Camp Wesley Pines

Camp: Why This is My 49th Week!

Next week will be the 49th week of church camp that I have worked.  Some as a counselor, some as director of recreation and some as director.  I’ve done everything that can be done at a church camp from cleaning out a sewage lagoon, to laying water line, to mopping floors, washing dishes, praying with people, giving out meds, leading games and leading worship.  You can probably add every other job you can think of that goes along with a church camp including plunging toilets.  All I have ever done has helped me to grow into the Christian that I am today.  It helped form my walk and place me on the path with Christ.  It is refreshing and rejuvenating.

All the above is a good reason to work camp but those are not the real reason I keep going back.  The real reason is the campers and the opportunity to share the love and grace of Christ with young people.  This is often the time in their life when they are truly trying to figure out their faith and it’s a time when as a pastor I can share with them the peace, love and forgiveness that I have found.  It’s been an awesome ride and I’ve seen God do some truly remarkable things at camp.

Next week, I go to serve once again.  Doing whatever it takes to make sure the campers have an incredible time.  Often I have made people upset with me because I require the staff to place the campers first but then again, isn’t that the reason we are there?

Pray for us next week, but most importantly pray for the spiritual experience of the campers.  I want them to have fun but most of all I want them to leave being a step closer in their relationship with God.

Categories: Behold, Camp, Camp Wesley Pines | Leave a comment

CWP: Ritchie

It was my first year as a counsleor.  As a matter of fact, it was the first camp that I had ever been a counselor and I was scared to death.  We had done the training and gone through different scenarios of what I might do if _______ happened.  But there is nothing that will take the place of experience.  It was an elementary camp and so we had spent a great deal of time on homesickness and how to deal with it.  I was pretty sure that I could handle it because I was the king of being homesick as a child.

Monday came and so did the kids.  Ritchie was a young man going into the 3rd grade with the brightest red hair I have ever seen. My first tip-off that I was going to have a homesickness problem with Ritchie was when his mom came in and made his bed, set up all his stuff and was kissing him while he sat on her lap.  As her tail lights faded from view, the tears came.  “I wanna go home.”  Ritchie, your mom just left, we don’t have a way to get in touch (the days before cell phones).  We’re about to go to lunch, let’s eat and then we’re going swimming!!  Ritchie stood in the pool crying.  We eventually had to call Ritchie’s mom to come get him.

The next year,  I was sitting on the porch with Bro. Ted Giordano and here comes Ritchie.  He was a little taller but still had the same blazing red hair.  He bounded up the stairs and announced, “Brother Ted and John, Do you remember what happened to me last year?”  Ted and I played along and pretended not to remember.  “No Ritchie, I’m not sure I do.”  “You remember, that homesickness I had.”  “Well, I do seem to remember something about that.”  Ritchie said, “Well, you don’t have to worry about that this year!”  Why is that?  “Because I’m a changed MAN!” Richie proudly boasted.  He stayed the whole week.

As we accept the grace and love of Christ, we become changed men and women.  Each day our goal is to become more and more like Christ and that involves being changed from who we are now into the person God desires for us to be. Often times, the word change scares us and change is something that most of us don’t like because there is an unknown factor that goes along with change.  Where ever we are now (be it bad or good) we at least know what to expect.  But with change, we often times don’t have a clue as to what to expect and that fear can hold us back from experiencing some really cool things.

Categories: Camp Wesley Pines, John Personal | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

CWP: Matt

The Tabernacle at CWP.

I had worked several summers as recreation director at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallman Mississippi. These were some of the best years of my life and I enjoyed every moment.  It was the first taste of ministry that I had and although I was pretty young in my faith, God used this time to move me along the path greatly.  I still look back on those years, use them in sermons and remember them fondly. One of the memories that I think about quite often is the week Matt came to camp.

On Sunday night, Matt’s youth director came and told us about Matt.  Matt was a large boy (much bigger for his age than most kids).  He also had an arm that was not form correctly and was curved over.  This made him carry it in an awkward way.  He also didn’t walk like the normal child.  He would shuffle along.  Matt was coming to Jr. High camp and his youth director was concerned about how the other kids might treat him and we promised that we would keep an eye on it.

Monday morning came and so did Matt.  He also got put into the “cool cabin”.  I have worked close to 50 weeks of camp in my life and for the life of me, there is always one “cool cabin” that all the “cool” boys get put in.  It’s never done intentionally but it just seems to happen.  This was the cabin that Matt was assigned.

It didn’t take long for the jokes and laughing to begin and it went downhill pretty fast.  That night, the staff made a decision that if something hadn’t changed by lunch the next day, we were going to intervene and it might mean sending some boys home.  We spent time in prayer and asked God to work in this situation especially if we had to send people home.

The next morning, we began to witness what I can only describe as a miracle.  The “cool guys” in the cabin had a change of heart and all of a sudden they were Matt’s best friends.  No one in camp picked on Matt and if they did, they had to deal with that whole cabin of boys.  Volleyball was big that year and Matt really couldn’t play because of his arm, but he could use it to grip the ball to serve it.  So, they made him All-Time Server and rotated around him.  By the end of the day, Matt was the most popular kid in camp.

On the last night of camp after the dance (we’re Methodist and we can dance), I noticed Matt sitting in the back of the room by himself during the worship service.  He had tears in his eyes and I asked him what was wrong.  He told me nothing was wrong but I probed a little bit more until he said, “This has been the best week of my life.  It has been the first time people have treated me like a human being and not like an animal.”  I cried with him.

It was during this week that I witnessed God working through some Jr. High boys and then onto a camp of other youths to impact this young mans life.  We as Christians are called to be the hands and feet of Christ.  To reach out to those who no one is reaching out to.  To love those who are unloveable.  To eat with the person in the cafeteria that is dining alone.  When we do those things we are becoming more like Christ.

CWP

Categories: Camp Wesley Pines | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Influenced by: “Brother Ted” Giordano

The Cross at Camp Wesley Pines

In 1985, I was attending my last Senior High Camp at Camp Wesley Pines.  It was a bitter-sweet time.  I loved camp so much and my time as a camper was coming to an end.  It was on the sacred grounds of CWP that I gave my life to Christ.  I had been in church my whole life, but it was at a Senior High Retreat that I met Christ for the first time. It was here that our relationship started.

As camp was ending, I was approached by Brother Ted.  He knew me outside of the gates of camp as he was the pastor for my grandmother’s church in Pelahatchie, Mississippi.  He approached me and asked me if I would be interested in being a counselor for his Elementary Camp which began the next week.  I asked him if he really thought that I was ready for such a responsiblity and he assured me that he thought that I was.  So, I agreed.  I worried all throughout the weekend and into the next week.  However, we accomplished the camp and it was awesome.  This lit a fire for me and the camping ministry.  It was that pivotal point in my spiritual journey when one goes from being a person who just receives and now I was giving back.  It was here that I truly began to experience what Jesus has called all Christians to do and that’s go into the world and make disciples.  (so many underestimate the strength of a great camping program on someones spiritual journey).  It was this camp that I began a lifelong passion for camping ministry.  One that still continues today.  The summer of 2010 will be my 49th week of working/directing a summer camp.

Bro. Ted also gave me my first opportunity to be a youth director at Pelahatchie UMC.  It was a great experience.  Ted was one of the first people that I sought out to mentor me as I was struggling with my call to the ministry.  A friend, confidant, mentor and pastor.

Thanks Brother Ted for believing in me and seeing what I didn’t and allowing me the opportunity to serve God through that camp.

Categories: Camp Wesley Pines, Influenced By:, John Personal, Leadership | Leave a comment

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