By: Ana DeBernardo – November, 2013
Over the summer, I attended a Christian camp called C.A.M.P.S., an acronym that stands for Christ As My Personal Savior. This was my second consecutive year attending C.A.M.P.S., and I had also gone to SnowCamps, the weekend retreat version of C.A.M.P.S., during the winter. I can honestly say that my time spent at these camps has not only consisted of the best experiences of my life, but also the most fun I could ever possibly imagine having.
Father George Morin, the pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Merrimac, sparked the C.A.M.P.S. initiative.
His goal was to create an environment for teens either struggling with their faith, or happily living out their faith in today’s prejudiced societies. With the help of countless people and their determination and hard work, the C.A.M.P.S. dream was brought to life and has been going strong for 30 years.
There are many reasons why I keep going back to this camp. But to tell you the truth, I think everyone would go if they had the chance to experience it themselves. A community where you are greeted by swarms of hugs from people you might not even know. An environment where you can worship and praise God and not care about what the people around you are thinking. As a person of deep faith, it was especially eye-opening to me to discover that there are other people my age who aren’t afraid to live out their faith.
From the beginning I have had a very close relationship with God. However, being a shy person, I had always worried about what people said or thought of me. Being a “Jesus freak”, as my friends call me, and being a reserved person doesn’t go hand in hand. In order to know The Lord, and moreover, proclaim your faith, you have to have oodles of self-confidence, something which, in my opinion, I lacked.
So, when my friend first introduced me to this “Jesus camp”, I brushed it off. Of course, what was best for me wasn’t relevant. The only important thing was coming off as socially “normal” to other people. So, I put it off until the last minute. It was my enthusiastic friend who finally convinced me to go.
When I stepped into the gathering hall of SnowCamps for the first time…I cannot even begin to describe the scene before me, but I’ll try. In one corner, someone with a full-length beard, wearing a suit and top hat, was reciting the Gettysburg Address. In another corner, a group of hula dancers were choreographing their own Hawaiian dance. There were about four or five people dressed as massive lobsters scooping up random campers onto surfboards and parading them around the room.
The coordinators of the camp later told us that the point of all these shenanigans was to point out that everyone should expect the unexpected. Some people are forced into attending Jesus camp.
But by the end of the weekend, they honestly all wish they could stay forever. The things you do are totally ridiculous and fun beyond imagination. You sing songs. You play games of all kinds and have a giant bonfire and roast s’mores. Most importantly, you can start a relationship with God or improve on an existing one. Not to mention, their hot cocoa is scrumptious.
In the summer camp, we had a giant quidditch tournament, re-enacted the Hunger Games, and played Mission Impossible around the entire campgrounds, all of which may sound a little cheesy, but afterwards you are left with lasting memories. It is extremely fun to participate in these activities, and hilarious to see how competitive people get. A few kids, who took the game a little too far, were sent to the hospital, shattered in their efforts to get the most points for their team.
If you are given the opportunity, Jesus camp is highly recommended! Even if you’re a shy person, or you don’t know anyone going, TRUST ME when I tell you that you’ll make friends. I’ve made more friends at C.A.M.P.S. and SnowCamps than I have made in all my 15 years of existence. When I’m with my camp friends, I can completely be myself without fear of being judged.
It has made me a more outgoing person, made me open to so many more new things, and most important of all, has made me so much closer to my God. At the end of the day, He is the most important thing in my universe and being close to my Heavenly Father gives me the energy to keep going in life. He is the one who picks me up when I fail my chemistry test and says “I only allow you to hit rock bottom to realize I AM the rock at the bottom.”