By Joe Torosian
This picture is so haunting to me.
I love it, and I’m not even in it. My church attendance in those days (1979) was about once a year…and always with protest.
I know so many of the people in this photo as friends and ministers. Many of them have already graduated to be with the Lord. Some have stepped away from their faith. Some stepped away from their faith for a long time before returning to it later in life. Some went into full-time ministry. Some became missionaries.
As we get ready for Outsiders Kids Camp at Granite Ridge next week—knowing of the commitments and bonds that will be made—I come back to this camp picture from 42-years ago.
I’m going to guess the majority of the 250-300 people in this picture left camp feeling great. I’m sure they thought they’d be back. I’m sure they thought the connections they made would be forever. I’m sure they thought the decisions they made to live for the Lord would remain.
While, for a few, the connections, decisions did last forever, and many did come back–most didn’t. None of that makes the week any less authentic.
But what it reminds me of, and why it is so haunting, is it speaks to how fleeting the time is. It goes by so fast. And it seems in that moment, in that sacred space of place and time, with the Lord…(In 1979, Monday-thru-Saturday. In our day, Monday 5PM to Friday 10AM)…all goes by in a blur.
What was offered was the opportunity to change a life forever–your own or someone else’s. This picture represents the only time in all the ages before and after that this group of people (in total) were all together to hear the Word offered, the Word worshiped, and the Word changing a life.
The students & staff coming to the Ridge next week will only be together this one time—for one 90-Hour stretch—and never again.
There will be other camps…but this camp will only come around once. And for most—at least many—this will be the only opportunity to make connections and decisions that can change their lives forever…and the lives around them…and the lives they’ll meet later in life…and the lives of those unborn.
This can’t be given away and treated just like any old camp with the thought that another will come around again next year. This is the opportunity—the moment for the camper to grasp life with the Lord. The moment the staffer can share the grace of the Lord in voice and action.
It wasn’t this camp but a church retreat the same year that impacted me. A woman named Barbara Fraley came up to me as I was watching my brother play on the church basketball team. She sat next to me on the bleachers.
I immediately got very spiritual and prayed inwardly that she wouldn’t talk to me. I wasn’t comfortable with all the church stuff.
“Joe, are you going to the retreat?”
“Nah,” I said. I was too cool for church retreats.
“You need to think about it, friend. These things (retreats) don’t come around too often.”
It didn’t persuade me. I didn’t go to the retreat.
And she was right. In my youth, in my high school years. There never was another retreat.
I eventually got right with God, but whatever happened at the retreat–I missed. Whatever bonds built, whatever decisions made, whatever potentially life-changing event taking place was lost to me.
Every minute of every hour spent in a sacred place—a place set aside for ministry like Granite Ridge—is fleeting and precious. We need to redeem them for all they are worth.
Our nuts & bolts are in place for camp, but I’m asking you to commit to joining us in prayer. So at the end of the week, there will be tearful goodbyes, connections made, and decisions for the Lord.
Pray that the lives of the students and staff will be changed. The lives of those in their homes will be changed. The lives of those they go to school and work with will be changed, and even the lives of those yet unborn will be changed.
…And maybe even set in motion the changing of lives in far off, far away, unseen years.
(I’ve added the link to our 90-Hour Prayer sign-up in the comment box below.)