There’s this guy, and he’s caught in the ocean. Everywhere around him is the grayness of the ocean. No one else is there, no one knows where he is. It’s just him and his lifevest, his shredding life vest. Up ahead he notices another storm coming, and he knows that if nothing is done, he’s going to drown…

This guy…well, this guy is me. Or was me.

Today I arrived back to Bastrop, La from a 5 day trip to the Ocoee River in Tennessee. There occured one of the best summer camps I have ever been a part of, Summer Camp – Camp Ocoee. I traveled to the River by charter bus with some of my friends and adults and a few strangers. I arrived home with a charter bus full of brothers, sisters, and parents.

Forsythe Avenue Church Of Christ Youth Group started their first annual summer camp. They had been to Ocoee before and had all great expiriences, but hands down everyone said that this was the best expirience.

My idea of the trip was that we were going White Water Rafting down the Upper and Middle Ocoee River, and we did just that, but there was so much more. And I’m not talking about the hike to the amazing water fall, nor am I referencing to the fantastic rope swing on the lake, but I’m looking at how a group of teenagers of different grades and ages, and a group of adults became a family, a family with God.

Jason Barnard, the youth minister for FACOC and the trip, had a theme, “We Need Each Other.” What we all knew was that we knew it would take the entire River Rafting crew to make it down the Ocoee safely, we knew that it would take everyone to make it through the hike to the water fall, but what no one realized is that we would need each other for encouragement, leadership, prayer, fellowship, and family forum…I had no idea I would need each other.

Each night Jason picked several of the campers to be “encouraged” by each one of their fellow campers and Jason himself. We would go out to one of the docks outside of the guys cabin at night when it was the best time to star gaze and sit in a squircle (square-circle) and the campers chosen for that night would be sitting together to make things easier. (Obviously nothing is ever as easy as it seems since the dock was a floating dock on styrofoam and very uneven and wobbly.) Of coarse I was one of them and I figured that this was just one of the things that the campers would just rush through to get to their free time, or to go to bed, or to do just whatever…but strangely a group of teenagers was able to sit quietly and tell each other how much they needed each other, and how each one was a great person, or leader, or whatever. I was amazed to learn what each person had to say about myself, and what I had to say about some of the people I had just met the day before. But something kept me from feeling right, something had been keeping me feeling right from the beginning. I soon realized what it was.

Throughout the trip, throughout this past year-and-a-half, I’ve had a problem connecting to God. It’d seem like nothing I would do would re-establish my connection with him and his holy spirit. And it took this trip to realize that everything I had been doing, I was doing for myself. My eyes were open to the fact that I was in this for the complements, the “he’s such a great person” or “what an amazing leader”…and although the things I had been doing were genuine to myself and a good nature towards God, I had completely forgotten to give God the glory for everything that he allowed me to do. I had forgotten to thank him for my gift of writing and for the gift of being a leader and for just everything he has created in this world…everything he created in me. So in short I felt like I was being fake, I felt like I was phony towards the people who thought they saw that I was doing it for God…this is what was shredding my life-vest

On the last night Jason had all of us, all of the teenagers and adults, sit in the living room of the guys cabin. He told us that we were going to have family forum, a time where anything said had to be towards the group as a whole. He shut out the lights and begin singing and worshiping Jesus. We all followed suit. (This entire trip I had been trying to get Jason alone, to speak with him about my situation but could never find the time) Immediately I could feel this tug at my heart. This feeling that I was supposed to say or do something towards the group, and immediately I knew what this was, but I waited. A few people talked about baptism and read a few verses and everything said was amazing and encouraging. There was even a relationship between a father and son strengthened, a very dear and tear jerking moment. But I knew that at the next quite moment I was going to have to let myself bare, to show that in front of this entire group that I had been lieing to them, the same group that a few nights before told me “how great of a person I was” and “how great of a leader I was”…and I did.

As the group began to encourage me, and surround me, and touch me with their prayers I felt as though that life-vest I had been wearing was being re-patched, the storm was being blown away and the grey-ocean was turning back to its natural blue…and the tears I cried were tears of relief, tears of Joy, and tears of having that brick wall between me and Jesus torn down.

I will never forget this trip. I will never forget these people. I will never forget the great times, the amazing waterfall, the amazing rope swing. I will never forget the words that were said, and even the words unsaid. And I will especially NEVER FORGET SUMMER CAMP – CAMP OCOEE 2008