The number one question we received at camp was “What about this Bible?” We gave away over 20 Bibles at camp. We had on little girl who came, and her friend’s mom came and talked to me. She said that her daughter was embarrassed because she had to borrow her grandmother’s bible for camp, and it was awful because it had all these old words in it. Not only did we give her a Bible, but we gave her little brother a Bible as well. And I just loved it because they had been coming to Upward Basketball but had never come to church. It wasn’t until after camp that they felt confident in doing that.
(A particular child that attended camp) probably has emotional defiant behavior issues. Because of that he gets picked on a lot and is bullied a lot. So, that week he was getting bullied a lot and was causing behavioral issues for their group. Daily, I would have to talk to him and talk to the counselors to try to figure out what to do. But one afternoon near the end of the day, something had happened. I and a counselor sat down and talked with the child about this tree in our playground. We talked to him and we talked about God. I can’t even remember what was said, but since then he has come back every Sunday. And nights (Saturdays) when his mom works, he asks to come spend the night with us. His mom told us that “he had never experienced God like that.” He still always wants to go back to that one tree.
(A child that attended camp) goes to a charismatic church, but children aren’t encouraged to dance. He loves to dance. So (at camp) he’s dancing and doing flips, and he’d never be able to do flips at his church. Not only was dancing encouraged, but all of the campers were cheering him on as he’s doing all of these things. He came home and couldn’t stop talking about camp and everything he learned: “God is with me! And most important, we’re supposed to respect others!” It was interesting to see it all through his eyes.
There was one day we were coming out of camper rally, and there was a kid that was having a hard time. So, his counselor went out into the lobby with him. They were kind of over off to the side, and he was kind of leaning over the kid. I wanted to see if something was wrong, so I went over. (The counselor) had found a random piece of paper and a pen that only worked half-way, and he was drawing a picture of a cross and the kid was intently watching. The kid was looking at him up in the eyes and having that conversation, and it was in a moment when everyone was filing out of camper rally. But who cares? They started that conversation, and the other counselor would get the kids back to their room while he finished it. I saw a lot of those conversations all throughout the week. All of those little conversations were the best thing about camp.
We have some new neighbors next door to us - a young family, mom and dad in their 30s and two girls. We had gotten to know them over the last year-and-a-half, and I had invited them to church. They never came to church, but they came to camp. So, the girls came to camp and each night when my wife and I got back home around 7, their whole family would be outside, and they would come over to our house and talk about camp for an hour. We talked about things like: ‘I didn’t know church was fun!’ ‘We didn’t realize you could dance or jump up and down in church.’ It has kinda opened the door for them to come back to church.