There is no way to express the depth of what took place in the lives of our family over the course of our twelve days at Camp Sychar interdenominational holiness campmeeting. The camp itself took place from July 23 through August 2, but we came 2 days early to allow for Chaili to be present for the youth staff training, of which she was thrilled to be a part. Out of our seven total times to be at this camp, this was the first time we were able to come early and to participate in helping to prepare the camp to open. It was our privilege to help in various capacities and it was an extra blessing to just work alongside people and be a part of the Sychar family. This camp is in its 145th year. Every time I am there I cannot help but think of the services across those decades, the evangelists who have preached, and how the message has shaped generations of people who keep coming back. I am no expert on the history of this camp or any of the other holiness campmeetings taking place across America, but I am excited to see what seems to be a renaissance and renewed interest in this kind of camp where families are coming to experience a “revival” type setting together over the course of more than a week.
The schedule of the day includes morning and evening preaching services (2 evangelists who take turns) and a morning Bible study (youth and children have their own morning services and join with the adults in the evenings). While I have been one of the tabernacle evangelists each of my previous times, this year I was privileged to be the Bible teacher. I loved every minute of this experience. There was a dynamic atmosphere and presence of the Holy Spirit each morning as we walked through 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, studying the Lord’s Supper, and discovered how we can be “Rescued from Normal.” It was encouraging and exciting to see the crowd that continued to show up for this 9:30 AM study, leading us to run out of printed hand-outs three different times. My heart has been increasingly thrilled with Jesus through the truth of this passage, and we heard amazing testimonies of people throughout the week which confirmed that others were experiencing the same. One of the culminating peaks of the week was on the final Saturday afternoon when we held an additional 2:30 session to offer some practical guidance on personal Bible study. We were “blown away” by the attendance and excitement at this event, and came away more encouraged than ever in the interest and enthusiasm of people to be in the Word. That is what will allow for our continued growth after camp.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the camp was the unity of heart and message among all the workers. From the music of Tab Beechler to the preaching of Dr. Bill Ury and Dr. John Neihof, there was an emphasis on Jesus and responding to Him alone that permeated the camp. Each one of my family, including Trina, Chaili, Carey, and myself, was deeply and profoundly affected through the preaching and worship led by these men. What an amazing blessing it was for Trina and I to sit on the front row together and to drink in the deep and life-transforming truth of Jesus that came through. He spoke to us in such deep and significant ways, and we will forever remember and be thankful for those nights when all four of us met down at the altar to seek Him together. This is why I believe in this camp and experiences like this.
Finally, but not least, we are forever linked in heart and spirit with the people of this camp. If I began naming them all here, it would not end. I can only say that they are family to us in Christ, and we have the deepest of love for them. There is something about living, eating, sharing a bathroom, walking the grounds, being in services, and sharing life together for 10 or more days. We think of it as a glimpse of what heaven will be like. Certainly the Jesus who we will see there has touched us in a real way in this place and through these people. It is all Him, and as Israel Houghton sings, “Your presence is heaven to me.” If you have never been to Camp Sychar, I would invite you to check it out. If you decide to visit, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you there sometime --- a place and a people that has a dear place in the heart of my family.