b) Sleeping bag
c) Prayer journal
Put down your pen and journal, spiritual warrior, because the answer is (b) Sleeping bag!
One of the staples of Christian life is, of course, the world of camping / retreating /weekend awaying / conventioning. When I look back on my faith journey, I see the importance of these Christian camps because they are always accompanied by accelerated spiritual growth and memories that make me smile.
Let's take a journey together and explore those Christian camp experiences.
As a child, your Christian camp life starts with a holiday club or attending a beach mission program while on family holidays. The activities are fun, the leaders are energetic and hilarious and you learn about Jesus, the friendly guy who died on the cross and brought Easter eggs to everyone.*
Before long, you move into the youth group. Once a year you spend an entire five days away from home with 100 other hormone-charged teens to have fun and continue growing in your relationship with God. It's a little more intense than the childhood programs; the speakers urge you to make a decision for Jesus and the studies go for more than 30 minutes! You spend time delving into topics like grace for the first time, unearthing its riches and feeling like your brain might explode from all the revelations you're gaining. At these camps, your faith is watered and fertilised by the Bible, leading to more rapid growth than at any other time of year.
Not only do you learn more about your relationship with God, but your relationship with your youth group friends deepens and is sealed over camp food, yelling and laughing till you lose your voice, D&Ms**, bonfire, marshmallow fights, silly photos, a mountain of junk food, getting attached to the leaders and, along with every other girl there, falling in love with that cute guy who plays guitar and sings.*** The week always ended too quickly, with teary farewells, last-minute warm fuzzy writing# and group photos. You'd arrive home more exhausted than ever and communicate via grumpy grunts to your parents (who promptly banished you to your room for a sleep, until you could converse like a civil being).
After youth group comes university life, and the campus Christian group. The sleeping bag barely gets put away with start of year camp, mid-year camp, and end of year mission AND national conference to go to. Plus, your family goes to an Easter convention and after Christmas, you're on a beach mission team.
Finally, as a fully-fledged working adult, things slow down a bit. Of course there's still church camp. This camp is a little different though. For starters, it's full of people from different ages and stages of life to you. Bedtime is a little more sensible than it used to be (people actually sleep!) and the afternoon of swimming / crazy games / adventuring is replaced by a moderate stroll to the local coffee shop.
After a childhood, youth, and adulthood of Christian camps, you've gained a Masters in Packing a Bag with the Appropriate Amount of Clothing, a Diploma in Packing for the Forecasted Weather, a Certificate in Sleeping in a Room with 10 Other People including Three Snorers, and a Medal in Car Luggage Tetris. You know almost every get to know you game in existence, played endless rounds of Warlords and Scumbags, Mafia and Ninja, and an entire shelf at home groans under the weight of past camp programs, studies and photos.
It's worth it, isn't it? Those lost hours of sleep, and time away from home fade into insignificance when we ponder what these camps mean for our faith. There's something about spending time away with Christians that is a taste of heaven.
Like those moments where everyone lifts their voice and sings with such passion during the worship sessions. Like those Bible studies that were filled with lightbulb moments. Like the joy of laughing with your brothers and sisters in Christ, crying with them, sharing your life with them.
Easter is almost here. I'm looking forward to the sleeping bag already.
*Disclaimer: Jesus does not bring Easter eggs.
**D&Ms = deep and meaningful discussions. You don't know you're about to have one, you can't plan them, but they're amazing when they happen.
***Guys, think of your own camp crush.
#Warm fuzzy: a personal handwritten note with nice stuff in it to make a person feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Sarah Urmston is based in Melbourne and shares a 5x7m flat with her husband, Stephen. She works with RMIT Melbourne's Christian Union group as an apprentice, and loves the privilege of sharing Jesus with the students. Since beginning student ministry, her desire – nay – need for coffee has grown exponentially.
Sarah Urmston's previous articles may be viewed www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-urmston.html