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Highlights of the second Theology Camp

January 17, 2014

This is the last day of Theology Camp, week 2. I am sitting in the main room of the Retreat Lodge, delightfully alone with a mug of coffee and a slab of cornbread fresh from a batch that I have just pulled out of the oven for the students.
I am watching the sun rise over the mist of the lake and reflecting on the week.

The memories are good.

This has been a hard week, quite a challenge, but upon looking back I’d say that the Lord has planted a few seeds in the hearts of our campers. Things went along quite well overall.

This is not to say that we were without any difficulties. The plumbing was still inadequate, as was the first week of camp. We got another arctic blast that hindered a few outdoor games. Most of the firewood was too wet to make the planned Thursday evening bonfire. I was eating a Cheez-It, of all things, and felt an odd sensation in my mouth – my back molar shattered and rolled right out of my mouth.

However, the Theology Camp was gung-ho, spot-on, full-bore fun and energy literally from sunrise to sunset. The students, as you know, make all of the meals. We feasted on pancakes made by Lauren, hash browns whipped up by Brandon, muffins baked by Landon, and hot chocolate artfully prepared by Riley. And that was just breakfast! Pork loin, nachos with salsa and queso, biscuits, baked sweet potatoes, bowls of fruit, plates of vegetables, not to mention a standing table imagelined from one end of the other with cereals of every kind, ranging from the uber-healthy to the diabetic-endangering. No, we didn’t go hungry.

These camps differ from many of the other Winterims in that from the minute the students awake until the time they head into bed for the evening, we are with them in instruction virtually every minute of the day. We do not have much “free time” involved – I like to use every available minute, whether in testimonies, friendship-building, Q & A time, Bible studies or group challenges. The round-the-clock teaching exhausts my staff, but I feel it is a necessary part of the camp week.

I do not arrange these camps to emphasize games by any means, but we did indeed play numerous contests as i showed the rules and guidelines in order to help prepare each student to be a potential youth leader. After explaining and outlining, we engaged in many a war: Seat-of-the-Pants Volleyball, Newcomb, Photo Scavenger Hunt, Mafia card game, Manhunt, Carpet Sumo Wrestling, Runaway Train, and my favorite, 1940s Radio. All were highly active and great team-building exercises.

Especially hilarious was the Pickle Juice Trivia Challenge. I brought my quiz machine and we set up a contest where campers could dare each other for a round of trivia questions to see which loser would have to drink a full cup of straight pickle juice. The results were so much fun (who can forget twice JT gulping down his pickle juice in losing causes?) that I added a twist: the fourth round challenge required that you drink the full glass of pickle juice that has a handful of Apple Jacks cereal heaped into the drink. We will long remember Adaira laughing and grimacing while she slowly and painfully drinks and chews her way to the bottom of the glass.

The Bible sessions, though, were the meat of the Camp. Our 1 Thessalonians 5 study elicited a lot of responses as we talked about carrying one another and building each other up. Savannah noted that this was one of the most memorable parts of the week – to learn to carry each other spiritually and even emotionally. We also had an intensive time in Matthew 10 in talking about carrying our cross. The crosses in our lives are diverse, but all show that we are ready to sacrifice daily for our Lord Jesus Christ.

We studied cults, we discussed Heaven, we reviewed atheism and agnosticism. Foremost, though, was our debate time, and we had multiple debates. Apologetics ruled the day whenever we got down on the mat and debated. I played the part of the non-Christian and the group as a whole presented the plan of salvation and the Bible as true while I countered and parried about, forcing them to dig deep into their faith and their Christian education in order to show me from the Bible why Jesus is so important and who was He anyway? The sparks flew.

Matt was careful, methodical and articulate in his answers to my objections. Nathan wrapped up the final round with a powerful summation.

Kellen made one of the highlights of the Dinner Debate as he presented a great analogy of the Fall of Man using, believe it or not, an illustration of a motorcycle. “When you’ve been given the opportunity to have any car in the entire lot – any Mustang, Mercedes or Lamborghini – and told the only rule is that among all of these thousands of vehicles you should never touch the motorcycle in the corner, wouldn’t that be a pretty significant thing to ignore all of the other choices and specifically choose the option that was off-limits?” He was able to clearly parallel his illustration to Eden and explain that, no, it was not specifically fruit that was the issue but disobedience. Well played, sir.

The final Big 90 Minute Debate ended in a draw as decided by the judges (of which I was one). The group didn’t succeed in explaining fully and overcoming all of my objections, but I must admit that they did make the plan of salvation rational and understandable. Enough of my questions were answered that i felt that they held their own. Virtually every camper had a hand in answering, yet there was no shouting match or overwrought emotions. It was a very good presentation on their part.

Especially important was what the students took away from it. “I usually get my words confused and cannot pull my thoughts together, but I learned that I can actually do this,” said Gabrielle. Lauren was especially excited: “I have never really spoken up before. I’d let someone else get involved and I would sit back, a little afraid… but I did it! I spoke up and got right into it!”

The students learned a bit more about Jesus Himself. They studied His direct teaching. They stood up and defended His historicity, His sacrifice, His deity and His salvation…

…and that, my friends, was the goal of the camp. Above all of the mechanics of debate and the depths of cross-referencing, I wanted us to see Jesus. It seems to me that more than a few generations of American Christians have neglected to bring Jesus into the forefront of their conversations, activities, actions and reasons behind their decisions. This week we reached into our souls and smashed the roadblocks of indifference, apathy, and yes, forgetfulness in order to get Jesus Christ the savior back into His proper place in our lives.

This is why I am a Bible teacher.


P.S. I have asked for – and received – quotations from my students to add to the Quotable Academy section of my Zockoll University site. You can see them by going to the Quotable Academy section after clicking here:


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