My Youth Camp Experience

This year, I decided at the last minute to go to DCCYC (Dallas Chinese Christian Youth Camp) to be a counselor for youth students.  Ironically, last year I wanted to go but ended up in the hospital, but this year I wasn’t planning on going.  However, I realized I was being selfish with my time and energy, so I turned in my application, got assigned to rising 12th graders, and went to Lone Star, TX to be a Korean counselor at a Chinese youth camp.  I had to miss Game 7 of the NBA Finals, but as much as I love basketball, I knew I had a good reason to miss.

I went in order to help students with their walk with God, a daunting task, as always.  I teach and lead the college ministry at Arlington Chinese Church, and I often think to myself how difficult it is to model how to walk with God.  It seems quite presumptuous, to say the least, to ask younger people to look up to you and learn how to be a mature Christian, as I often don’t even feel like one despite my many years of ministry experience and my seminary education.  Given that, I think in many ways the camp was just as helpful to me as it was for the youth kids that went (my group of guys were unlucky getting me as their counselor 😉 ).  No doubt the messages were geared towards youth students and, in that regard, were often more simplistic than my tastes.  However, the Word of God is true and applicable to everyone, and while the speaker didn’t break any new ground (speakers rarely do), I found that many points of his messages were still very relevant to me.  In one message, the speaker shared how, when he was a young youth pastor, his mentor at church fell into an adulterous relationship and destroyed his marriage and ministry.  It was a good reminder that nobody is immune to falling, whether it is some rebellious teenager or a seminary-educated 40 year old with years of service under his belt.  I may be many years older than the campers now, but as I often say, “life is a giant high school,” and we always need reminders of basic truths of the Gospel.

Furthermore, the camp as a whole reminded me of the foolishness of youth but also the great potential.  Kids will be kids, but these kids are very bright and many of them yearn to know God more.  Some struggle with enormous problems but hide them under the weight of both church and Asian culture, and the camp is a good opportunity for them to be open and receive biblical guidance towards Christ.  I had a relatively well-behaved group of 12th graders, yet they still had their issues and bumps in their spiritual walks.  I’m not even sure how helpful I was to them, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to know them more and discuss how it looks like to live for God.  I like working with younger people because I think there is so much potential in them to go boldly for the Gospel, unencumbered by the weight of responsibilities of a family, a job, or a graduate education or by the cynicism of age.  I’m still very young by any standard, but I’m quickly approaching an age where my energy and excitement can no longer keep up with the young generation.  Some older people find this threatening to them, but if I can help some younger people do better and greater things than me, I will feel blessed.  After all, I set the bar pretty low ;).

All in all, it was a good experience and allowed time for self-reflection of my own spiritual walk as well as how I interact with people.  I’m not the most social person on the planet, and it normally takes me a while to get to know people.  I’m well-aware that people’s first impressions of me are often wildly inaccurate, as they assume I’m just quiet and serious when I’m actually not a serious person at all.  I went to camp with the mindset that I was there for the students and not to meet other counselors, and while that is partially true, perhaps I should have tried more to meet other people.  At least I got to know some youth kids better from our own church, kids that I barely bothered to talk to over the past few years.

The cynical part of me understands that, for many students and counselors, it was just a time for fun and spiritual highs with no lasting impact.  That’s true of any camp.  However, if just one student out of 300 rededicates his life to Jesus or becomes saved, then the camp was worth it.  There were many testimonies from the students how past camps really redirected them in a good way, so it was well worth it to be out of in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of crazy Chinese students.  It’s not like I had anything better to do ;).

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