I never attended camp as a child. I was in college before I attended my first retreat. So when Chris mentioned that he would be speaking at Christmas Institute (a faith-based winter camp for teenagers and young adults) and asked if I would attend with him I was intrigued by the idea.

In true Michelle fashion, I was reserved at first. I knew a grand total of two people and wasn’t sure that I would be able to connect with the campers. I started to feel comfortable opening up to the staff and campers as the days passed. Instead of being so consumed with who I did and did not know I started to focus on the transformations that were happening around me and allowed myself to fully experience camp life.

I slept in a bunk bed and ate cafeteria food for the first time in over a decade. I walked up and down hills that led to the cross. I had Psalm 3:5-6 etched into my heart. I confronted insecurities and was ministered to by the speakers and the campers. I shared laughs and tears with those around me. I encouraged others and received loads of encouragement in return. I sang songs with reckless abandon and reflected on God’s goodness. I ate way too much popcorn and drank too much hot cocoa. I listened to the testimonies and the struggles of the campers and was admired by their transparency. I witnessed love in action and the transformation of hearts.

Despite my initial hesitation, Christmas Institute turned into an event that will forever remain a mile marker in my walk with God. I was in a spiritual valley, if you will, but felt revived watching the youngsters share their lives with their peers. I was inspired by their messages of hope, loss, and redemption. I’ll never forget this experience and hope to return in the future.

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Have you been to a camp or retreat that inspired you and left you feeling ready to take the world? Please share your experience, I’d love to hear about it!