It’s here, my favorite week of the year! I’m in Orlando for the national conference for the Christian Camp and Conference Association, where camp people from across the world come together for inspiration, relaxation, learning, and community. What had been plain conference rooms with boring carpet just hours ago have been transformed into spots where people have a space and a place to meet Jesus and each other in fresh new ways.
The 800 people you see in the photos below are some of the best of the best in Christian outdoor ministry. They’re 800 of my favorite people. 800 new best friends. 800 souls that are here because they’re hungry for fellowship, worship, respite, and knowledge. Who else floods Orlando with Chacos and Nalgenes? Who else seeks to build each other up and celebrate what God has done in camps across the country? Who else in the world builds igloos indoors? Camp people sure do.
When I arrive at the host site, I often wonder what the hotel staff thinks of our group. (Having worked an event or two in my day, I can empathize with their late nights stacking chairs and clearing plates.) Do they notice the joy these people bring with them? Do they see something different in the way we interact and serve one another? Do they catch a glimpse of Something bright within us? Do they see Who is behind it all? I pray that these things are true.
It’s wild to think of how five years ago I got on a plane to Phoenix, not knowing what to expect at this event. I remember Dr. Rob Ribbe presenting on something called the “HoneyRock egg model” and him holding up a piece of paper with the model on it, saying “This seminar is our graduate-level course condensed into three hours.” I remember wanting to soak up as much “official” camp knowledge as I could. (Plot twist! That course is called “Theology and Practice of Outdoor Ministry,” and I’m about to finish that class in my first semester as I type this post, and it was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken in my life.)
I remember talking with representatives from Wheaton/HoneyRock two years later at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. I entertained the idea of enrolling in the post-undergrad internship program but decided to stay in Buena Vista to keep a full-time job at Deer Valley Ranch. (Plot twist! Now my dear friends own the Ranch and I’m in Wisconsin for graduate school at HoneyRock!)
I remember meeting with my friend Stephanie in Palm Springs last year, talking about my upcoming trip to Australia and remembering how we spoke about her time in Australia way back in 2015 in Phoenix. (Plot twist! Australia was just as incredible as I had prayed it would be, and I toured two camps there!)
The world feels just a bit smaller every year I attend one of these events. Friends who share so much more with me than just our profession offer a smile from across the room, each of us knowing just how crazy fun it is to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This isn’t some dusty, boring, self-centered business conference. It’s more like a giant family reunion. We may be from different time zones, but we all speak the same language.
This week we’ll go beyond our wildest dreams. We’ll believe in #ThePowerOfCamp beyond measure. And we’ll praise God’s name beyond all expectations.
“These wonderful people come from camps all across the country, and they come tired, used up, and wanting to meet God in new ways…some may even come burnt out and ready to resign. But things happen here that make them change their minds. God shows up, and people leave here ready to take on their next year of ministry.” Penny Hunter
Beyond All Other Moments
- Staring out into a sea of people, all worshipping in the candlelight
- Seeing the sunshine through the palm fronds while people hammock nearby without a care in the world
- Experiencing one of the largest games of extreme rock paper scissors Florida has ever seen
PS how could I not love an event that’s space-themed?!
*All galactic inspiration, stage designs, and direct quotes courtesy of CCCA.