From the Advocate: Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, I ...
May 4, 2016 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
The history of Camp & Retreat Ministry of The United Methodist Church is rich and filled with testimonies of lives changed by the amazing grace of God offered to and working through people of all ages and stages of life. Amazing things happen at camp and retreat settings around the world.
Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, individuals have heard the good news of the Gospel and placed their faith in the saving work of Jesus. Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, men, women, young adults, youth, and children have gone deeper into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ in word and action. Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, many who have served our churches as clergy heard and responded to their call to ministry. Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, faithful laity have recognized the gifts for ministry given by the Holy Spirit and have decided to go deeper in the use of those gifts. Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, lifelong friendships are formed; learning how to live in Christian community is modeled, taught, and caught; understanding our call to be good stewards of the whole of God’s creation is practiced and understood.
I could go on and on regarding the impact spending time in a camp and retreat setting affords. Perhaps the best word I can share is the impact Christian camping had upon my own life. It was at Central Oaks Height in Milton, Pa., attending a junior high camp as a seventh grader that I heard the Gospel message, placed my faith in Jesus Christ, and made the decision to say “yes” to Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
As an eighth and ninth grader at that same camp, I continued to build upon the foundation of the faith decision I made and grew in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of God’s body. Throughout my high school years, as a junior counselor, and college years, as a counselor at both United Methodist and Mennonite camp settings, the foundation of my spiritual formation continued to be built upon, and I was given leadership opportunities that brought understanding to the gifts God had given for me for mission and ministry.
While my call to pastoral ministry came through a college ministry setting, my experiences at camp, prepared my spiritual ears to hear the voice of God and my heart and mind to find the courage to say “yes.” As a young pastor, I was given the opportunity to serve as the director of a junior high camp for one week each summer, which continued to change my life for 16 years. Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, I am who I am today.
In Upper New York, our Camp & Retreat Ministry offers the very same things I was offered. Through these ministries that we support, individuals are hearing of God’s love for them and making a faith choice to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives. People are going deeper in their discipleship journey, discovering the many ways God has gifted them and is calling them to be in ministry and mission to the world around them.
I am so appreciative of the dedicated staff, led by our Director of Camp & Retreat Ministry, Mike Huber, who provides leadership to this vital ministry in Upper New York. I am awed by the summer counselors and countless volunteers who offer their lives, that thousands may be transformed each year by God because of their experience at one of our camp and retreat settings. I am overwhelmed to hear the stories of congregations and individuals raising funds to provide scholarships that anyone might have a chance to attend church camp. I am excited when I hear how someone took the time to invite someone else to give a week of camp or a weekend retreat a try.
Our Camp & Retreat Ministry touches every area of our ministry together in Upper New York. Often, they complement, and frequently, they lead and teach us as we seek to live our mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Evangelism, Christian education, hospitality, leadership development, worship, spiritual formation, outreach, giving, and many more expressions of the ways the Church is called to equip the saints of God, happens through the Camp & Retreat Ministry of Upper New York.
I hope you will spend time reading through this issue of the Advocate that recognizes the amazing things that God has done and is doing through the Camp & Retreat Ministry of the Upper New York Conference. I invite you to join me in praying for this powerful ministry we share. I hope you will find a way to join in the effort, whether it is by volunteering, offering financial support, attending a camp or retreat yourself, or by inviting another to give it a try.
Because of Camp & Retreat Ministry, the Church’s present and future vitality and our mission to assist others to know the love of Jesus, so that the world might be transformed through God’s power is amazing! Thanks be to God!