It was my rookie summer as the counselor of Blackfoot Cabin. Friendship Camp was always the first camp because, as director Paul Schmidt explained, “You need to be fresh.” That should have given me a clue.
During Wednesday night worship, Tommy broke in: “I hate the boys next door. They are mean.” Evidently disagreeable words had passed between the two groups. The next day Tommy took a spoonful of mashed potatoes and flung a glob at a taunting Mohican Cabin camper. A food fight immediately began. As the staff restored order, I took Tommy behind the cafeteria.
He looked up at me with tears in his eyes. I knew his story. He had shared it during get-acquainted time on Sunday. His mother had abandoned the family, his father was in prison, his stepmom hated him and sent him to live with Grandma. Grandma couldn’t handle him so she sent him up to camp so I could take care of him for a week.
What Tommy needed was love—and to know that Jesus loved him. “I don’t know why I act this way,” Tommy choked out. “I don’t want to fight. Could you pray that Jesus will help me?” We walked up the hill and I prayed for Tommy. “Dear Jesus, You love Tommy so much. You want Tommy to have lots of fun. I am so glad that Tommy is in my cabin. He is a good boy. You died for Tommy on the cross so he could have everlasting life. Please, help Tommy. Let him not be bothered anymore by what the other boys do. In Jesus name, Amen.”
Tommy did a lot better after that. But trouble between the two cabins continued.
Saturday night I got an idea. “Remember campfire tonight?” I asked. “How would you like to take a shovel of coals from the fire and throw it on the boys next door?”
“Yeah, that would be so cool,” they replied. Next I read Romans 12:19-21: “’Vengeance is mine; I will repay,’ saith the Lord. ‘Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.’”
“Do you boys think that you could overcome evil with good?” The room was quite—it wouldn’t be easy to surrender to God’s plan for peace.
We went to sleep. But would the week come to an end before they learned how to win by surrendering?
Sunday morning was going-home time; but war was about to break out. Walking back to the cabins from the office, I came upon the two groups facing off with rocks in their hands. They were going to settle this thing once and for all. As I came upon them I heard, “Remember what Hubert read last night? We’ve all had such a good time at camp. Let’s not be angry anymore.”
My boys dropped their rocks and put out their hands in friendship. In a moment it was over. Soon they were leaving Glacier View together. It really was a Friendship Camp after all. The rest of the summer was peaceful, as well as other Friendship Camps since. (Thank you, Porter Hospital, for continuing the Friendship Camp tradition begun by Rose Gates.)
I have witnessed thousands of campers give their lives to Jesus and learn lessons of love. The Mid-America Union hosts the best camps in the world: Glacier View Ranch, Mill Springs Ranch, Camp Arrowhead, Broken Arrow Ranch, Flag Mountain Camp, Northern Lights, North Star Camp, Camp Heritage, and Camp High Point. The singing, the worships, the fun activities, the skills learned, and yes, even the campfire itself speaks of Jesus and His love. Plan now to support your camp with your time, funds, and children. It is an investment that will last forever.