NCLB, better known as the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, ensures that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education. NCLB is focused on the academic aspect of education and what a teacher must do to help every child finish school. But for the Christian teacher it’s different because Christian education emphasizes holistic living and making sure the main focus is Jesus.
Similarly, an Adventist summer camp is so much more than just any summer camp. This became a whole new reality to me this summer at North Star Camp. Camp director Pastor Jeff Wines invited my husband, Pastor Rodriguez, to be the speaker for Tween Camp (12-13-year-olds). We thought it was a great opportunity and brought our 13-year-old daughter to experience summer camp for the first time. I must admit that I have always been skeptical of the idea that a parent can leave a child with complete strangers for a whole week. So, knowing that I would be present, the idea was not as horrifying to me. But what I learned was amazing!
I had a preconceived idea that camp was all about outdoor activities and plain fun. Instead, I learned that it was also a tremendous spiritual experience for everyone involved—including myself. The camp staff had a daily skit on the life of Paul and how he influenced people from different walks of life to accept Jesus. I saw campers connecting spiritually to the staff, the pastor and to one another on a daily basis. The staff made learning about Jesus fun, and the campers were excited to participate. They wrote songs, poems and skits of what they learned and experienced about the Bible.
The staff were very tuned in to their campers, and because of this the campers confided in the staff more every day with their personal struggles and problems. During game time campers who did not feel up to playing were not “left behind.” I saw the staff checking on them and caring for them. Right in the middle of the games, they stopped to pray with them.
The connection these young adults had with the campers was amazing! God was working through the camp staff and almost overnight these young adults became role models and mentors to the campers. Like Paul, these young adults, mostly high school seniors or college students, were modeling Jesus. They were witnessing every moment. I even experienced prayer before going on a boat ride.
I asked Pastor Wines, “How do you find staff like this?” He replied that he gives all his concerns to Christ and allows the Holy Spirit to guide him through this selection process.
It’s the only answer that makes sense since he was not just looking for staff; he was looking for holistic staff who could make the difference at North Star Camp. I know that someday these young adults will become pastors, teachers, counselors or other professionals using their God-given gifts to reach the world for Christ.
Friday evening the staff concluded their story of Paul. Then Pastor Rodriguez delivered a powerful message about the sacrifice the Father made for us. He illustrated it by asking the campers to participate in a difficult fictional exercise. They were to write five names on a piece of paper: their best friend, pet, mom, role model and Jesus. If those listed were tragically removed from their lives, what order would they choose and who would be last? As the names were being slowly deleted, the facial expressions of the campers and staff became sad. At the end, Pastor Rodriguez told them that if the last name was Jesus they had made the right decision, because Jesus is the only One on whom we can rely. As hard decisions and circumstances come our way, Jesus will always be the One we can trust and only through Him will our loved ones be returned to us.
As the Sabbath began the staff washed the campers’ feet. The program director explained that this camp was about the campers, and the staff were there to “serve” and make them feel accepted. What a way to end a wonderful week! There were circles of prayers and tears. The joy could not be described with words. This was yet another way of demonstrating that no child gets left behind at North Star Camp.
Author Elizabeth D. Rodriguez is principal of the Capital City Adventist Christian School.