Core scripture: “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
Message: You have all been there. Complete bliss. Euphoria. Your own perfect Eden. Maybe it was a remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime vacation. It could have been the time Mario Chalmers drained a fadeaway three-pointer as time expired to shock Memphis and help the Jayhawks win the 2008 National Championship. Or maybe it was your wedding day. The day your first child was born. You get the point. I have just descended from a mountaintop experience at Camp CYOKAMO in Alba, MO, a youth church camp. Blessings and memories? Too many to count. It reminds me of God’s promise to Abraham … like the stars.
To put these memories on a list would almost be unfair. I would be sure to forget a few in my old age. Give me some grace though. I turn 42 tomorrow. Nonetheless, from the perspective of this middle school teacher, I would love to at least try to give you the highlights. Then you might be able to capture at least a small portion of the awesomeness I experienced this past week. Without further ado, come with me. Relive those moments. Let them be echoed to all who hear, and if you were there with me and would like to add your own memory, feel free to reply at the bottom.
- Eight baptisms in the swimming pool. The last five took place beneath the most gorgeous sunset on the final evening. One of the baptisms came from a young man in my small group who comes from a divorced family of four, half of whom are Muslim.
- The mess hall food. It wasn’t gourmet, but it was all I needed. They cook in bulk quantity, it was run like a well-oiled machine, and it gave me the opportunity three times a day to bond with campers and mentors alike. Eating inside or outside on picnic tables, it was always fantastic.
- The final Color Wars challenges. All kids were broken into Team Red, Blue, Green, or Yellow, and they were competing for bragging rights all week, not to mention Chic-fil-a sandwiches. The challenges Thursday night consisted of eating baby food, name that tune, dancing contests, scarfing mini white donuts, and more insaneness.
- Meeting Zoey (or Zoe???). I don’t even know where she was from, but her enthusiasm inspired me—especially after telling me how she beat a cancerous brain tumor at the age of five. Her dance moves in the chapel were insane. Totally shameless and incredible!
- Sharing my testimony. I went with the raw version with Ryan, a good friend of mine from church. The generic version was shared with my small group that same night. Ryan and I agreed that day to start a Bible study together in July. Praise God!
- The turtle day. It was the first night I sat down with my small group to talk about the Fruit of the Spirit of joy. It was lighthearted. Not too serious at all, but it became laughable. Macgyver spotted a turtle about 75 yards away. My efforts to bring the group back to the devo was thwarted about six times before I finally let them take the turtle to its home in the pond. Note to self … make sure no turtles are around before devo time.
- “Someone STOLE my canteen card!” This quote was heard about 95 times through the week. Every time I heard it from the campers, I reassured them and assisted them in locating their misplaced card. More often than not they forgot stuffing it in their pocket.
- Reffing the dodgeball tournament. The camp deans who were on the mic commentating the entire event were hilarious. They belong on Sportscenter. My favorite quote from Nate: “This afternoon’s dodgeball contest is brought to you by Ryan Manring’s biceps.” This is a different Ryan than the one mentioned above by the way.
- Admiring Ryan Manrings biceps. Yes, I am confident enough in my manhood to admit that our youth pastor has some major guns. I thought it was illegal to bring guns to campus! Ryan somehow got his arms past security, wearing sleeveless shirts to showcase them.
- The ride home. Last year it was quiet as a mouse as a busload of campers snoozed. This year? Thanks to 21-year-old mentor Asia, the girls were singing a plethora of Disney songs. When I realized it was not going to stop, I joined in belting out my own requests. Can’t beat em? Join em.
- Chilling in the bunkhouse. There was plenty of downtime to recharge my batteries. Whether it be reading my Bible, my Kansas Jayhawk book, laughing with the mentors, or just enjoying a quick nap, it became an essential part of my day to rest up. Considering we stayed up past midnight each night, that time was cherished.
- “Diabetes in a can!” That is the quote this one camper kept reciting all night. Somehow it did not phase me from buying about four Mountain Dews throughout the week. Oddly enough the kid did the same. Did he give himself diabetes? I hope not. All I know is that his quote will probably haunt my dreams at least once.
- The Color Wars Rap Song. Me, aka Heavy D, and my homeboy, Ryan Lane, aka Lil Skdl, rapped on the last night in front of 500 strong in the chapel. With the beat rocking us and four Legacy mentors dressed in dino costumes (don’t ask), we all brought the house down! Check out the song here: Color Wars Rap Song 2018
- Going deep with my small group on Tuesday. Five boys. Six stories (my own included to model). Six lives illuminated with different episodes of God’s grace. I learned things I had never learned before from a few boys I have known for more than five years. It set the tone for an amazing week. God bless you boys! Caleb, Ashton, Macgyver, Joey, and Jack … you inspire me.
- The first night. Throw 200 middle school boys into a cramped barracks-style room full of bunk beds, and good luck falling asleep before 2:00 am. From fart noises, to laughing, to gaming, to kids tripping over luggage as they attempt to go to the bathroom, it was laughable chaos.
- Phenomenal worship. The band from Oklahoma, as the kids say, was totally lit. Seeing a mob of kids screaming at the top of their lungs to Christian worship songs that truly rock, raising their hands in sheer praise for God, jumping, flossing, and owning every moment… dude, it was savage! (A quick list of my two favorite songs are below.)
- Taking it home. After the five baptisms on Thursday evening, beneath a beautiful moonlit sky, Legacy Christian Church sat as a whole, all four campuses, circling around two basketball courts. The kids one by one popped up sporadically, voluntarily, telling of their biggest epiphanies of the week. It could have gone on all night until Zach had to end it.
- Pastor Matt Wilson. The guy spoke every night about the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). He dominated. I was inspired by his words as much as the kids were, and his dedication was seen when I noticed him praying a good 45 minutes to ready himself before the final night.
Matt’s message on the final night brought tears to my eyes. He spoke of the mountaintop. The walk down the mountain. Temptations that are sure to come. I wept quietly, knowing that it just would not be the same as CYOKAMO yet having faithfulness that God’s Holy Spirit would guide us through. The kids. The mentors. The workers. All of us. That is where the last Fruit of the Spirit, self-control, comes in. Matt calls it Christ-control. When you submit your life to Christ and receive the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit, it takes over when all is bleak. It drives you to excel and helps you fight the good fight.
Would you join me in praying for Christ-control to flood the hearts of those sweet children? They need it. I need it. The mentors need it. Heck, we all need it. Christ-control needs to flow through our veins like our own blood. Then—only then—will we show the world through our actions who Jesus is and withstand the trials of life. James 1:12 states, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” May Christ-control does be our song as we descend from the mountaintop.
Challenge: Whatever summer mountaintop you have climbed, are climbing, or are soon to climb, be proactive. Relish the view from the top, but pray for the trip to the valleys below.
Bonus challenge for anyone who experienced CYOKAMO with me … add a comment. Share a memory. I want this to be the most replied to blog in the history of blogging. If that is even possible.
Song application: “Never Once” by Matt Redman
Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us
Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Video application: Pop quiz … Does anyone know what Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech was titled? Sorry, if you guessed his most famous one, I Have a Dream, guess again. Alright, I may as well just spoon-feed it to you. It was called “I Have Been to the Mountaintop.” The last two minutes of the speech made me tear up. You can watch it right here. Enjoy!
Journal/Accountability: Journal or talk to a trusted Christian friend about a mountaintop experience of your own. What blessings did God give you from the experience? How did God use that moment to mold you and make you a better witness for Him? How did the Holy Spirit intervene to help you adjust back to reality?
Quote: “Hardly anything lives on the mountaintop because the environment is too harsh for creatures to thrive. Life is lived in the valley, but times of perspective on the mountain are designed to carve landmarks of perspective into our memory, which can fuel new hope as we journey in the valleys below.” (Ashley Denton)
Bible story: Moses had his mountaintop experience on, go figure, a REAL mountaintop. He received the Ten Commandments with awe and wonder in Exodus 20; however, his trip down the mountain back to the valleys below was excruciating. The golden calf had been created, and in Exodus 32 Moses was forced to confront Aaron and the Israelites. Read that chapter. Soak it in. Think about the following questions … What was a mountaintop experience in your own life? What temptations or problems crushed you when you returned back to normality? How did you overcome them?
Other Scripture: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Prayer: Lord of CYOKAMO, I thank you for the magic that can be attributed to only You. May you guide those young hearts and assist them in fighting the good fight as they climb back down the mountain into the secular world. Amen.