Sunday, August 5, 2012

Our Camp What-a-Nut Experience

Red=Josh, Black=Ally

"Today I took a long walk in the woods and tried to pray like I've never prayed before. And I did. The woods were so quiet and the sun was so bright that I felt like I was praying for the first time. It's like my faith was real for the first time. My dad told me it would be like this, but I didn't think so." 

-Tom Riley reading Timmy's diary in Malachi's Message (Album 32: Hidden Treasures)

This past week, I had the opportunity to go to CBM (Chinese Bible Mission) camp in Forbestown, California. It was an amazing week which encouraged and fired me up for Christ. In short, I had a Camp What-a-Nut experience.

Hey this is Ally, here to tell you about a camp I went to called Chinese Bible Mission or CBM in Forbestown, CA (about two weeks ago) where lots of, well, Chinese churches (about 95% of the camp) go for a week journey about Christ.

Let me first say that when I was on the bus, I wasn't really thinking about learning about God as much. Sometimes I only pray to God when I'm worried about something, not all the time. Going to public school made my relationship with Jesus go off a little. I guess the reason for going to CBM was more of meeting new Christian friends, and having fun. Maybe it was a start, but I was still a little excited about going. 

Camp did not start off the greatest for me. I went with my friend Micaiah, the tall Asian kid in our Odyssey Nerd video, and we arrived four hours late since we came right after I finished my film class. We didn't get to stay in a building made of gray bricks like Donny McCoy (Camp What-a-Nut, Album 2: The Wildest Summer Ever), but we did get to stay in a "cabin" made up of termite-infested 2x4s with screens for windows and holes in the walls. The bathroom was flooded. Turns out we had the honor of staying in the only non-renovated cabin since the camp began in the 50s or 60s. Fantastic. After an ice breaker, it was time for Canteen, where we could purchase items from the camp store (Sour Straws for 60 cents...WHATTTT). However, by this time, it was dark, and it was hard to see. We stumbled around for nearly half a hour, lost, lonely, and a little sad. Were we ready to experience 5 days of loneliness at a Christian camp? Thankfully, we kept walking and eventually found a couple people to talk to and introduce ourselves to.

My friends Ethan and Nathanael were the only friends I had from my church since we were the only ones to go to the Junior High Camp. But I kinda knew some other kids that I met previously at a Sacramento church, so I wasn't all too worried. Yet still I was a little worried about the camp, if I would enjoy and benefit like how others did. 

The next morning, I woke up at 6:20, forty minutes before designated wake up time. I started praying: "Lord, I'm really lonely. Could you bring someone to be a friend to us? ...if it's in your will?" And meal by meal, God brought us to different tables where we met completely random people and had wonderful conversations with them. In fact, during free time on day 1, our lunch friends found us and introduced us to more people, and so on and so forth.

Once we were at camp, I met a girl who I've heard about from my friend, and she was so friendly, introducing me to her friends and just hanging out with me. Plus all the counselors and directors were just overall friendly, fun, and had such a strong faith with a heart just rejoicing God. Their willingness was so inspiring! 

Throughout camp, I had the opportunity to meet lots of Christians who were hilarious and interesting, yet on fire for Christ. It was really encouraging to see. Two campers had even emailed me the week before to see if I had any questions; they also encouraged me to hang out with them if I ever needed someone. I loved the diversity of campers; we had non-Christians, funny people, insightful people, pessimistic people (When are we leaving?), and oddballs. Hey, it's like Odyssey!

The theme of the camp was a reBorn Identity in Jesus. Our guest pastor, Pastor Alton To, on the first day taught us that we need God to tell us what our identity is. We looked at the story about the Prodigal Son. The younger brother is mostly like us, since we walked away from our Father (God), we rebel against him, sometimes wishing he is dead because other things are more important. But once we've "spent all our money on arcade games (The Prodigal Jimmy, Album 4: FUNdamentals)" we realize we need to go home, that's where we find our identity, in the redemption of the son, Jesus. The older brother had an identity in religion, disrespecting the Father and not going into the party of his brother coming home. But God wants to be with and keep us forever. Pastor Alton told us both were distant with the Father in different ways. Which brother are you more like? How can you change your ways? When I heard his message, I was excited and felt like this was God telling me "Hey, you should talk to me more than you do. I'd really love to listen to my child more often" the inspiration and the want kept growing afterwards. 

Our speaker, Pastor Peter Wang, spoke about putting our identity in Christ instead of in other things. He was very insightful, and I took lots of careful notes on what he said and the Odyssey references that related to them (which will be up in Sunday Morning Scramble Schools in the near future). On Friday night, we had a special guest speaker, Eric Chow, who preached an in-depth sermon about the Gospel. It was called "the Greatest News You Could Ever Hear," and we'll go over that in another post.

We later learned from him about showing God's love to others so they know you're a Christian, we are children of God (first born as children of Satan but now changed because God adopted us to be His!), what is our desire (the condition, how are we to desire, and what's our goal), who are we (our purpose, greatest problem, and how it is made right), and finally how can we keep our identity in Christ? (it's the gospel!) Our pastor was so true and you could tell he really wanted us to understand and to know by the info he gave us. His passion for Christ was so inspiring. 

Life is like a dramedy. That's why I love Odyssey; it's so much like real life, mixing drama and comedy. CBM was that way too. On one hand, we had silly staff challenges, cabin decorations, chaos ball (extreme dodgeball), funny skits, Courageous, Texas Hold 'em, Steal the Bacon on a tarp covered with water and detergent, dot hunting, and Rock Paper Scissors Capture the Flag. But we also had serious discussions about God in our lives and what we want in a future spouse. The Bay Area is not necessarily a Christian hotspot, so to be able to talk and laugh with them; it was really encouraging to meet Christians from other parts of the state.

We were able to watch the movie Courageous, which I've seen many times, but understanding how the movie related to the theme and laughing at everyone laughing at every funny moment was great. I took workshops on God's will and dating (more SMSS posts to come!), making new friends as I went. My favorite part of camp was singspiration. Singing with 200 other people-or peers-to Jesus is a fantastic experience, and lots of fun as well.

At CBM we also had a chance to talk one on one with a counselor, just talking about life and our spiritual journey. That was one of my favorite moments, because I could get advice and just unleash all those worries and wonders? My counselor spent a lot of time with me, and did her best to answer my questions. It was so cool! 

Life walks were great because the opportunity arose to just talk about anything about my life and ask any question I had. It was my first Whittaker moment, and it was very exciting. While my counselor is probably in his low 30s, he was knowledgeable about the Bible and life, and shared life stories and Bible passages to help me with questions and life directions. If you're looking for your Mr. Whittaker, try looking in your church, or ask your pastor if he knows of anyone that could mentor, disciple, or be there for you! That's what the church family is for.

On the last full day, we had campfire/ sharing for everyone. Lots of people shared, and it showed a lot of bravery, for jr highers to go up in front of almost a hundred kids (well to me, I'm a shy person) and just hearing kids share about their testimonies to others they don't even know? Wow. But just hearing people was so encouraging and you could see how God has worked and will work in their lives. 

Our campfire session lasted for 2 1/2 hours because there were so many people who shared. This was one of my favorite events because you could tell that people shared from the heart. It was very moving to see how CBM, through Christ, had impacted them in their lives. People shared about depression, problems with abuse...there was even a non-Christian who shared that although she wasn't sure if she believed in God, she could tell that Christians were different. 

Now that I'm home, back into the world, I feel like my faith has grown, and that it won't ever stop growing. Theres so much you can learn about God! I just pray that we will light up the world to show them who we are: children of God! If you got any more questions, comment! And I'll do my best to answer! 

After being blessed with a great week of fellowship and worship, it was time to come down the mountain and return to daily life. What did I share at the campfire? While I'm not going to recap it word for word, I'm posting a quote from Jennifer from Three O'Clock Call (Album 46: A Date with Dad) which should explain why I enjoyed camp so much this week, and am looking forward to sharing more with you through SSMS.

"God is our Father. And that a father would not give his child a stone if he asked for bread...God, our Father, gave us bread! You, you are his face. He works through you. He is a good Father."


Buy AIO from CBD (today we talked about Albums 2, 4, 32, and 46)

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  1. It is a joy to read this post. As a fellow Christian, I connect to your story. It makes me excited, joyful, and nostalgic. Camp is a wonderful part of my childhood and high school faith walk. The memories and lessons that you have as a result of this one camp experience will stick with you forever.

    I also enjoyed the back and forth between the two of your stories. You both had very different journeys. I love the honesty and reality that you showed in your beginning of your camp adventure.

    There was so much I loved about this post that I just don't have time to respond to. Thank you for the handful of nuggets of truth. It was a blessing to me.