On Tuesday night, I picked up a hiker’s backpack; heavy with stones. The stones had painted words: Gossip, lust, pride and murder… Other stones had social media apps painted on them; like Instagram, Snapchat and Tik-Tok. I took a shaky breath, and prepared for my last walk with these weights. It was hard picking up the backpack without making a noisy shuffle in the back of the camp’s chapel building: The Axis.
The stones I carried would act as talking points for a skit that night.
“Alright, time for my Life’s Journey!” I said, walking down the aisle of seats, with campers and staff on either side of me. My back was bent with the weight of the backpack. “I hope I packed enough. I think I have all the essentials!”
When I get to the stage, I meet one of the staff who plays the Guide for my Journey, Carlo Cicero. I tell him that I’ve packed everything I need for my journey; or at least I hope I did… The guide asks me to explain what I’ve packed. I take out a few items before the rocks come out, explaining why I need them.
“Well, you see, I’m the first starring female quarterback for my high school’s varsity football team… It’s kind of a big deal. I have to practice for at least three hours a day after school… I need to.”
I took out other objects, representing activities my character considered essential. Textbooks, signifying the need to please parents and the need to get into the best colleges there are. A dumbbell, representing the need to exercise and to maintain my appearance. A TV remote, signifying the need for Netflix binges. The rocks with social media apps painted on them, representing the need to keep up my internet presence.
Then, I took out heavier objects.
An empty beer bottle. An empty pill bottle. Rocks with sins painted on them: gossip, lust, pride…
I sought to portray the need for certain objects in my life that gave me a sense of identity. I needed to excel in so many things: football, drums, a social media presence, grades in school; so others would see me as excellent. My character carried these weights to maintain a sense of purpose.
Yet, it exasperated me. The backpack was heavy. I was weighted down. The weights ultimately couldn’t fulfill me.
The guide invited me to set it all aside. Let go of those things! They aren’t essential…
Another member on staff, Lucas Bloss, played a character who also embarked on his life’s journey; yet, his pack was different than mine.
He didn’t have one. Lucas walked to the stage with one thing: a singular loaf of bread. He started eating it, and explained that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
He didn’t carry any weights. He didn’t need a hiker’s pack like I did. The word of the Lord was enough for Lucas.
That was all he needed.
Since the beginning of the summer, I’ve been praying that if God could use me to point just one student closer to Himself, that would make a whole summer of camp work worth it.
A.W Tozer wrote:
I can no more do justice to that awesome and wonder-filled theme [of the love of God] than a child can grasp a star. Still, by reaching toward the star the child may call attention to it and even indicate the direction one must look to see it. So, as I stretch my heart toward the high, shilling love of God, someone who has not before known about it may be encouraged to look up and have hope.Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer
I don’t know the backgrounds of all of the students who come to Whisper Mountain; but what I do know is, they all need Jesus more than anything.
One camper who left a lasting impact on me struggled with identity issues. She found her identity in her looks; and when that couldn’t satisfy her, she turned to other things, such as extracurriculars and social status.
She felt empty and drained. I was able to sit with her after the skit a few weeks ago and ask her to read Psalm 139, which talks about how God has made her wonderfully made. He knows her, loves her, and has made her with purpose.
I told her that she can find confidence in her identity in Christ, by knowing who our God is and who He created her to be.
I got to pray with her and assure her that she is not here by accident, but by God’s plan. Freedom is found through the accomplishment of Jesus Christ and His love for her.
Jesus invites us to cast everything aside, to follow Him. We don’t need to carry any weights! Jesus takes it all, because He is enough.
Having conversations like that humbles and astonishes me. Why would God choose to use me, of all people, to share His goodness with others? Why would He use me to help build up His kingdom?
The apostle Paul writes:
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.I Timothy 1:15-16 NASB
Despite my own shortcomings, God still chose to use me, and my imperfect words.
He even chooses to use that little backpack skit to point campers to Himself. Through the work being done at Whisper Mountain, God has shown me new mercies every day that have come from choosing to serve Him.
Jesus died for me, so why should I not want to live for Him?
A few weeks ago, on a Wednesday night, there was an altar call after the evening service. Students from Southbrook Church in Charlotte, North Carolina were invited to sit at the foot of the cross and pray; asking God to help relieve them of any burdens, asking God to help them endure difficult situations, so they could be confident in resting their eyes upon Him. Nearly the entire camp, close to 60 students, responded and went to seek the Lord in prayer.
I found it difficult not to weep as I stood in the back of the Axis building, looking at all of the students who responded to the Word spoken.
If all of these students chose to kneel and pray; if they were all committed to serving Jesus Christ by giving up their lives as a living sacrifice as Romans 12:1 says, there will be massive revival in the Church. If each of those students steps up to serve or lead in whatever capacity, I imagine a chain-reaction happening. Others will be pointed to the work and person of Jesus Christ, others will accept the Gospel and then more leaders will be created for the work the Lord has commanded His followers to.
Through the teachings at Whisper Mountain: through personal devotional times, small group Bible studies, sermons each night and spiritual parallels tied with other camp activities, campers have been challenged to apply action to their faith. They learn the importance of spending time in Scripture, prayer, worship, evangelism and discipleship.
Mere belief in Jesus Christ provides salvation, but Jesus Christ is not truly honored until His people pursue Him and seek Him diligently.
Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee.Psalm 51:12-13 NASB
The Psalmist implores the Lord to help him to delight in the work God has done, and to help him to have the desire to serve the Lord. It is in the joy of salvation and the desire of believers to serve the Lord that others may come to know Jesus personally.
The love of God extends far more than I could ever imagine. This love is radical, transforming, and awe-inspiring. People crave love, and as many turn to the pleasures of sin in an effort to experience love and fulfillment; no one truly knows what it is to live fulfilled unless they understand the person and work of Jesus Christ, and confess their need for a Savior.
Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that we could not live, and He died the death that we deserved. The mission that God has called us to in Matthew 28:18-19; to make disciples and to proclaim His Gospel, has become more important to me than ever since serving at camp. I am on a mission to live for Him and to proclaim His works, as a soldier on duty (refer to 2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Whisper Mountain reflects and lives out this mission by its work centered on Christ. The camp is geared towards teaching upcoming generations about Him.
As I think back to all that the Lord has done this summer, I keep thinking about the skit and my heavy pack. I physically felt better once I set it down on the stage and let go of all that my character set her identity in; sports, school, people-pleasing… While I must strive to glorify and honor God in all that I do, I’ve learned the importance of letting go of the things that distract me from the mission the Lord has called me to: to worship Him and to tell others about what He has done for me.
Serving at Whisper Mountain taught me that God will use me if I let Him, but I must be willing and resolute in following Him in His mission to proclaim the Gospel.
If Jesus Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:1-2), then I can find strength in looking unto Him in the work He has given me.
I can rest in the knowledge of who Jesus is; the author and perfecter of my faith, who saved me and who seeks to save the world.
Author | Katie Fogarty
Photography | Cassi + Adrienne Cicero
Featured | Campers + Summer Staff 2021