Great weekend of contemporary worship at Hopewell UMC… The contemporary service on Sunday at 9:30 was led (most skillfully) by our Youth Ministry Director, Jon Marcus, and our youth worship team as a celebration of this summer’s great youth mission trips. The worship team knocked it out of the park!
The services on Saturday at 5:25 and Sunday at 10:55 focused on Luke 18:15-17 and “Bless the Children.” The sermon challenged us to consider whether (like Mr. Potato Head) our hearts are in the right place. Our congregation is stepping up to building a new cabin at Camp Innabah, a UMC-run Christian camp and retreat about 10 miles from our church in Pughtown, PA. We still have money to raise for the project and volunteers to recruit, but the demolition of the old cabin starts in two weeks…
During the service, I got to share my experiences with Innabah–a place that I number among my “Ebenezers.” When I was much younger, I was a camper at Innabah. For three years, I went to week-long overnight camps there. Now I was also a Boy Scout and went to Scout Camp (Camp Horseshoe in southeastern PA), with all of the big focus on knocking off merit badges and the challenges of adolescent boys living in cabins for a week, but Innabah was different. We sang the same songs in the cafeteria as I sang in Sunday School. My camp counselors were clearly devoted to God and very interested in our spiritual growth. I did the crafts and hikes and canoeing and postcard writing like at Scout Camp, but Innabah was clearly different.
Then in my third year at Innabah, we weren’t in cabins anymore, we were in the outpost camp–farther into the woods in three-sided shelters. My counselor that summer seemed just a bit more spiritually mature, a bit more passionate about God. On the final night, around the campfire, under God’s sky in the midst of His creation, our counselor talked about the prayer he’d prayed years before, admitting his own sinfulness and accepting the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross as the full payment for those sins. The prayer and offer sounded very attractive to me, but I didn’t do anything there at the campfire. It was after getting into my bunk that night that I prayed the prayer myself, accepting Jesus as my personal Savior–and I felt so amazingly energized and wanted to pray all night. I can mark my commitment to Christ as happening that night, deep in the woods at Innabah.
A few years ago I was back at Innabah for my Walk to Emmaus weekend, a weekend filled with reminders of the depth and height and width of God’s servant love for me. During a break on the Saturday afternoon, we were given the chance to wander the grounds and consider the weekend thus far (sort of a Selah in the Psalms sense). I took the opportunity to go find that outpost campsite where years ago, the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s offer of salvation to me became clear and personal to me. I found it, looking rather out of use and more wild, but clearly my place of salvation–my “God has helped me this far” place.
It’s a key milestone in my spiritual history, and one I was pretty jazzed to share as an encouragement to others about the eternal value of an investment in the camp. Thank you, God, for helping me that far!