It Only Takes 300...
I know that seems like an odd title, but that is what I get for having a student (Toby Barron) give my blog entry a title. I want you to know that Lakewood Bible Camp was an amazing time of fun games and Holy Ghost encounters. An entire book can be written on the amazing things that God does at camp in one week. This is just a short blog based on my experience at Senior High Camp. Because of my experience from the year before, I knew going into camp I had to be fit and ready. Anyone who really knows me knows that I would rather eat skittles than fruit. But with Camp only 2 months away I had to be mentally, spiritually, and physically prepared.
I took 3 days a week to prepare specifically for camp: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I would start my day praying for my campers, that they would have a blast but yet experience the love and power of Father God. Then I would run 2 miles in the morning. After my run I would pray in the Spirit. In the evenings I would go for a walk and just talk to God, kind of like a couple of old friends on the phone. I had to change my eating habits and focus on losing some weight.
That night they assigned our teams, as they called my name to come forward as the team captain of the purple team I did a fake trip and fall to encourage some laughter. Also anyone who knows me really well would know I am a bit of a goofball. I found it very interesting that this year they assigned our teams according to cabins so this whole time I had been praying for my Beulah boys without even knowing it!
As we gathered together I felt prompted to share 1 Cor. 12:18 “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part!”
“As Christians we believe we are the body of Christ. God has given you each unique strengths and abilities. Each one of you is an important member of this team.” I explained. Obviously we would be relying on our students who were athletic heavily in the main sporting events, but we also encouraged our un-athletic students to find ways to participate. “Recreation Time Tournaments” such as foosball, volleyball, ping pong, carpet ball, and etc. also earned points for the team. We asked our non athletic teammates one simple question: are you good at video games? Our gamers became our strategists and informants. Information gathered about other teams became integral to forming effective strategies.
With every team member contributing in some way we became a strong well oiled machine. At the end of the second night when we waited for the announcement of the team scores the anticipation was excruciating. All of our team felt anxious to hear the results of day one. It was a surreal experience to hear we were in first place. After the rush of joy hearing we had taken an early lead, the pressure to maintain it was intense.
I prayed for my kids and in the spirit that morning. I knew there could be the temptation to have a bad attitude when we were losing, or maybe even cheat. I felt that it was important to hit 3 things: Integrity, Encouragement, and Thankfulness. These are the three integral character traits of good leadership. And I saw all my kids as strong leaders.
Integrity- to explain the importance of integrity, I shared James 5:16 “…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” God has called us to a lifestyle of integrity. Even as far as if we want our prayers to be the most effective we have to be men and women of integrity and righteousness.
Encouragement- (Sorry, Mickey from Rocky,) encouragement goes a long way in a person’s attitude. John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." My students did an excellent job of encouraging not just one another but the opposing team.
Thankfulness- I encouraged my team to thank game leaders and camp staff. These positions are held by volunteers and it’s amazing that someone would take a beautiful week off of work or vacation to be at camp. I modeled gratitude by buying our game leaders ice cold soda on a hot day. By the end of the week students were enthusiastically thanking staff and volunteers, asking how they could help, being generous, and picking up trash.
They announced the team standings that night. Many of the teams moved positions in the point standings. When it came to the last 2 teams we were amazed to find that we had tied with yellow team for first place. During the nightly session I noticed our kids leading in worship and leading in prayer for their peers. I was so proud of my kids that night not because of sports but because they were modeling strong character and leadership.
Once again I prayed that morning for our team. The pressure was on; this was the last day of the sports events and if we didn’t perform well we would most certainly lose. I felt the Lord speak very clearly. “Share about Gideon and have them say, ‘For the Lord and for the purple team!’” I thought “Wow, God, that is cheesy.” So I shared with my one of my students Toby Barron. He said “that might just be cheesy enough.”
Before sports time, I took a group of kids through the camp collecting lost items and picking up trash. I was amazed at the zeal of some of the girls because I wouldn’t pick up socks, gum, popsicle sticks -things that had been in people’s mouths (the gum and popsicle sticks, not the socks) off the ground. I met with some of the Sports Directors, who said that they were very impressed. They had never had a team willingly go through the camp and pick up trash.
We met with our informants and they told us that the other teams where gunning for us. Our team’s success did not go unnoticed by the other teams and we had become target number one. I held a meeting with my strategists. I was reminded of Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Often times on the battlefield that is sports time I found myself just echoing what my strategists where saying. One strategist I leaned on the most was John Buchmann; together we came up with the plan that we didn’t necessarily have to win but we had to make sure the top teams under us didn’t win. So we made alliances with lower ranking teams in order to boost their point standings and secure our victory.
This is where the title of this blog starts to make sense. It was now game time. Many of our players were discouraged by hearing that other teams were aiming to knock us off the top. I gathered my team together. “Guys,” I said, “I believe our team name “The Purple Storm” was a prophetic word because it takes perseverance and determination to weather a storm of life.” Then I began to talk about Gideon. “Before the 300 at Thermopylae, Gideon and his 300 faced an army as countless as the sand. The Lord granted his team victory and they hunted the enemy down to the last man.” We circled together and shouted “For the Lord and for the Purple team!” We entered into battle with renewed courage.
That night they announced the point standings. Everyone was going crazy with anticipation. I remember thinking that if we took 2nd that would be just fine too. My head began to rush with every possible scenario that may have lead to our defeat. As they named the teams off from last place to first place my heart was racing. When they announced that we had maintained our lead and merely by a slim margin my team went crazy as we rushed the stage for our group picture. We had done the impossible: maintained the lead every day and became 2017 Camp Champions.
That morning I praised God for our victory. It seemed like a surreal dream. We pulled off the impossible and emerged camp champs. I heard a lot of complaining from other teams. Excuses like we had more athletes, their teammates were lazy, maybe we somehow cheated, or that the games were rigged. But our team knew the truth. The Lord was with us, and He granted us victory.
It was hard to say goodbye to the students on our team from other towns. I felt led to share with my students that these disciplines are not just for a great week at camp but a lifestyle, and if they walk in integrity, prayer, and perseverance, that they would be successful in life. You might think “why put so much effort into a summer camp contest?” Well, I believe that God doesn’t just want to be our first priority, but he wants to be a part of our everyday life.
Pastor Ernest Keplin
Beulah Youth Pastor
New Life Worship Center
Editors: Toby Barron and June Boucher