By Darius Pyle
Earlier this month, all three of our Summit Campuses came together with Riverside Church to put on a Student Camp outside of Gainesville, FL.
As 150 middle and high school students began to pour out of the buses at Lake Swan Camp, so did their questions: “Where are we sleeping?” “When can we go tubing?” “Can I ride the golf cart?”
From our Friday arrival to our Tuesday departure, we laughed through nonstop face-painting, leader-pranking, slip-n-sliding craziness. Through every moment of it, we got to see God working in the hearts of these kids, helping them to understand and love Him. We watched as existing friendships deepened and new friendships formed.
Throughout the week, students and leaders were exhorted and encouraged by the Bible teaching of Jesse Stewart, the twin brother of our Naples pastor and elder, Josh. Each day, Jesse opened God’s Word and taught the students what it means to love Christ and follow Him. Jesse challenged the students to allow God to break down walls in their lives, walls that separate them from enjoying deeper relationships with our Savior and with the people in their lives.
Each night, students would leave the teaching sessions and gather with their small groups to enjoy deeper, more personal conversation. For me, this small group time was the best part of camp. The guys in my group really opened up throughout the week, sharing honestly about anxiety, shame, and many other things that make it seem difficult for them to pursue God. There seemed to be a common thread among them: they felt like their relationships with God were like a rollercoaster, always going up and down, as if God is pleased with them for a while and then disappointed with them just a few days later. This is a common lie that Christians believe, and I was sad to hear it was infecting the lives of so many guys in my room. Throughout the week, we discussed the truth that for those of us who have trusted in Christ for salvation, God is eternally pleased with us because He is perfectly pleased with Jesus, who has covered us with his precious blood. His relationship with us is not a rollercoaster. It’s unwavering, unchanging, perfect love forever.
One sixth grade boy shared with our room how God has uniquely cared for and shaped his family in the past few years as one of his parents has undergone treatment for cancer. He expressed how he knows God loves him because he has experienced God’s personal care for him. He told us that he wants to follow God with his whole life, saying he desired to “get baptized as soon as possible!”. As our time progressed, another young man who is in eighth grade began to understand God’s love for him and the grace He offers to those who trust in Him. On our last night at camp, he asked Jesus to be his Savior, experiencing God’s grace and forgiveness in a tremendous way!
These are just a few stories from one of many small groups that met at camp. I praise God because He was present at Lake Swan, drawing students to Himself and transforming their hearts, all for His glory!