I am still flying high after our “mountain experience” this last weekend at Young Life’s Oakbridge Camp in Ramona, CA and would love to share God’s work with you (warning, there was a lot of work done).
On Friday the 26th, a group from Santa Ana YoungLives filled up 4 automobiles with 4 club moms, 3 club dads, 4 babies (all under the age of 14 months), 2 male leaders, 3 female leaders, 3 childcare workers, and lots and lots of baby stuff. We loaded up and got on the freeway heading south, right at the height of rush hour traffic only to see God shower us with His grace by allowing the traffic to be constantly flowing and for everyone to get up the windy mountain roads safely.
We were greeted by joyous lumberjacks (yes, loud manly men with flannels, beanies, axes and full beards) who would serve as our hosts for the weekend. We unloaded with the help of amazing volunteers, who later ended up serving us during meals and helping as needed. We got settled in our cabins with no time to spare, as the weekends first club kicked right off. Our lumberjacks riled up the crowd of nearly 200 Young Life teens and leaders with music, jokes, and candy. They then introduced us to Robb who would be used by God throughout the weekend to speak His message.
That first night lights went out directly at midnight as babies, teens and volunteers were all beyond exhausted. Robb had applauded us all on coming, teased us in his talk giving promises for the coming days, challenged us with questions regarding our image of God and had asked us to get together for “cabin time” directly after each club. The teens all participated in cabin time, but you could tell that bed was calling and surprisingly everyone (including babies) slept quite soundly.
Saturday kicked off with breakfast and we found out quickly that we would be in for some amazing meals. Many of the teens labeled the food and table service as being a major highlight of the entire weekend, as we were waited on hand and foot. The music then drew us all back into the club and our teens somewhat apprehensively filled up a back row. I watched as a few of them sang along, while others looked around not knowing what to expect. I watched them loosen as Robb told a truly comedic story about his childhood and listen as he introduced the parable of the Prodigal Son and begin to reflect as he battered at and tore a box apart, giving an anecdote for our own lives.
After that, we had another cabin time, some free time, and then ate again. I saw one growing teen boy eat three triple patty cheeseburgers, as he took advantage of their invitation to eat until you were full. But, even more amazing then his individual appetite was watching as these parents tackled the challenges of eating themselves, all while feeding and holding their own children. It honestly shocked me how well they managed. There was no food throwing and honestly little crying, just great food and stories being shared around the table. This fellowship, which can only be created with the breaking of bread, was to be repeated at all of the meals and everyone (including our amazing childcare workers) took part. I got to learn about family dynamics and activities, such as wrestling, dance, and school clubs, in which our teens participate. They spoke of classes, some in which they excelled and others which they might need help in. We talked about writing resumes and job searching all the way to silly stuff like who could eat the most churros. The meal times were for sure special!!!
However, the food was nothing compared to the memory that was to be made on Saturday afternoon called… “Messy Games”. We participated in games (Santa Ana boys against girls) with everyone else that could only be summed up in one word… chaos. All I can say if that flour, baby oil, hoses and shaving cream were all involved. This allowed for so much laughter that if there were any nerves left before they were surly gone, for once you have smashed shaving cream on someone, you can’t help but feel close. This experience was also highlighted as a favorite by many of our teens.
After we washed off and enjoyed God’s beautiful nature during some much needed free time, we again were called into club and listened as Robb introduced us all to the true physical pain that Jesus had endured and the emotional pain that God had endured during the crucifixion. There had been another club between too, and all of the talks leading up were insightful and deep, but this one moved everyone in that room and brought home the sacrifice made for us all. I truly believe that our teens had the insight, that only a parent could have, to understand what God’s sacrifice would feel like.
That night’s cabin time was something that I will never forget, for the Holy Spirit was literally palpable. I watched as our 4 girls took ownership of their faith and welcomed Jesus into their hearts (all while loving on babies). It gave me a hint of what the early church must have been like, with small groups huddled together talking about Jesus and accepting Him while children climbed on them and the evening called. I later found out that our boys had a similarly moving experience, in which all three of them had a true man’s talk, and also accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
The late evening was much more light as we watched raw eggs be smashed, learned that leaders could dance, and just had fun. Lights again were out at midnight (although we girls talked until much later) and the next morning we got up, only to realize that our weekend was quickly coming to an end. We ate again (there was a lot of food) and packed and then went in for a final club.
At that final club we took part in singing at the top of our lungs and listening as a “mountain top experience” was explained and those that accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior were encouraged to stand proudly and encouraged to follow up with certain steps. Steps like delving into their Bibles, getting plugged into a church, and surrounding themselves with Christian friends.
While I have always considered myself a woman of faith, I am blown away that God brought me to this program (and this weekend) right when He knew that I needed it and I am so beyond grateful to Him. I am also grateful to Myrna, who has been such a wonderful example of a YoungLives leader and the other volunteers. The biggest shout-out though needs to be given to the 3 childcare volunteers who made this specific weekend possible and to the 7 brave and open hearted teens who traveled up mountain with us. This will be a weekend which I will never forget and which I have used to reaffirm my faith and mission. I learned so much about love and acceptance and surrender from these 7 teens and I will never forget a single second that I spent with them. I encourage each and every one of you to attend one of these camps, as it will be an experience with God unlike any other.
-Theresa Stack, YoungLives Mentor