Welcome to CampFire!
Thank you for being part of this journey with us!
There are moments in our lives when God wants to talk to us - little moments of instruction that we can miss if we are in the middle of everyday life. Sometimes we need a different environment, a different location out of our normal routine, to put us in a place to hear God. And those moments can change the course of our lives...
Imagine a place where kids are given the opportunity to stop and listen; to learn to hear God’s voice and find hope
in the midst of their busy lives. Over two years ago, God placed the vision for a Christian youth camp on our hearts
and every step that has been revealed has been humanly impossible. Because of this, we know this is
His project and we are blessed to be His hands and feet. To God be the Glory!
Thank you for visiting our site today. I'm hoping that you will see our VISION for the amazing things that God can do at CampFire! As you scroll through the site and see pictures of the land and read the information, I ask only that you let your imagination go to places of impossibility; of grander things than you could ever dream of or imagine (!) because this camp is God's project... and we are mightily blessed to be His hands and feet in our tiny little corner of the world.
So imagine... if you will... a beautiful, brand new, BIG, red, rustic, Midwestern barn when you drive onto the property, where kids and adults will gather for worship, filled with the Holy Spirit, opening their hearts to receive healing and hope, in ways they didn't even know they needed it. Or dozens of wooden tree house platforms built high up above the camp, nestled in by the birds and offering a photographic view of the lake next door and a closeness to the magic of the stars in the night sky; giving small groups and solitary time a whole new perspective.
You might see lots of smaller red barns along the way, being used as classrooms or meeting places, disguising the life-changing work only God can do, happening inside their walls. Maybe you'd get a glimpse of the transformative temperament counseling taking place down by the water's edge... where nature calms our senses enough to focus and learn how to really hear from God. But you'd most definitely see the heart of why we are building this camp... to share with the world, the glory of God's mercy. That we are not alone. We were made on purpose. Just as we are. Everything about us is on purpose.
See, I was born "severely, profoundly hearing impaired"... almost completely deaf. From the very beginning, I struggled with purpose. Why does God do that to someone? Why take away something so important for a person to function in this world? I wrestled with those questions every day, always answering myself with "well, you're just not good enough to be normal" and "you were a mistake - you know, like when you are making pancakes and the first batch gets burned and you throw them out and make more? - like that." I was a mess. And I kept it hidden. I didn't tell my family. I didn't tell my friends. I didn't want anyone to think any less of me than I thought they already did. And anyone who did tell me different, I didn't believe them. I told myself that everything that happened to me, I deserved... and there was no one who could convince me otherwise. I lived in a downward spiral. Some of it was perceived and self-inflicted, some of it was not. But... it's all I knew.
I think that as human beings, we are hardwired to find reason for things that we don't understand. And we can let our minds obsess on the things that are wrong and spend precious time trying to find out why. Maybe... maybe there is a reason why... maybe it has purpose and maybe it has nothing to do with what kind of cirumstances and struggles we endure, but rather how each of us is made to deal with them.
See... God has a plan. For each of us. Scripture tells us that "He knew us before we were created...", "He knit us together in our mother's womb" (Psalm 139.13,15-16)... And we hear those words all the time, but they never sink in. They never REALLY resonate for many of us. We wake up every day and go through the motions. We carry our pain and anger and resentment with us every step we take throughout every moment of our day and we never really SEE what our lives could be. What we were MADE to be. The truth is... as my kids love to sing these days... "we were made to THRIVE." We were made who we are and how we feel on purpose. There is a reason and a plan behind it all. I want to share with you how my life changed. How, through a long and painful journey, I found the truth about who I am and who I was made to be.
The biggest difference between my life before and my life now is as simple as one powerful word... JOY. Scripture talks about joy too. "The joy of the Lord is my strength." (Nehemiah 8.10) Have y'all ever heard things like that and said "What?? That's nice... But no one can be joyful ALL the time."
Yeah, that's what I thought too.
I was wrong.
See joy isn't happiness. Joy is a "knowing" that beauty will come again. That the clouds may darken the day, keep us locked up inside and envelop us in chills, but the sun WILL come back out, the clouds WILL become masterful objects of 3D vision and the sky WILL shine so clear and blue you can almost touch it.
And hope will begin to rise up again.
Jesus told us that "in this world, we will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world." (John 16.33 ) We are to expect pain and suffering to be a part of our lives. Knowing Christ will not stop us from living through those things. But joy... Joy will allow us to fulfill our calling. To live into who we were put on this earth to be. Even as an adult, I have known what it is like to experience pain day in and day out... Never believing in purpose or having hope that it could be better. I lived every day in anticipation of what would go wrong, how I would fail and just how badly I would get hurt in the process. I would hide away to keep from facing the world and all the accusations of disappointment that inevitably clouded my head. I hated every part of myself and I wondered what was the point of living if this was all there is.
All it takes is a seed. One tiny little idea that there is more. It gets in you and it never leaves. It won't bloom until you are ready and God allows it to; and part of that process is struggle and hardship to break through all the packed-in mud on top of it. But, boy once you break through it, the struggles become interspersed with times of peace; the hardship with blessing. And you begin to wonder if all that fuss about joy really is true. It is. It's love SO amazing.
Jesus said, "I have come so that you may have life and have it to the fullest." (John 10.10) "More and better life."
In early 2012, I was a chaperone on a church youth group trip to Gatlinburg, on a retreat called Resurrection. The speaker was larger than life and very dynamic, able to capture his audience where it mattered. The music was my favorite Christian band, Leeland. One of my dearest and closest friends is the Director of the Youth group and I was really looking forward to the trip. But I knew I was going for me and not for the kids. I knew when the trip was mentioned in our church staff meeting that I was being spiritually pushed into the experience. So I went along, really just confused and struggling with personal issues at home. It wasn't the greatest time to leave but I felt the pull just like I had many times before but often backed out on. (by the way, just as a side note: if you know what I mean by that "pull "... don't ignore it, it could change your life!)
The trip was uneventful until the second night. The speaker began to introduce a group of about a dozen teenagers, each with a cardboard testimony... Words like SHAME, DISAPPOINTMENT, ABUSE, DISABLED, BULLIED and OUTCAST began to label these kids. I felt my heart begin to hurt. I felt overwhelmed with grief and I got VERY uncomfortable... Like everyone could see MY words, MY cardboard testimony...
Now, because I'm deaf, it presents a big challenge being in such a large arena full of so many people. We weren't sitting close to the stage, so I had to read the lips of the speaker on the big screen and try to follow along. It's hard sometimes (ok, most of the time). But I had no problem this time. He said, "Youth Leaders, if you are feeling a pull, a call to help, please stand up and walk to the end of your row."
Completely and totally out of character, I got up and walked to the end of the row. I turned to look back and I saw the only other leader in our group to do the same, my dear friend, the Director of Youth.
We locked eyes and tears began to swell.
She knew what I was feeling. And she was feeling it for all the kids she was praying for. The speaker then asked all the kids who were struggling and having thoughts of self-harm, to stand up as well. Leaders were instructed to go to our kids. No one in our youth group stood up. But a young man a row in front me, with another group, did stand up. No one went to him. So I touched his shoulder, laid a hand on him to pray.
He looked me right in the eyes and I could see every level of pain sitting there. No hope, just pain. After I prayed, I realized we were suddenly surrounded by about 20 people. His leaders took him to talk with counselors and I never saw him again.
At that moment, Leeland began to sing the words, "You live among the least of these; the weary and the weak. And it would be a tragedy for me to turn away... I'll follow you into the world."
I struggled for the next 24 hours, those lyrics echoing in my head.
The morning after I returned from the trip, I woke up with a very clear vision. A God-sized vision. A place where kids would gather together in front of a fire and laugh and sing and dream. Kids from all walks of life, all levels of diversity and all stages of adolescence, learning to understand themselves and what they were created for; our differences making us each unique for God's cause. Where none of those segregating and isolatingly painful labels matter but knowing the love of Christ and loving others the same.
And I knew. Right then and there I KNEW. I was made to do THIS.
I pray that each of you is blessed with the courage to stop and listen to God's voice; to hear Him call to you for who He made you to be. I pray also that you know it isn't easy, comfortable or quick... but it IS worth it.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,
who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8.28
- Peace and blessings,