By Mike Stover
Camp Pastor, Journey Camp
On the last day of Journey Camp 2016 at Linden Valley I was serving food to our campers during the first lunch serving. There are two serving times for each meal of the day, both with four lines, and camp staff serve the campers as they come through the line. As you can imagine, there is usually a steady stream of boys and girls coming through to get their meal, and it is an extremely busy time.
A boy whom I had counseled earlier in the week regarding faith in Christ came back to the line after receiving his lunch. Both his adult church sponsors and I had talked at length with him about forgiveness and faith in Jesus Christ. When he returned his countenance was serious and his lunch tray was hardly touched. Strangely enough, at this point in time, some church groups were late getting to lunch, and there was no one in the line I was working.
During this eerie lull, I asked this young man why he had not touched his lunch, and he said he wasn’t hungry. I knew what was on his mind, so I asked him if he had been thinking about our previous conversation. He replied that our conversation, and all he had learned at camp that week, was all that he could think about. He revealed that he had talked at length with friends and church sponsors, and had slept little the previous night.
I asked if he had made a decision regarding what he had learned, or if I could help him further. Using very familiar words, he replied that he was ready to “turn his back on sin, accept God’s forgiveness, and put Jesus in charge of his life.” This was the easily-understood, kid-friendly manner I had used to explain repentance and faith in Jesus to the campers all week, both in conversation and during worship. He repeated it back to me verbatim in that moment, and asked me to help him pray.
I was wearing clear serving gloves. He was holding his lunch tray filled with food. But there in a normally crowded food serving line, in the middle of the busy camp dining hall, we prayed together. In his own precious words, he asked forgiveness for his sinful ways and choices, vowed to God to turn away from following that path, and asked Jesus to take control of his life, promising to follow Him all the days of his life. Right beside the hamburger patties and French fried potatoes, this young man gave his heart and life to Christ.
It was a special moment for us both. He leaned into me to receive a hug and affirmation, thanked me for serving at camp and for praying with him, and returned to his church group’s table. More campers began pouring into the dining hall for lunch and I served many more before my meal duties were finished. When I visited his church’s table some time later, they were rejoicing with him over his decision and newfound faith in Christ.
In seven years of serving at Journey Camp it was my privilege to lead kids and even an adult church sponsor to faith in Christ in various locations around Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center. Many places in and around the old Tabernacle, the benches out front, beside the swimming pool, under shady trees beside the playground, on rocks beside the Buffalo River, and rocking chairs on the porch of the conference center were places where spiritual conversations had culminated with seekers accepting Christ. But this memorable day was the first time anywhere I had an opportunity to lead someone to Christ in a food serving line.