the church competitions at Hume. Our HS boys won the Kurth Cup (the broom hockey tournament that they think about all year long)! Our girls (who won it all last year) made it all the way to the finals too!We also won the elusive Golden Mailbox – which is the trophy we take home for winning the Box Sled Blitz competition. It’s a feat that we have never accomplished in all our years going to Hume (we were beginning to think there was some kind of conspiracy going on). But the crew of box sled builders and riders finally pulled through, thanks to our Slinky-Dog design. We always love when our group comes together for some friendly competition, and coming out on top really adds to the joy of the weekend!
  • We also had one of the best camp speakers on the planet (leaders and students share that opinion). His name is Chris Hilken, and his knowledge of and passion for the things of God coupled with his own story of God’s grace and power in his life hit home for so many in our group. He challenged students to think deeply about their faith and reaffirmed over and over again that we were made “on purpose, with purpose, for a purpose.”
  • The greatest highlight of them all was when two of our high school boys trusted in Jesus Christ for the first time following the gospel invitation on the last night of camp. Nothing else needed to happen all weekend – that was enough to see that God was on the move and answering our prayers to transform lives at camp. Two new children welcomed home to the arms of a loving Father, and who now get to enjoy relationship with Him forever. Thank you, Jesus!

Camp Pondo:

  • Despite camp falling late in the winter season and well after all the big snowstorms, there was still a TON of snow left on the ground at camp for students to play in. Winter camp without snow can be a bit of a drag, so we were excited to see the field covered in white when we arrived!Hundreds of snowballs were thrown, many directly at Parker (which resulted in multiple JH students’ faceprints made in the snow), one incredible snowman was built (and then later decapitated by a mysterious assassin), and a lot of laughs (and a few screams) were had as students flew down the tube run or flew up in the giant swing.
  • Two junior high boys decided to trust in Jesus for the first time, and many others re-dedicated their lives to Him on the last night of camp. Praise God!
  • After the final chapel where students were invited to raise their hands to make various decisions regarding their faith in Jesus, our whole group gathered in a room together to debrief. For the next hour, the students had the opportunity to share with the rest of the group why they made their respective decision and what God was teaching/showing them at camp that weekend.Our leadership team watched and listened in awe as student after student boldly shared aloud about the decisions they made that night and expressed their desires to follow Jesus and grow in their faith in Him.

    I wish you all could’ve been flies on the wall in that room – it probably would have blown your minds and rocked your current assumptions about junior high students. These 6th-8th graders are capable of so much and God is absolutely on the move in their hearts and lives.

I could go on and on. It was so incredible to see 100 students experience the joys of winter camp this year. 

Many of you reading this played a really important role in making camps happen. So now a couple of words of thanks to those who partnered with us:

  • THANK YOU to everyone who prayed for our winter camps – God definitely answered in SO many ways, most of which I listed above. Thank you for your faithfulness!
  • THANK YOU to everyone who donated to our JH/HS Camp Scholarship Fund to help send students to camp – we were able to offer over $3000 in scholarships to students who likely would not have been able to afford winter camp otherwise. Thank you for your generosity!

We’re so excited to see the lasting effects that our winter camps will have on our group as a whole and on the individual lives of these students as they continue to pursue Jesus in community.

Keep praying for this generation of young disciples – God is using them for big things now and preparing them for big things in the future!

In Him,

Ryan Berkman
Student Ministries Pastor

P.S. Dads, if you’re looking for a way to spend quality time building into your junior high or high school aged son, consider coming to the NEHEMIAH PROJECT on Saturday night, February 25. It’s a chance to press into being a man of God through corporate worship, hearing God’s Word, and fellowship.

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