By Courtney Swaw
Summer Intern, Linden Valley
LINDEN — “When I saw the Camp Linden sign, I was easily transferred to a place in my life where I was captivated by the lover of my soul,” said Danny Rowland, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Trenton.
“Camp was the beginning, and it is a sweet spot in my heart.”
Rowland brought a group of 16 campers (eight boys and eight girls) for their first year of IMPACT camp at Linden Valley this camp season.
Rowland made the decision to bring his students to IMPACT camp when he attended a Youth Evangelism Conference earlier this year and saw IMPACT camp director Jeff Williamson set up with a table.
Rowland said the reasons he was drawn to the table were Williamson’s genuine persona and the Camp Linden sign. He further emphasized that Camp Linden (Linden Valley) was where he grew up going to camp.
“Camp Linden is where God called me to surrender to Him. I had become a Christian at age 12 and had prayed the prayer, made Jesus my Lord and was on fire for Him, but doing pretty well,” Rowland recalled. “In the back of my head, I still had this thought of, ‘okay, I do my life. I just make sure God is involved.’ When I came to camp, it was the first time that I was still long enough, quiet long enough in this environment among other believers all seeking to glorify God.”
Linden Valley is where Rowland surrendered himself fully to be a servant for God.
“God pulled me aside, pulled me apart from everyone and spoke into my heart and spoke truth. ‘Danny, are you ready to surrender everything? Are you ready to surrender everything it entails?’ I had learned His heart and knew the love of His heart, and I was, for the first time in my life, not afraid of that. … I surrendered at that moment. It was amazing,” he said.
Rowland remembered having the opportunity to give his testimony one night at camp.
“It scared me. I was a very shy young man which is funny to say out loud, but I shared my testimony and got to counsel with dozens of teenagers as a teenager that year, and then lead probably half dozen to the Lord throughout the services,” Rowland said. “I found such joy in that, and God began to call my heart and show me what He was doing.”
The following Sunday upon returning home from summer camp, Rowland’s youth minister pulled him aside and asked, “Danny, have you ever thought that God might be calling you to youth ministry?” to which Danny replied, “Yes! All week long. That’s where He’s moving me, and I’m excited about that, but I don’t know what all that it involves.”
Rowland noted that he had been working with youth for 18 years when God called him out of youth ministry into pastoral ministry. He served for seven years as a senior pastor of a rural church before God called him back into youth ministry.
“When He called me back into youth ministry, I was really kind of blindsided because I thought, ‘okay, I didn’t see this coming, but I’m ready for the next step.’ He’s brought me back to my first love, which is youth ministry,” Rowland said.
This year, Rowland brought a group of several kids who did not know the Lord to IMPACT camp.
As far as anticipation for IMPACT camp, Rowland expected a place where his group could pull away before they pulled apart.
“I love that there’s no cell service here. It’s funny that the teenagers walk around a day or so just kind of aimlessly going, ‘What do I do with my hands? I don’t have a phone in it,’ and then, they look up and find each other,” he said. “What’s even more beautiful, they finally look up, and I think (they) see what God is doing around them and watching the Spirit move.”
“We have a high number of lost kids which is exciting,” he said. “I’m expecting some salvations. I see the Spirit moving, I see questions being asked.”
Rowland observed that Williamson often says early on, “It’s my job to set the stage. God will show up. Now it’s on you to prepare your heart to and to hear him.”
Rowland said he has “seen God show up, and I’ve seen the kids letting go of their ambitions and beginning to open up to not just religion, not just a prayer, but total surrender.”