Last weekend (Aug 25th-28th, 2016), I spent time with a group of young people at an Annual Summer Camp over in Maple Ridge. It was held in a beautiful place called Loon Lake. The premises belong to the University of British Columbia Forestry division, called the Malcolm Knapp Research Forest. We felt blessed by the people who had the foresight to design, to construct, and to build the beautiful cabins and the associated amenities that come with it. With a fully equipped kitchen to whip up meals for large groups, the whole place can accommodate up to 178 people. We live in the midst of an environment where wildlife is respected. On our way there, we saw a black bear cub on the side of the road scrambling to run away from our vehicle. Some people reported a cougar sighting about 3km from the site. The lake waters were pristine and clear. Several people swam the lake while others canoe and enjoy the natural waters. There were also hiking trails for people who prefer the land option.
For me, it was an opportunity to connect with the young people. Somehow, the more I tried to connect, the more I become aware of my own limitations. Physically, I could not even do half of what many of the campers could do. While some went canoeing and hiking, my wife and I were content to just walk around the lake, to the docks, and to enjoy the sun and the shade. The average camper had known the others for many years. I was a newbie. Yet, they graciously invited me to be their speaker. I was grateful for the opportunity to share about what it means to be “Up Close” with God and with one another. It was a time of eating, sharing, and on the last night, having fun with materials as simple as newspapers. I was amazed at how creative and knowledgeable the young people were about politics and current affairs. The highlight for me was definitely the Clinton vs Trump mock debates.
I touched on the proximity of God being One who is “always close but never closed.” Scriptures are filled with assurance that God is always near His people.Our feelings are not the primary determinant of God’s closeness to us. In other words, just because we do not feel it does not mean God is not there. Neurologist researchers have shown that there is a certain place in our brain that require a time of quietness and inactivity in order to spur creativity and thoughtful reflection. Using imaging technology, they are able to see thoughtfulness and creativity happening via flashes of brain activities. They conclude that dreaming and creative thinking happens only when a person is at rest. In a digital culture, it is difficult to have such moments because we are always on and always responding to electronic pings and email rings.
Through the five sessions together, we reflected on 1 Peter 5:6-7 by looking at the context of 1 Peter; the reason for the encouragement to cast our anxieties on God; and the way to be close to God through listening, slow reading, praying, and avoiding the distractions of everyday life. Individual campers even had sessions one-on-one to learn to carry one another’s burdens according to Galatians 6:2. Humility is the key attribute behind our ability to listen to God and to each other. Other sessions include workshops, devotions, and a generous spread of worship time. I appreciate the way the worship team diligently planned and rented the musical equipment so that we could have a really good time of worship.
Thanks Madeleine, Henry, Jared, Caroline, Bryan, and many others who had contributed in one way or another. If there is one thing I hope each camper would remember, it would be this. God is always close to us and never closed from us.