CAMP OVERFLOW ||You may have heard about it, you may have sent your kids to it, you may have been a counselor for it, or you may have been a camper yourself. And if none of those apply to you, then I am truly sorry…because it is pretty awesome.
For the past 6 years, Shane & I have been bystanders watching the Opendoor Youth Camp: Camp Overflow from home like everyone else. Cheering the tribes on, stalking the numerous pictures and videos being posted from leaders at camp…and pretty much having major FOMO. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had it. And if there were a Camp Overflow for adults, every last one of us would be there with tribal gear & sleeping bags in tow.
So when we were asked to step in this year as Camp Mom & Pop, it really wasn’t a hard decision at all. Aside from the fact that it was a little intimidating because our predecessors were amazing and left big shoes to fill, we were honored & excited for the chance to be a part of such a monumental week in the lives of our youth.
Little did we know that it would be just as life-changing for us as well.
One thing we didn’t realize before signing up was the amount of preparation that goes into this camp. As an onlooker, one thinks it’s all nuts and bolts kind of preparation, but that isn’t even the half of it. From a counselor’s weekend retreat to times of worship and prayer, we spent just as much time spiritually preparing our hearts and minds as we did our lists and schedules. It was incredible. But man, did Satan ever fight against us. He saw what we were about to do, and he did everything he could to stop it. Playing on fears, planting seeds of doubt, whispering lies…no one was off limits or left unscathed by his attacks.
The battle was great…but our God is greater.
Finally, the first day of camp was upon us. That time for which we had all been waiting and preparing had arrived along with 190 campers. And they.were.PUMPED. We just hoped and prayed the coffee & red bull would give us enough energy to keep up with them all or that the heat would slow them down. In the end, I think they just put us on an even playing field.
But we were ready and expecting big things to happen this week…and we were not disappointed.
Tribal Wars started off strong with Mike, Romeo, Charlie, & Juliet competing for the much-coveted Golden J. To most, it may look like a Jordan sneaker spray painted gold; but to them, it ranks right up there with the Stanley Cup. And they fought hard to win it. The weather was hot, and the campers grew tired as the week progressed. But like the refining fire in Job 23:10, the wars tested strength and endurance to reveal true character; and in the end, Romeo came forth as gold.
Golden J, that is.
The thing about the Opendoor Youth Camp is this. From the second the students step foot onto the campground and turn in their phones until the one in which they board the departing buses, God is at work. Throughout the Tribal Wars, free time, small groups, and services…as fun as they are, God is at work. Some students and leaders don’t even understand why or how they got there; but clearly, it is because God is at work.
And man, did He ever work last week.
He worked as:
- Pastor Aaron Kennedy preached a message on recognizing our calling.
- Pastor Michael Chandler spoke on water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- 90 students & leaders were baptized.
- 34 accepted Jesus as their Savior.
- Pastor Tyler Braden reminded us that there is always room for us at God’s Table.
- Students soaked in His presence and wrote down the things He was saying to them.
- Elder Elliotte Pearson challenged us to never lose the awe of God.
- Coaches gave their testimonies.
- Pastor Tyler spoke on dying to self and finding our purpose beyond the Table.
- Students & leaders gave testimonies on all God had done in their lives during the week.
From the first day to the last, we could see the reservations slowly stripped away. With each service, another heart was forever changed. Many, if not all, stepped off of those buses feeling like they aren’t worthy of all God has to offer. Like they don’t belong…and if people knew what they were really like, they wouldn’t want anything to do with them.
But as each speaker reminded them throughout the week, Christ is calling us all to something. No matter what hard things we’ve endured, God never wastes that pain. He uses it and allows it to produce true joy. And as ashamed as we may feel, God isn’t scared of our mess. Just because we may have messed up in our past doesn’t mean we don’t belong. We will always have a place at His Table. But to get to where God is calling us, we can’t stay where we are. We have to move.
And move is exactly what these students and leaders did this week.
I wish I could capture the feeling in that room each service. But no picture, video or words can ever do it justice. The tangible feeling of the Holy Spirit’s presence was as if He were sitting right beside us…and all around us. I’ve never felt it quite like that before, and I know I wasn’t the only one.
As I made my rounds each night to check on the girl’s cabins and pray over them, I was met with the same question over and over. Is it real? Is what we felt real? Was the Holy Spirit really there? Did we imagine that?
And I knew without a doubt that it was real. Because there is just something about this camp that is different than anything we’ve ever seen. All of the spiritual preparation, the prayer, the intercession, the worship…we invite the Holy Spirit and God Himself into our midst, and He shows up.
You may not ever have the chance to experience a Camp Overflow in person. But as one of our young people said in his testimony at our Sunday Overflow Service…please, send your kids. If you have the chance, send them. It not only changes their lives, but it changes the lives of those around them.
Because what happens at the Opendoor Youth Camp, doesn’t stay there. It’s a ripple effect that starts that week and continues on even after everyone has returned home…and it is life-changing. For the students, for the leaders, for their friends and families, for everyone.
Some will go on to lead in ministry, some will go on to volunteer in churches, some will lead others to Christ simply by example, but ALL will be used by God.
Because no matter where we go or what we do in life, we will always have a place at His Table.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galations 2:20
• Cover photo: by Megan Holland/Opendoor Church