Making Campfire Memories

October 21, 2015

A group of girl campers enjoy their cabin campfire

A group of girl campers enjoy their cabin campfire

You just can’t have a week of summer camp without a campfire in there somewhere. Campfires make for special memories of friends and cabin counselors, shared testimonies of God’s salvation and goodness and moments of quiet reflection at the end of a busy day. There are things about those unique times that are often remembered by campers as well as counselors for many years.

You remember the smoky wood-burning smell and sparks flying into the sky like tiny fireworks.

You remember the fire popping and cracking.

You remember songs, the fast, fun ones that echo back from the mountainsides or other cabin groups, and the slow, meaningful ones whose melodies carry gently off into the night.

And you remember the times of sharing together, testimonies of accepting Christ or of God’s faithfulness during the past year. You remember the camper who usually didn’t talk much but who, emboldened by the shadows and the small group around them, opened up with a glimpse into the needs in their heart.

Or maybe you remember the camper who was always joking, the one who had to be called down on occasion, who, after a time, spoke up and shared something so serious it caught you off guard.

The small cabin campfires which take place Tuesday evenings in the summer schedule provide a time for campers to have fun together as a group doing something special, to laugh and sing and enjoy being outdoors under the night sky. More importantly, those occasions allow counselors to share from God’s Word and perhaps give their own personal testimony to the group. They give opportunity for the campers to share testimonies or mention prayer concerns. During those quieter times as a cabin unit, counselors can sometimes gain insight into a camper’s spiritual background, learn about difficult situations they are facing or other circumstances in their lives.

Hannah Ostrander, a returning counselor from Toccoa Falls College (GA), relates this is especially true of the female groups since girls are naturally ‘programmed’ to be more verbal and prone to express their feelings. “The cabin campfire can often change the whole dynamic of the cabin through what is said and shared,” Hannah says. Though the college age men who counsel boy campers would readily admit the young fellows in their charge aren’t as free to share testimonies or be open with struggles, campfires are still positive experiences for them. Isaiah Banks, a former camper who has also been a summer volunteer for the past two summers, says the boys, too, get closer to each other as well as to God through the time spent together around the campfire as their counselors share verses, devotional thoughts, or their own personal spiritual experience with them.

In addition to these cabin gatherings, a large campfire is held on Thursday evenings at the Hilltop Chapel. The trail to the Hilltop Chapel fills with campers and counselors enroute to the final camp-wide service. In time, the trail opens up to a lovely outdoor setting high above the campgrounds. Rows of benches, amphitheater style, and two large fire pits frame a backdrop of mountains.

At this climatic service, campers are given opportunity to ‘pop up’ and share a testimony with their fellow campers. For some it is the first open expression of the spiritual decisions that have taken place in their life that week sealing it in their heart for eternity. Other campers mention answers to prayer or verses that have come to mean a lot to them. As the sky darkens the week’s speaker shares a final challenge and it’s evident to all in attendance that God is at work in this place.