Thursday, June 9, 2011

Through My Eyes: A Girl's Xtreme Experience With God

{NOTE: Today's post is from my 14-yr-old daughter, Katherine, who just returned from Xtreme Camp in Oklahoma with our FBC McKinney youth group. Her experience there was so amazing, I decided to let her write about it here at Stitches. Sometimes, we as adults just need to be reminded too... I am in awe of the passion for God I see in this group of teenagers!}
It's Saturday morning. You wake up, much too early after the late night spent packing (or enjoying your last few hours of technology) and drag yourself out of bed to get ready. You're in a daze, hoping you grabbed everything and attempting a facade of excitement, when really all you are is tired.

You get in the car, after dumping all your luggage in the back, and Mom backs out of the driveway. You're barely keeping your eyes open, halfheartedly carrying on a conversation, inside wondering, Why on earth did I ever sign up for this? I'm not sure anymore... You think about voicing your doubts, but then you're in the church parking lot and they're loading your stuff in a big white truck, and everyone else is putting on the same face you are and saying things like, "I'm so excited for this!" and "I can't wait to get there!" You laugh and commiserate about the early morning, trying to ignore that little voice inside of you that still isn't ready to go, and then before you know it you're on a crowded bus with forty-nine other tired kids, watching all your families in a circle praying for a safe journey, left behind as ten buses pull out of the parking lot. You say hi to your friends in the seat in front of you as you begin the three-hour journey to a camp experience you're not sure you're ready for.

This was my Saturday morning.

The bus ride takes forever-- and yet goes by so fast, you're not sure it really happened. You see new people everywhere, like that girl who's gonna be on your cross country team this fall, and that guy two rows back and across the aisle who your friend is convinced she's half in love with. You tried to sleep some, but no luck, and now there's no chance of sleep until (check your schedule) 11:30 tonight because there is the turnoff to CAMP WALK ON WATER-- AHEAD. Next, a huge crowd of kids (Grant soon informs you, 404) are milling around a wide field, looking for their dorms and luggage. You think you might have stood in this place another lifetime or so ago (last summer).

Everything becomes a blur; finding suitcases, unpacking, group picture on a steep hill, introductory rally, meeting family groups (OH the awkwardness. Am I really supposed to confide in these people?), lunch, swim test. The hottest cross country run you've ever been on, and you just want to quit, but you're the only girl running so you press on anyway. Your head is starting to pound from lack of water; your legs are so sore they don't want to move. And then, eventually, after dinner, when all you can think about is a shower and bed, it's time for worship.

You kind of know what to expect-- sit with your new family group, listen to someone speak, sing a few familiar songs with an unfamiliar band. But what you can't possibly have anticipated is introduced to you in two different names: Pat C. and Ryan Rives.

Ryan comes first, leading you (and 403 of your closest friends) in worship songs that touch your heart now and will later bring you to tears. Even tonight, you wake up a little more, focus just a little harder. You're not used to feeling this affected only seven hours into camp.

And then, Pat takes the stage, and your whole perspective changes. On camp, on life, on God. Everything.

He talks about how God can always bring you back to Him, how He is in control and always aware of everything. It's not your average Saturday night sermon; this is a deep and powerful message, delivered with passion and conviction, encouraging those who do not know Jesus as their Savior to make the most important decision of their lives.. not Monday night or even Tuesday.. but now.

Thirty-two new teens join the family of believers this night. You are in awe of God. But He's not even close to being done yet.

The next night, after a similar day of games and electives (What's the difference between heaven and hell?) and a very awkward first session of family groups, is the night you'll remember forever. It's the night where God calls, and you answer.

The message is about the difference between pledging and declaring, about faithfulness. At the beginning of worship, a short video is shown about people who have never heard the gospel shared in their own language hearing the story of Christ for the first time in their native tongue. The reactions of the children are humbling. Your heart seems to cry out, "THIS is what we need to be doing."

So, when Pat tells everyone that can hear God calling them to ministry to go to the back and talk to counselors, you stand up with about ninety-nine other teens and declare your allegiance to God by saying that you will follow His call anywhere.

In the next two days, you meet more new people and learn more and more about what you need to be doing to make good on your declaration. Your family group grows closer, the awkwardness dissipating as you all get to know each other and start to go deeper. You begin to understand that following God anywhere is a lifetime commitment...and you begin to realize just how long a lifetime is.

Monday night... Monday night is awe-inspiring. Where Saturday and Sunday have affected your mind and your decisions, Monday moves your heart to weep. Monday touches your heart and soul. Monday is when you feel God within you, when you are in awe of His glory and power, when you can see Him everywhere around you and know that He is your Creator and you are His, and He will never let you go. Monday breaks you and heals you, leaving a scar on your heart that won't ever go away.

You've been praying so hard for a friend for so many years, and Monday is when she finally comes up to you to say "My life is changed because of what you did for me." You break down completely, crying so hard, thanking God for working through you, mourning for all who are dear to you that just don't understand His importance and incredible sacrifice, praising God for being who He is.

Tuesday. The last day. Your eyes have been opened to what you need to do, your heart has been broken and healed. You have a deep conviction to follow through, but you're really scared that once you're back home, all this will fade like a half-remembered dream. You don't want it to leave; you want your life to be truly altered this time. You know it was real. You know the last song before you boarded the buses truly meant everything, when you raised up your arms, tears running down your face, and sang:

Oh, I'm running to your arms
I'm running to your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world, forever reign

The bus ride home is dark and foggy. You remember talking to your friends, confiding to them about the experience you had and talking about boys, like the guy one row up across the aisle that your friend knows she's half in love with. You remember falling asleep after the girl behind you plays with your hair, uncomfortably propping your knees against the seat in front of you, your contacts sticking to your eyelids and your mouth crying for water. Then, you're stumbling off the bus in the dark. It's midnight, and you look around in a daze for Mom. She yells your name, and after a brief, confusing exchange, you're in the car on the way home. You talk about so many different things, about your declaration, about how your life will change this time. You can hardly dare to hope, but the conviction is still there, within you. God's not done with you yet.

You wake up the next morning and open your Bible, reading through Philippians, taking notes on what God is saying to you. As you look back over what you've written ("God can use anyone and anything in His plans, even those things that appear to be bad." Phil 1:18; "Sacrifice for God. If you follow Christ, you will have to suffer for Him." Phil 1:29), you know He's only just beginning to work in your life.

This was my Wednesday morning...

Links: FBC McKinney Youthquake-
Pat Cammarata-
Ryan Rives Band-
Camp Walk on Water (WOW)-
Hillsong United, "Forever Reign"-


  1. Amy and Katherine - thanks so much for sharing! I too was privileged to be at Xtreme Camp this week (as a sponsor) and I echo many of Katherine's sentiments. Katherine, I will be praying for you as you strive to be different in a world where you are not a citizen. You are making a difference. God is not done! He is changing this generation - one person at a time!

  2. Thanks Alyson! And thanks for your time, effort & love for all the teenagers!

  3. I love this! It is so well written and so clearly shows what went on at XTreme Camp and how God showed up. I was there as a sponsor, and it was incredible.