Camp Destiny has just begun. As I look around the auditorium, I see Costa Rican youth ranging in age from eleven years-old up to age twenty. As I watch them give the speaker their undivided attention, I can’t help but think about their varied backgrounds. We have youth from all walks of life—pastor’s kids, an exchange student who is here to learn the language, girls who have been abused and misused, some from children’s homes, boys who are dealing with cancer, teens who have been on drugs, some who have attempted suicide in the past, youth from a small island, and teens from “rough” home situations. Most are unsaved.
It’s hard to put into words the emotions I feel right now—compassion, empathy, hope. I have compassion and empathy for those who have experienced hardships at such a young age—for those who have been mistreated—for those who have learned distrust as a result of not being protected—and for those who are dealing with burdens far beyond their years. Yet, I also feel a deep hope for them. They are here this week and God loves them. Their lives can be redeemed and their hearts healed. Because of Christ, they can have a future.
I hope each camper finishes the week with a profound knowing, deep in their souls, that they are valuable and that God loves them! It is my prayer that they will discover the peace and joy that only come from accepting Christ as their Savior. May these Costa Rican young people find renewed hope for their futures as they begin to realize that God is walking right beside them through life. May they learn to trust fully in His love and care for them.
Now five days later, as Camp Destiny ends, I can see that many of my prayers have been answered—36 responded to the altar call on Friday night—about 55 dedicated their lives on Saturday morning as they responded to the question, “Are you willing to do whatever God asks you to do?” Many young girls opened up in my Saturday morning session to talk about their struggles in life—family problems, anxiety, depression, or hurt feelings. They responded to the message that God loves them and walks beside them. He sees their hurts but He has not forgotten about them. Many hearts were encouraged as I shared with them that their identity is in Christ and they are so loved by their Heavenly Father. Although, as a counselor, I can help people find peace, only Christ offers perfect peace.
One young man left a lasting impression on my heart as camp ended. He sat down beside me in the chapel after all the others had left. I could tell he just wanted to linger and connect. When we walked over together to speak to my husband, this young teen said, “I came to camp an atheist. I’m leaving as a believer.” Wow! God did some amazing things this week! Not us, but God. It is His work. We can do all the planning in the world, but it is the Holy Spirit who draws our hearts to Christ.
I was pleasantly surprised, actually delighted, as camper after camper came and hugged us and thanked us for the opportunity our ministry had given them to experience camp this week. For some, it was the best experience they had ever had. It was a life changing experience for others—one that forever changed the course of their lives and their futures. For many, it was a refreshing time of recreation—enjoying nature and friendships in a setting of love and acceptance—a setting where they didn’t just exist—they thrived!