“Our mission is simple. Change the world.” – Anthony Scott, CCCA camp director, Texas
This past December I had the incredible blessing of being able to travel to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the National Conference of the Christian Camp and Conference Association. Anyone that knows me is familiar with my passion for summer ministries, specifically those found at Camp Allegheny. Following a God-given calling on my life, I am fervently pursuing a career in camping ministries. Attending the Panorama conference allowed me to step out of the often monotonous college lecture classroom and catch a glimpse of the broader vibrant camping community.
Having never been to the southwest, I jumped at the chance to not only see this area of the country but also glean first-hand knowledge from those entrenched in the field of summer ministry. Traveling with my boss from Camp Allegheny and his wife made the experience even more enjoyable as I collected as many networking connections, lecture notes, book recommendations, and sermon lessons as possible throughout the four days of the conference.
The conference opened on December 7th with an excitingly warm welcome that only camp folks can put together. This would be my first introduction to the wider camping community that strives towards one common goal so eloquently described by Wheaton College Professor Dr. Rob Ribbe as “providing the space to have a personal encounter with God.”
The Arizona Grand Resort and Spa housed CCCA in a lovely desert setting that was unparalleled in beauty. The vast Sonoran Desert sky was the canvas for God’s spectacular sunrises and sunsets. In a temporary community focused on seeing the panoramic view of ministry rather than just the postcard snapshot, the magnificent landscape aided us in doing just that. It was easy to focus on God’s great mission and plan for my life while being surrounded by such majestic views.
The next three days would offer everything an aspiring leader in Christian camping ministries could hope to see and experience at a conference. Speakers such as Jo Saxton, leaders at WLD Ranch, professors from Wheaton College, and David Kinnaman all opened doors to aspects of camping that I hadn’t previously thought about in much detail. Director of the Torchbearer Bible School in Bodenseehof, Germany, Peter Reid, opened each morning with an incredible worship message. Entertainment after long days of learning wasn’t lacking either, with singer Brandon Heath, comedian Bob Stromberg, and illusionist Jared Hall all performing throughout the week.
My Slippery Rock professors would be especially pleased to hear that I was able to learn about the finer points of hospitality through former Ritz Carlton President, Horst Schulze. His message was not a generic one based on guest relations or staff training, but rather emphasized the need for camps to be run as a business focused on wholeheartedly delivering a product (that product being a Christ-centered temporary community allowing for growth, exploration, and fun for people of all walks of life.) One of the most profound ideas he left me with is the fact that “caring is the greatest product we produce.”
While my notes meticulously detail every speaker I had the chance to listen to, my memory simply remembers broad ideas and feelings about the conference. I equate it to my first week as a wrangler camper in 2009. My first week of summer camp was exceptional, simply put. Everything from the activities, to the staff and my counselors, to my fellow campers whom are still some of my closest friends today, was brand new. While I don’t remember what curriculum we used, or specific lessons learned, it made such an impact on my life that I came back again, and again, and again. And then I chose to make camp my life.
The CCCA Panorama conference was no different. Everything was new. New location, new ideas, new educational materials, new friends and contacts, and new opportunities. God worked in my life through Panorama, the impacts of which are just now starting to be revealed, just as He started me on a journey seven years ago at Camp Allegheny. Perhaps in the future I’ll be attending grad school at Wheaton College because of the connections I made with students and professors at the conference. Or maybe I’ll be employed as a wrangler in Australia because of the camp name I heard of while at CCCA. While God is still putting me on a path for my life post-SRU, I can see how Panorama has furthered my advancement on that path, and given me the encouragement I needed to keep pursuing this career and lifestyle that means so much to me. It was such a blessing to be able to travel to Phoenix, and hopefully I will be returning to conference again this year, in Nashville, Tennessee.