A Different Kind of Summer Camp This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 16, 2010
Seven hundred groggy high school students and leaders unloaded their bulging black, blue, and pink suitcases from the many Greyhound buses. The buses had traveled eleven hours through the narrow winding road leading from the scorching hot dry dirt of Phoenix, Arizona. The touch of cool air on these teenagers’ necks was enough to prepare them for the intense and beautiful experience that awaited them during the next five days in Fort Lewis, Colorado.

Flashing yellow, blue, red, green, lights all around her. Bursting sounds of praise, passion, pure bliss. Nothing else mattered at this moment when everything seemed to freeze, when the salty water streaming down her sun burnt face became sweet tasting. What mattered?
There was nothing else.

It was the blonde hair, deep blue eyes, skin, flesh, and bone. The beating of her heart was new. Pure, fresh, completely content. She shot her hands to Him, she reached out higher than before. Her lips moving, praise pouring out, eyes closed, legs wanting to collapse. This is what mattered to her now. And the bodies in this cold gymnasium began to give warmth. Warmer than Phoenix, Arizona warm. But a different type of warmth. His presence was in that stone building. The bodies swayed, steady arms straight up to Heaven, lips moving, tears rolling down. Melodies flowing through the heavy air. Then everything stopped. Heads bowed, eyes closed, lights dimmed, many bodies on their scabbed knees, and they all prayed as One. Her heart climbed up the twisty steep mountains, just as the buses did a few days ago. Both reaching a turning point, a moment in time when life would be different. For the girl, a calling to do something in her life that mattered, and for the buses, to drive the changed lives, the bodies that now had purpose. Or now, realized that purposes’ presence, and to drive them home safely.

There was still more. These five days could hardly handle many more moments. But it was going to. The girl, now questioning her own lifestyle. The way she talked, dressed, acted. Does the life she lives matter? Seven hundred bodies strolling around the green lush campus. Many wondering the same thing.

Dark clouds. Would there be rain in Colorado tonight?

Cold chicken, blue Powerade, warm red apples. She could not eat. No matter how hard she tried. The emotions filled her inside, there was no room for nonsense food. Her friends surrounded her. They all laughed, and ate, and discussed. She did too. But her mind was spinning. Her boyfriend, a few portable tables over. Stuffing his face with the cold chicken, along with his friends. She gazed over at him. Does he matter? Yes. Yes, he does. And she took a sip of her blue Powerade.

The sermon that night was incredible. It was about Godliness. She began to realize the vast amount of daily effort and time she would need to put into becoming the woman God made her to be. During small group time, she and all her friends had cried out a lake, a lake full of regrets and past memories. This body of water though, was slowly being soaked up by God’s burning love. These girls became closer friends after continuing nights of surrender.

Minutes later they were being sent back to the cold gymnasium. Everything from that moment on became a blur to her memory. Like a tsunami, everything inside the little heart and mind of hers was torn down, her walls came crashing down. It hurt, immensely.

It was dark out. And in Fort Lewis there were a million more bright and shining stars in the night sky than in Phoenix. Not even the stars mattered to her tonight.
There was a scent of freshness in the air. A sign of how she would feel after tonight. A man singing softly behind her somewhere. The strumming of an acoustic guitar. Cold, moist grass underneath her bare feet, like rain clouds under an angel. But she was far from being an angel.

A circle. Made of metal chairs. All facing outward. But every soul looking inward. Buckets of freezing cold water and soap bubbles. Brown, crusty paper towels for drying. Warm bodies hugging others tightly. She knew it. Deep down inside of her. A brick to the wall that had fallen earlier that week, lying there in a million pieces, was being picked up, carefully. And she hugged her long lost friend so tightly. A fear she had to face, to forgive. And they cried. Apologized. Prayed together. Forgave each other so deeply. She took off her new friend’s shoes carefully. And sat her down in the cold metal chair. The freezing bubbly soapy water ran over her friend’s shivering feet, and her warm hands replaced the water with the brown, crusty paper towel. They stood up, giggled quietly. Hugged. Smiled. Walked away. Washing her feet as Jesus had once washed his disciples’ feet as a sign of a forgiveness and love. And she threw that brick as far as possible.

A step to rebuilding her heart, and it started to sprinkle.

Day five. It was a Friday. Everything was finally coming together. There would be a party that night. And there was. Warm candles lit all around them. Leaders talking to other leaders, telling of the goals their girls or boys had set. The challenges each one received. Excitement. Pure joy. Hearts exploding, eyes so bright, as bright as the stars that mattered now. Smiles beaming. And she danced. Everyone danced.

Dancing and singing and laughing. Cameras flashing. All bodies there that night were real. Their hearts were real. Their worlds were real. Their life was real to them now.
God was real.

And the rain gushed down from His clouds, into His world, and onto His children.
Saturday morning. Bodies so emotionally drained that hardly any words would be said all day. She whispered to her new friends. It was early, and she finally had an appetite. An appetite for both food, and life. She had set a vast amount of goals and challenges for herself. As she read over them, in the duct taped green and blue journal she had kept close to her all last week, in purple writing she read over her ambitions, and prayed for the ability she knew was contained inside of her. She smiled, not a proud and regular smile, but a truly joyful, satisfied smile that showed all her teeth.

Down the winding, narrow road those Greyhound buses drove. A few bumps on the way woke her up, leading her to peek out the huge window at the last of the green, lush place she had been living in. She closed her eyes and hummed a few of the melodies she had heard those amazing nights.

The seven hundred groggy bodies crawled off the cramped buses, unloaded their bulging black, blue, and pink suitcases, and loaded them into their shiny cars, their mom’s van, or their dad’s truck, and drove off with content smiles on their faces.

She hopped off the bus, unloaded her black suitcase, said her goodbyes, and her mom drove her home in their shiny silver van, as her smile continued, for days, and weeks. And continued through the years.

And the Greyhound buses drove off. The buses were what the students and leaders lives would be like. A long drive downhill, from the rough uphill. With bumps, and changes for the uncomplicated moments or difficult. But everything reaching home. She looked ahead down the mountains, to her Home, where her Father would be waiting for her.

Summer camp was more than a camp. But a place where she and so many others knocked down their brick walls, and were prepared for the world. To impact the world. And I began to reach my purple pen written goals.

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