Christmas Camp: Take Four

Jessica Saphirstein

On December 28, 114 high schoolers boarded three buses and began the journey to Carolina Point, a Young Life camp on the North and South Carolina border. While this bus ride would take much longer than it should have (we got a flat tire on the way), it was filled with memories that I know I will always remember.

As a senior, I had been to Christmas Camp before, but never with the attitude I had this year. In the past, I had gone reluctantly. But since this year was my last Christmas Camp as a high schooler, I knew I had to go, and I knew I needed a different attitude. As I was packing my suitcase the night before we left, I realized I didn't care — I didn't care what people thought about me, I didn't care what I looked like during worship, and I didn't care what I looked like in general. By not worrying about superficial things, I felt more open to hearing what God had to say to me.

And He had a lot to say.

Pastor Rob invited his friend Gus Pacheco to speak on the theme: Illuminate. Each day we had the opportunity to attend two break-out sessions after Gus's talk. These were taught by different leaders in Student Ministries. Throughout these sessions, we learned different ways to deepen our study of the Word and share the Gospel with those around us. Gus's talk during session three stood out to me the most. Using Philippians 3:7-12, Gus challenged us to think about what we value — the stuff we think about the most, have the most anxiety about or care about the most — and if those things were replaced with God, would we be satisfied? I struggled to understand — if the things that caused me anxiety were replaced with God, wouldn't that be great? I talked it through with a friend who was also struggling to understand, and we talked again in cabin talks, but it wasn't until I began talking about my specific anxieties, and learning to be vulnerable with a trusted leader, that I began to get it. The things I struggle with aren't going away, and running from them won't make them go away either. It's about replacing them with Jesus and letting Him illuminate His will in them.

I never felt I fit in with my small group in Student Ministries. They were all going through things I couldn't relate to, and I often left our group without saying a word. Christmas Camp 2018 changed that for me. I had the best small group. I didn't know how it would be, being the only senior in a group of mostly ninth and tenth graders, but the girls in the group wanted to talk about the sessions, and we had some really great conversations. We talked about a main point of Gus's, that it's a joy to get to know God, and that's why we were created. We are to be captivated by God. One of the questions that stuck out to us the most was when Gus asked us, "Would people be able to tell you are a follower of Jesus if you're not in a church?"

Of course Christmas Camp wouldn't be Christmas Camp without a fun skit and crazy games. My cabin had the most fun playing the games where we all worked together to race back before the other cabins (we got third!).

I've always been the one off to the side, taking pictures, outside of the circle, not letting anyone really know me. At Christmas Camp 2018, I was intentional about not always hiding behind the lens, and letting others get to know me more. Because of that, my entire experience changed.

For the student that's scared, for the student who doesn't have that group of friends, for the student that doesn't know: go. Go to Christmas Camp. Go to Wednesday Night Youth Group. Don't go to see your friends, go to see Jesus. Go to get to know Him. Have courage. And meet Jesus.