Camper encounters God’s love, grace, and call to ministry at camp
Epworth Forest - If camp had started just a few days earlier, 15-year-old Tyler wouldn’t have been able to make it - his probation sentence would have kept him home.
Earlier in the year, Tyler was arrested for assault, battery and disorderly conduct; his probation ended just in time for him to attend Epworth Forest’s high school camp, That Thing. While packing for his second trip to camp, Tyler made a last-minute decision to leave his pill bottle at home. Three days later, he was sober and suffering from symptoms of withdrawal.
“I feel like God’s hand is on my heart helping me through this storm. It’s amazing what little time, what great people can do at church camp,” Tyler said. “My whole life has changed in just three short days.”
One summer earlier, the teenager arrived at camp depressed and prone to cutting. He left having conquered his desire to hurt himself, but not his dependence on drugs and alcohol. In summer 2013, Tyler conquered much more, and the change in his personality was obvious to those around him.
Impact 2818 summer staffer Anna Clark was Tyler’s previous counselor at camp, and she was pleasantly surprised by the growth she saw in him.
“It’s day and night compared to the kid he was last year. He was more distant and it was hard to get him to participate. He just had a dead look in his eyes and looked like a sad kid,” Anna said. “This summer you could see the look in his eyes and you knew there was something going on. He always had a smile on his face and you could tell he was completely different because of the joy of the Lord.”
Tyler knows God was behind it all, making sure his probation ended just in time for Tyler to attend camp.
“I think God wanted me here and God wanted me to get clean, because it was time for me,” Tyler said. “I’ve been trying to get clean for awhile, I’ve just never had the push to challenge my faith and to do it”
The week before camp, Tyler realized just how destructive his addiction was, but he wasn’t willing to give it up. God, however, had other plans. Through a series of small group discussions, sermon messages and worship sessions, Tyler felt the Lord calling him to leave behind the addictions that were consuming him.
“In giving your life, you have to die inside to grow,” Tyler said. “I’m letting my addiction die so I can grow and be rooted to God.”
Tyler had previously been kicked out of his home and was living in a one-bedroom apartment with his brothers at the time when he came to camp. One evening after worship, the Lord laid forgiveness on his heart–Tyler called his family to forgive them and ask for forgiveness in return.
God continued to move in even bigger ways during Tyler’s week at camp. The student left with a desire to start a youth group at home, fund a well in Africa through the Let Them LOL organization and go to college. He now plans to follow God’s call to ministry and wants to be a pastor making disciples for Christ.
“God can push you, and you can do things you never imagined possible,” Tyler said. “You can feel the love that you never imagined possible.”
He knows the road moving forward won’t always be easy, but Tyler is confident in the support he’ll receive from his pastor and the friends and counselors he met at camp. A Campus House camper, Tyler spent the week with Impact 2818 staff counselors who poured into him with the love, support and encouragement he needed.
“The commitment is the hardest thing that really challenges your faith. It’s easy to say you’re committed than to actually do it,” Tyler said. “But I’m very committed to getting clean.”
One thing Tyler is sure of is that he’ll be back at Epworth Forest next summer.
“I’ve felt so much love from God and hope and a joy I’ve never felt in my life before. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” Tyler said. “Camp has been a strongly positive influence on my life. Through all the negative and all the bad and all the evil and all the sin. Here you can just feel the presence of God.”