Due to the magic of technology, I am writing my Last Word this week from my bunk at Advance Conference before supper on Monday afternoon. Many conferees arrived last night. In fact, I think there were more at supper on Sunday night than I can ever remember – probably around 80. Advance Conference is for young adults, ages 19-29. The majority of these committed young people have to take vacation time from work in order to be here. Some are on summer break and will be going back to school in the next few weeks.
This is the second year I have been able to attend Advance with my sons, Ryan and Joel. Joel will be returning to Ohio University in a few weeks and taking his laundry with him (or so we hope). Ryan graduated from Ohio State this spring and will be leaving for India as a Global Mission Intern in September. He was officially commissioned at the General Assembly in Indianapolis in July and we will commission him as a missionary of Central Christian Church in our worship on September 6th. He is also serving as an officer this week at Advance conference.
Central has a long history of providing leadership at our camps and conferences. This year, Monica Bentley was an officer at Wilmington Conference and Hannah Bentley finished her term as an officer in the State CYF. Earlier this
summer, Alexis Garybush was elected to be an officer at Phyo Conference and Tim Green was elected to be an
officer at Wilmington Conference (and there are more of our young people waiting in the wings for their chance to serve!). We have every reason to be proud of our young people, our church, and the ministry of Camp Christian.
One of the things I most love about coming to Camp Christian is the chance to experience what has sometimes been described as “the beloved community.” At camp, stories of Jesus are not only told and retold – but his spirit is very much alive and active. Camp is a place where people experience real love and acceptance – sometimes for the first time in their lives. It can be, and often is, a transforming experience for people – whether they are 12 or 22 (or any other age).
When the end of the week begins to draw near, someone will inevitably say something about going back to “the real world.” I have always loved Ted Faulconer’s response to that statement: “What if camp IS the real world? Or at least the way the world should be?”
Perhaps it is unrealistic to think people can live together in mutual love and forgiveness for more than a week at a time. But there is one place where people do seek to live out the “beloved community” year round – the church. Church brings us together – different ages, races, incomes and backgrounds – and we learn how to live in true communion with others, some of whom are much different than we are.
Come Saturday, I will pack my bags and leave Advance Conference once again. However, I leave with anticipation and joy, because I know my departure from here means being reunited with the beloved community of my church family. Join me in worship this Sunday as we celebrate God’s goodness as one people of God.