We welcomed the second round of Southbrook Church last week, with much the same sort of experience (as their first week) of well-invested-in teens getting away to Whisper Mountain Camp to be challenged in deeper ways and to grow stronger within community.
We may not have seen all scores of teens coming to Jesus for the first time, but what we did see was scores of teens being confronted with the opportunity to leave their complacent, American Christianity behind to walk in a deep, intimate, counter-cultural relationship with Jesus that actually involves the power of God in their lives. We saw teens accept the challenge to cling to truth, abandon the ways of the world and go rogue in their faith.
This, friends, is the deep power of camp — when life change comes in many forms, but each time with an intimate encounter with Jesus.
Seeing teens come to Jesus in surrender, braving the telling of their stories, opening more to Him and in return to each other, praying for each other and encouraging one another — it brings a viewer to tears because that’s the power of God at camp.
Seeing Southbrook Church encounter God was beautiful. Seeing our staff pour out like a fragrant aroma through the intentional connections and leading with sensitivity was beautiful. God is doing a great work here at camp this summer and we are encouraged to keep going.
Southbrook, you are a church filled with passion, intention and humility. May Jesus continue to be glorified in your midst.
In life we all have different strengths, it has been said 1000 times over. Yet, I think this saying is most present during Low Ropes. You combine about 25 young men and women and challenge them with the task of getting over a 10-foot wall. The best part is when they’re told that everyone must make it over. The short (but super smart) 12-year-old in the back sighs, thinking he will be useless in this situation, and the 6-foot senior knows he can climb up and not worry about anyone else. The thing is they are both wrong.
You see, everyone gets two “helps,” meaning they can help lift, pull, or push someone else two times. The guy in the back begins to count how many there are and starts to devise a strategy in his head, but is drowned out by the loud ones of the group. The tall one, in the chaos of everyone planning, runs on up saying, “I’ve got this,” not thinking about the rest of the team below.
Then it gets worse. Smaller groups begin to branch off and form their own plans (which is not how this exercise should work). They forget the rest of the team needs their “helps” to make sure everyone can get over. But wait, it gets even worse. About 15 people have gotten over the wall, but they didn’t help the 10 shorter folks at the bottom. And they don’t have the tools nor “helps” to get themselves over. So, the entire team has to restart.
Everyone is in despair, looking for a way to beat this. The smart guy in the back finally finds the courage to speak up; the loud one repeats it for him; and the entire team is then on board with his plan. The tall and stronger ones help those who cannot get up by themselves, and the girl that can jump super high gets up top to help pull. Eventually the team conquers the wall, but only by listening and utilizing one another’s strengths, while also being aware of their weaknesses.
The world is full of different people: leaders, listeners, planners; the strong, the smart, the fast. We need to realize as Christian community, as the body of Christ, that everyone plays a role and brings something to the table. If we were able to do things by ourselves, why did God send his Son to die? Why did he make Eve for Adam? Why did He create the concept of brother/sisterhood? Because we cannot go it alone. We need to have a team of others pushing or pulling us up to a Godlier place…
Author & Photographer | Koda Moody Group Pictured | Southbrook Church
New City High Schoolers were eager to get off the bus and start their week of camp! Our staff met their energy and upped that ante to help make last week’s camp week completely wonderful in many ways. Those who didn’t want to come at the start told us they were so glad they had come by the end.
Many of last week’s campers have been coming since middle school began. Seeing these campers grow from year to year has been a privilege because we get to see glimpses of their process and God working throughout this vital season in their lives. Someone that may have been super difficult to work with has found their stride now and offers much to the community. Someone who may struggle with deep, dark things has taken baby steps forward and taken some new ground. Those with questions, wrestling with hard things, or floundering in their faith have discovered a newness in their walk with Christ. There’s something special about having intentional connections with those who come to us.
Here are a few things campers said about their week at Whisper Mountain Camp: “Staff is very encouraging , funny, supportive, good with all ages, and LOVE riddles. Each leader is an inspiration to someone at camp.“
“I feel incredibly loved when I’m here.“
“I have been struggling to pray and now I am again.“
“I felt very cared for and it was such a genuine environment.“
“The highlight of my week was community.”
Thanks for coming New City! We hope you continue to be children of light back home!
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.
Teens come to Whisper Mountain Camp, escaping their noise, but bringing all sorts of baggage with them. By the end of the week, as they experience the power of camp, they’ve encountered the personal God! Last week was an incredible week of seeing God move in the hearts of those who came!
There were two groups sharing the week and they meshed really well. They were all so uplifting and encouraging to one another. They became a safe place for those among them that really needed it! Which means all left encouraged and touched by God in some way! Three of them left as new believers! Here are a few testimonies we heard at the end of the week!
“When I came to camp, I thought you guys were crazy, but you’ve been the most accepting group. It’s felt like family. This whole experience has helped me. I grew up in a Christian family, but I never wanted it for myself. Last night, I accepted Christ into my heart. Thanks for helping me and praying with me.”
“I struggle with mental health things and people in my cabin listened to me, even though I talked about the same things over and over and over. It really helped me a lot.”
“It’s like I’ve been sitting on the edge of a lake dipping my toes in but not really going in. This week at camp, I’ve really come to the place where I want to just jump in. I’m so thankful for our time here.”
Conversations, extended prayer times, worship, hearing the Word, time alone in the Word, activities pushing them beyond their comfort levels — these all come together to bring an experience that awakens people to the power and presence of God in their lives. This is the power of camp.
We loved being a piece of your stories this summer, New City and Berry’s Grove! Thanks for coming and we hope to see you again soon!
The first week of Whisper Mountain Camp from a counselor’s perspective. All camper names used in this article are false names, to preserve anonymity for the teens.
Last Thursday night, Whisper Mountain’s executive director, Marty Paul, preached to a group of 11 kids about the importance of placing their focus on God. “You have to live your life focused on the cross… That will sustain you,” Paul said. There was time after the message for the campers to pray silently. Counselors stood on the edges of the room, and campers were invited to ask counselors to pray with them. I sat on the right side of the stage, unsure if any campers would come to me. This was my first week counseling at Whisper Mountain; I had no idea what to expect. As I waited, I prayed, asking God to use me. “Let me minister to these campers, Oh Lord,” I prayed, “That you would make your abundant, awe-inspiring love known through me.” Little did I know that the campers would be ministering to me, instead.
One of the girls from my cabin came up to sit by me on the stage; nine-year-old Sadie. I asked her what I could be praying about for her. She asked me to pray for her family and for the bullying she endures at school to stop. She moved closer to me and laid her head on my shoulder while I prayed for her. We were in the “Axis” building: the chapel, at camp. Instrumental worship music played softly on the speakers. Most of the lights were off, and a weight lingered in the air. The weight pressed upon my thoughts, like humility pressing against pride, stifling any distractions that kept me from begging God, with all that I am, that He would keep this girl from her painful struggles and that she would seek to know Him more.
I opened my eyes after praying with her to see three more girls from my cabin around us; all sisters. I asked what I could also be praying about for them. “We just want to pray for Sadie,” Zulu said. The three girls laid their hands on Sadie’s back as I continued to pray for her. When I finished praying a second time, I told Sadie that she is loved: By God, by me, and by the three other girls around her. She gave me a hug and a smile, and we silently recognized together that the Holy Spirit was among us, drawing our hearts closer to God and to each other.
Campers have been encouraged to fix their eyes on Jesus; focusing on Him amidst trials in this life. They are given a four day devotional plan, centered around the week’s theme. After having scheduled time to be alone with Scripture and the devotional plan, the campers gather together with their cabins to discuss what they learned.
“Before I came to camp, I hated reading my Bible,” Colin, a fifth-grader said. “It felt like a chore to me. Now, I’m going to do it every single day.”
Campers this week have learned to delight in reading the Bible through the times they have spent alone in Scripture, in counselor-led devotional discussions, and in intentional prayer times.
There was a 14-year-old girl in my cabin, Gloria, who showed leadership qualities right away during cabin times. “I want to be so infused with the Word of God, that all I do is part of Him,” she said. She would talk fast and excitedly about the Gospel during cabin times; truly on fire for the Gospel. Gloria told me that she prays for God to use her as an example for her younger siblings, that they would come to have a stronger relationship with Jesus by seeing her leadership. She felt the burden to represent Christ to her family. Last week, campers at Whisper Mountain were taught that believers in Christ are called to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. We are adopted as sons and daughters of the living God; thus, we are no longer citizens of the world, but we belong to a home grander than we could ever imagine. Gloria felt the weight of this, and she recognized the godly influence she has on her family as she fixes her gaze upon Jesus Christ, representing Him in this world.
The camper I prayed with on Thursday night, Sadie, said she learned the importance of spending time reading her Bible rather than being distracted by her phone.
“Usually I’m always on my phone and I never read my Bible,” Sadie said. “Now, I really want to read my Bible because Jesus is really important to me.“
I have been humbled to see the affect of this camp in the lives of the campers this first week. As they connect spiritual applications to activities like paintball and dropping in a 30-foot-tall swing on a high ropes course, the campers begin to see a need for Jesus Christ all around them; not just at church on Sundays. In having focused time reading the Bible by themselves each morning, the campers realize they have a crucial need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The campers experience this truth at Whisper Mountain; they not only learn the importance of reading the Bible on their own, but they see how it impacts their lives and their friend’s lives. The four girls I prayed with last Thursday night knew the impact of prayer, as we grouped around Sadie, pleading to God on her behalf. The girls could only do that because they had a knowledge of Jesus Christ from Scripture. He is powerful. He is kind. He is good. He loves us and He listens to us.
Tim Keller wrote, “God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us where we are.” My prayer as this summer continues is that more campers would be moved by the power of Scripture, and by the person of Jesus Christ; that the campers would recognize that once we fix our gaze and set our lives on Jesus, He will not leave us as we are. He is in the process of making all things new, drawing us closer to Himself as His returning comes nearer at each moment.
Author | Katie Fogarty Photography | Adrienne Cicero + Cassi Werner Group | Community Bible Church of Highlands
Without summer camp this year, many things were missed. Campers didn’t have outdoor fun with the mountains surrounding them or those memorable and engaging conversations with their Guides (counselors). Guides didn’t have the opportunity to pour into campers or find a community of people sharing a common goal with them, stretching them, knowing them, serving with them.
No one faced and overcame terrifying things like making it across and stepping off the platform of the high ropes course. Groups didn’t have the opportunity to grow together through team building at low ropes. Youth pastors weren’t given the time to just be and connect with their teens without the pressures of running the program.
Teens weren’t able to know each other more deeply, or find a sense of belonging, or to be known by people who truly care about them and believe in them. Teens and adults weren’t able to escape their noise to hear the whisper of God. To pull out of their every day context to contemplate big and important things or to find fresh perspective for their circumstances. They weren’t able to be filled with the hope that comes from hearing God’s Word and seeing it come alive to them personally. So much felt lost this summer as “COVID” shut the world down.
Sometimes that realization can feel hopeless, especially as the world continues to be so far outside of our normal. But this, friends, is not where we want to land. Because if you’ve walked with Jesus for any amount of time you know He makes a way where there is none. He brings into existence what doesn’t exist. He is the God of HOPE! So, we can’t sit in the place of what isn’t, or the fear of what we don’t know. We have to walk in faith if we are to be followers of Christ. What’s the old hymn?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth with grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
That’s the key. Looking to Jesus and not the mess surrounding us. He’ll lead you safely through, wrap you in His peace, and fill you with His joy. The world needs Jesus followers like this! Are you in?
We enjoyed a mix of people from Highlands, NC, a few individuals from our town and a couple individuals from South Carolina and Michigan! We never are sure how things will go when people register to come to camp, but we have always been amazed at the way God orchestrates people’s lives to be in the right place at the right time!
The bravery of teens coming on their own, or even not wanting to come and feeling like they “had to” ended in close comradery with the other campers and for some of them, receiving Jesus! Isn’t that why we do what we do?
The outdoor activities, the personal and group challenges, the intentional connections with our staff, encountering truth from the Word of God, finding time alone to think and listen and grow — this is the power of camp at Whisper Mountain!
The two groups from Highlands are in a place of new leadership and fresh beginnings. The low ropes challenges proved helpful to strengthen their team unity.
To all who came this week, thank you for trusting your leaders, churches, parents, foster parents and us! We are thrilled for all we saw God do in your lives! Keep chasing Him!
Many camps shoot for numbers, big fun, big noise. There is a place for this. There is effect in this. Here at Whisper Mountain, we've been given a different purpose. When numbers are less than hundreds, the faces become names and the names become hearts. We are able to offer a more intimate atmosphere fostering an encounter with Jesus.
Whisper Mountain recently had the privilege of welcoming a small work team all the way from Lagro, Indiana.
Within this small group of teens, one met Jesus as Savior, two renewed their walks with Christ, and three asked to be invested in throughout the year through our discipleship focus. I'm not sure of your experience with camp, but for us, purposeful adventure and intentional connection is our heartbeat.
For those supporting our ministry here at Whisper Mountain, know you are making a difference. Your backing of us prayerfully and/or financially is leading others to Jesus. We are a team and we couldn't do this without you! Thank you!
Lagro–we enjoyed having you with us! Thank you for your help around the camp! May you continue to walk with Jesus!
Camp gets teens outside. Being outside helps teens be better people! Makes sense if you think of the last time you spent a few minutes out of doors. If you weren't eaten alive by the bugs first, chances are you walked back inside feeling lighter, breathing deeper. I know something as simple as hiding out in my backyard alone a few minutes helps me return to my chaos more caring and generous to those most taxing on my nerves. (not as if that ever happens in real life, of course. Just a hypothetical example!)
Last night we piz-nicked (pizza + picnic) by the lake. Which of course brings the staff some water fun! Quite a bit of immersion going on there!