I’ve been attending camp since I was four. This means I attended at least one camp from 1984-1998. Three of those years I attended two camps and went back and was a counselor for 5 years after graduated high school. Camp has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Tiffany and I decided in 2008 to take a break until our kids were old enough to attend. This year, now that two kids were old enough, I decided to go again as a counselor.
For those who don’t know, this week consists of an average of four or five hours of sleep per night, overseeing the activities and shenanigans of two dozen teenage boys, and running activities and workshops all day long. While there, we eat together, swim together, play games together, and have a blast. More importantly, we also worship God. We study the Bible together. We sing praises together. We pour out our hearts to God. To say that the week is exhausting is a pitiful understatement.
I finally have determined though what it is that excites me to participate in such an physically draining week—camp is a microcosm of heaven. Consider the parallels:
Gathered saints—One of the greatest aspects of camp is the gathering together of saints from many different places. These are Christians you long to see because you have missed them since the last time you saw them. Over the course of the week, you experience defeat and victory with these saints. You share your tears and you laugh continually. All of this is part of what we expect to experience in heaven (cf. 1 Thess 4.16-17).
Continual worship—Every morning and evening, the camp gathers for a period of worship. We sing loud enough for our heart to pour out. We pray intimate prayers. We hear God’s word challenge us to live better. As if these worship periods weren’t enough, we gather once a day to spend an hour in study together. Each of these times causes us to keep our focus on God for the entire week. In between assemblies, groups spontaneously gather to sing, learn new songs, remember some old songs, and pray together. It is clear that worship takes priority at the camp and it is even clearer that God is in the midst of the camp hearing the worship being offered. Yet, no matter how good the worship is here, imagine actually seeing the face of God as we worship in heaven (cf. Rev 5.11-12).
Communal meals—Several hundred Christians gathered to eat three meals each day around tables full of laughter. Every one talked about their day, about their home, or about their activities. Messes were made but little food was wasted. Meal times were one of the best times to meet people you might not have met before and get to know them a little before you moved on with your day. Yet, in heaven we will gather around the table of God, with Him at the head of the feast. We will meet Christians we’ve never met before and we will share our joy in Christ (cf. Rev 19.7-9).
Common rest—At the end of the day, we would go to our cabins and rest. This sleep, although short, was always deep and satisfying. There was a peace that came with sleeping near a close friend and brother. Yet, one day, we will sleep down the hall from God. We will rest in His house, where Christ has prepared us a room. We will truly rest in peace when we rest there (cf. John 14.1-4).