I remember the day the earth began to shake. It was June 23, 2013, and Ambassador Youth Camp (AYC) was more than half over. The campers had just enjoyed a day at the Linsly Outdoor Center ropes courses where they tackled team-based challenges and personal tasks such as walking on a balance beam among the treetops.
Back at the campsite that evening, everyone enjoyed a hearty meal in the dining hall and then prepared for one more activity.
At exactly 7:30, campers and staff gathered for what I assumed would be a relaxing and entertaining evening of charades, where teams act out various words and phrases without verbal clues.
There were two teams: boy campers versus the girls. As the games and minutes passed, the decibel level grew higher and louder. It got to the point that you could not hear yourself think. Each presenter grew more frantic as incorrect guesses were yelled out, certain the other team had gained ground. The floors shook and the windows rattled in that old camp hall.
With the end of each round, a winner emerged and the room erupted in even louder screams of jubilation and painful groans of defeat! This went on for more than an hour.
I remember thinking, âI wish more youth in the Church could experience this! I wish all the teens could be at Godâs camp!â
The AYC experience abounds with examples that prove it is invaluable to teenagers in The Restored Church of God. Some girls who stood alone at the beginning of campâwhile all others were introducing themselves or laughing with familiar friendsâfound their best friends and could not stop gabbing with them by the end of the two weeks. Boys who had never played soccer before received high fives from their team after scoring winning shots. Those with a crippling fear of heights overcame it by jumping off the high dive at the pool. Many shy teenagers made an entire room full of fellow campers and adults bellow with laughter as they delivered humorous answers to questions from camp administrators at the final banquet.
When you remove teenagers from the pulls of the world and place them in an environment where Godâs way of life is exemplified in every endeavor, it produces an atmosphere of complete joy. AYC is exciting and profitable in so many ways. It promotes and encourages proper friendships, provides challenging activities, emphasizes teamwork, and teaches godly leadership and love toward others.
Camp is a once-a-year unique experience that prepares youth in the Church to be well-mannered, spiritually aware, and gracious leaders in the soon-coming kingdom of God.
Yet the success of each Ambassador Youth Camp does not just rest on the shoulders of parents and the Churchâs Youth Services Department. One of the most important investments we can make as Christians is to support these young people at this annual two-week adventure through our prayers, encouragement and financial support.
The world is in serious trouble. Fully grasping this helps bring an urgency to your role in AYC. War, violence, the breakdown of character, and countless other problemsâwith no solutions in sightâpaint a dark future for this planet.
One of the most troubling aspects seen today is that yet another generation of young people are not being taught the right way to live. Failing to learn lessons leads to an endless cycle of misery and frustration.
The dire situation causes many teenagers to quit before they really even begin to experience life. Suicide is the most drastic and tragic result of this widespread hopelessness.
Among teenagers, suicide is increasing at an alarming rate. Each day in the United States, there is an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people grades 7-12, according to The Jason Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness and prevention of youth suicide.
Why is this?
Such statistics reveal that countless teenagers have no idea why they exist and that they see no solutions to their problems.
This is where AYC comes in. One of The Restored Church of Godâs responsibilities is to change this pattern of hopelessness among young peopleâstarting in the Churchâby instructing teenagers in the right way to live.
God commanded this important end-time commission in the book of Malachi: âBehold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curseâ (4:5-6).
AYC is a vital tool God uses to strengthen families by turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and vice versaâand to prepare the next generation of leaders.
Pastor General of The Restored Church of God David C. Pack founded Ambassador Youth Camp following the pattern established by the leader of the Worldwide Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong.
Mr. Pack used Worldwideâs Summer Educational Program (SEP) as a template for AYC. He not only taught at SEP in Orr, Minnesota, as a college student in 1968, but also as a minister in Big Sandy, Texas, in 1987âand even later in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, in 1995.
Witnessing the profound impact camp could have on a teenagerâs life, Mr. Pack stated this in an article at the start of AYC, âIt is my belief that every person of this age in the Church should be there if at all possible.â
While Christianity brings with it abundance and joy (John 10:10; 15:11), it also is a life of difficulty as we resist the pulls of sin. Matthew 7:14 calls it a âstraight,â ânarrow,â difficult path. Yet it is not just adults who must sacrifice many things to head down this pathâteenagers do also.
They live in the most dangerous conditions the world has ever seen. They are under attack unlike any previous generation. What better venue to address this problem than to gather teens and allow them to experience a summer camp that lays the foundation for their future?
Mr. Pack fully understood this and that is why he has directed many resources to make an annual two-week camp possible.
Camp was designed to provide an array of profitable activities. God loves variety and He inspired His camp to reflect that part of His Way. There is a stimulating mix of different activities: softball, hiking, a scavenger hunt, flag football, rock climbing, swimming, dancing, soccer, public speaking, daily lectures, fine dining, volleyball, writing, choir, basketball, drawing, canoeing, archery, a campfire, charades and so much more!
From camp songs in the morning to hearty breakfasts; from inspiring lectures given by the ministry to speeches from fellow campers; from daily exhilarating activities to downtime interacting with othersâcamperâs lives are forever changed.
Although camp is filled with many different activities, there is an emphasis on developing leadership.
Guess what? It works!
One young camper from Ohio said this about her camp experience: âI feel like I am more outgoing. Before I would be quiet and let other people do things. I can see myself looking back now and I am less of a follower and more of a leader.â
Godly leadership has everything to do with understanding Godâs government. Mr. Pack explained in the same article: âNo description of summer camp would be complete without referencing the all-important emphasis on how Godâs government guides everything in life, in the Church and throughout the universe. Campers come away each year with a strong sense of structureâincluding regimen, schedule and order according to instructions in everything that is done. However, all of this occurs in an atmosphere that is enjoyableâfun!â
So, what can you do to support this critical commission of strengthening our teenagers and repairing the family unit before the end of the age?
First, know that we all play a role.
Parents, you are no doubt doing a wonderful job training your children using Godâs principles. However, if you have not sent your child to AYC yet, now is the time! You cannot underestimate the influence this time away from home will have on a developing mind that is searching for answers in a confusing and dangerous world.
Your child will experience Godâs government and receive training that cannot always be obtained while living at home. The most beneficial aspect of camp is the camaraderie kids develop, which is rarely experienced at any other time of the year.
One international camper stated, âIt was awesome being with teenagers from all over the world who believe in the same way of life as I do.â Exposing your child to other teens from across the globe is an incalculable physical and spiritual treasure.
Mothers and fathers, realize that your teenagers may not grasp the importance of camp and could be disinterested in attending. Do everything you can to help your children understand the importance of AYC.
From your end, it can be difficult to allow your child to be away from home for an extended period of time. Realize that this an opportunity for both you and your child to grow.
As an added bonus, parents often remark that their children are more respectful, keep their rooms tidier, and overall listen better after camp!
If funds are a major concern, prioritize setting aside money for camp right away. Encourage your child to get a part-time job if he or she is old enough. In addition, Youth Services is able to help with the fee in certain cases. Yet make sure to do your part so that you do not take funds away from those who truly need them!
Sending your teens to camp is one of the most valuable investments in their lives you can make.
All other adults in the Church also have a vital role. Realize that Youth Services works yearlong getting ready for camp. The ministry prepares messages specifically tailored for teens so they can better understand Bible principles. And staff volunteers take time off work and pay their way to help make AYC a success.
Pray about camp throughout the year and even more during the event. Be specific! Be fervent! Know that your efforts will make a difference.
You can also support through financial means. Donating funds so that every teen can attend is important. Because of this, fine boys and girls are able to attend from far-flung places. Without the generous gifts of Church members, they would have never been able to afford to attend.
There are so many other benefits teenagers glean by coming to camp. Allow more quotes from campers to cement the importance of AYC and your role in it:
- âI had the chance to bond with international teenagers from places such as Belgium, South Africa, Nigeria and elsewhere. This helped me better understand the world and how we all live differently.â
- âAmbassador Youth Camp taught me to let my âlight so shine.â It taught me how to serve, andâŠto give others light.â
- âThe lessons that I learned at AYC do not just apply to camp. As with many other 16-year-olds, now that AYC is over, I am on a job hunt. I am confident that I can use what I learned at camp during an interview for a jobâincluding speaking clearly, consistently making eye contact, and sitting properly.â
- âWhen reïŹecting back on the years I spent at AYC, I realized how much camp has inïŹuenced me in a positive manner. Lessons learned from my ïŹrst year still help me to this day.â
- âI realized that by helping and encouraging others, you create even stronger friendships that will last forever.â
No other camp on Earth today can produce such exceptional fruit.
Your Greatest Gift
In the same article mentioned before, Mr. Pack stated: âAYC is carefully designed and structured so that all attendees learn and understand the central importance of contact with God throughout oneâs life. They are taught that character-building does not merely begin with adulthood and/or conversion, but rather is a qualityâthe qualityâeveryone of all ages should be building all the time. You will learn that the gospel of the kingdom of God has a place in it for youâand that you must clearly understand what that is.â
Realize the special gift that AYC is for our teenagers.
For two weeks in beautiful and peaceful surroundings, young people in the Church are given an exclusive peek into an extraordinary way of life. They learn to live, serve and love others all while enjoying fun activities. They can take these qualities home and apply them, which will pay huge dividends for the rest of their livesâphysically and spiritually.
You can make a monumental difference by your support. You too can shake the earth by providing a classroom in nature that will prepare teenagers to teach the rest of the world how to live a happy, peaceful and abundant life.
Invest in our youth. Parents, have the courage and faith to send your children to camp this year. Everyone, have the courage and faith to encourage other teens in your congregation to attend. Letâs all have the courage and faith to share our resources and effort to make a trip to camp a reality for these precious young people, whose potential is limitless.