April 24, 2017 YOUTH CAMP 2017 (College) Camp-in-review  This year’s Youth Camp will always be the camp that changed my life, forever, and nothing could ever top that statement.     “Is There Not a Cause?” The theme speaks of purple, black and white theme, with silhouettes of David defeating Goliath as seen in I Samuel 17. The theme may sound a little bit ‘cliché’, but unlike other camps, this year poses a question, rather than a statement or a phrase. “Is There Not a Cause?” And each service we had to answer, “Yes! There is a Cause!” However, this camp did more than just answering the question with our voices, but it challenged us to answer it with our whole lives.
       This camp is unique in so many ways, and it has been one of the most memorable camps all throughout history to all the young people who attended because this camp moved us in a very peculiar way. Indeed, ‘tis another proof that the Lord can always find ways that are beyond our imaginations or expectations. In this article, I’d like to share how this camp has changed my life as well as others' lives, in a way that no other camp could. This is NOT to give a pat on the shoulders’ of Sir Mark Gray, the main speaker, neither to my church, for being the host. Definitely, this article is not to stimulate pride, but rather to rebuke it, and more so, to surrender it. This article only hopes to magnify the Lord and how He still works and calls young people through camps in many different and diverse ways that are beyond human capability and comprehension.
       Let’s first start with the messages and the songs, because yes, they go together. This camp has been filled with the teaching, preaching and SINGING of the Word of God, of the Gospel. Sir Mark Gray, happens to be equipped and empowered by the Lord to speak and sing to us His Word in such a powerful way. I will always thank God for using him in this camp. His messages and songs mainly spoke of the different aspects of David’s life. Be it his childhood as a shepherd, as a young man, as the captain of the army, as a King, or even in his downfall as a King, or in His cries, praises and worship to the Lord as a psalm writer, Sir Mark was able to make David’s life so relevant to our lives, because we too encounter the battles David encountered throughout his life.
      The messages were divided into several major topics that Christians today have to face. He started off with salvation—being the most important, in his message “Is There Not a Cause to Be in the Right Army?”
Herein, the truth was exposed, “Are you in the right army?”

The scenario of the David vs. Goliath fight was also juxtaposed—Goliath, representing ‘the world’ on the left side, Saul, representing fearful and compromising Christians on the middle, and David, representing those who are willing to stand for the cause of Christ on the utmost right.          How do we answer this question? Sir Mark Gray mentioned from the Word of God that there must have been a change in order for us to determine whether we are under the right army or not. This is where the lines have been drawn. A lot of people know Jesus as the Lord, the Savior of the world, but the question is whether Christ has been the PERSONAL Lord and Savior of a person’s life or not. The question is whether a person could recall a time in one’s life where he/she had repented from his/her sins and put his/her faith SOLELY on Christ. The first message already confirmed who are in the right army and who are still lost. Thankfully, those who are lost did not remain lost that night! Souls have been saved that night and we praise God for the young people who have joined us in the right army.

Tuesday morning, “Is There Not a Cause to Be the Right Witness?”  Was the next topic. After our salvation, our witness comes next as the most important focus of our lives. Here we are reminded of our duty and responsibility as a Christian to let others know that we are, and to let others know about our Lord and Savior. Sir Mark Gray mentioned that it is not enough to be good. Others should be able to see Christ in us, and not us being a good person. So much emphasis on the Great Commission was also given, reminding us that we should witness and remain as a witness to our Jerusalem, to our Judaea, but also to our Samaria—which represents the people we might dislike in this lifetime. If Jesus ministered to the woman at the well at Samaria, why could not we witness to those whom we may dislike due to their background or orientation? We were reminded that the lost will remain to be lost, unless someone takes their time to go out of their comfort zone and show them that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Tuesday evening, and here comes one of the most tearful and life-changing message of the week, for it spoke about “Is There Not a Cause to Do What God Wants You to Do?” Sir Mark Gray asked the crowd whether we think we have our whole lives ahead of us or not. Most of us were confident that we had the future in our hands. However, at the end of the preaching, we all realized the transience and the brevity of life, as Sir Mark Gray recalled stories that depicted how the Lord’s timing is different from ours and how we can never be sure of our tomorrows. He even used an illustration of a timeline, wherein we cannot really tell how long or how short our remaining years on earth would be. He also shared the story and testimony of our late church member who has gone to be with the Lord and how he rededicated his life to serve the Lord fully a day before the Lord took him home. That was the moment where tears broke out of our eyes and yes, I personally came face-to-face with the reality that I might not have any time left, and that for the past years I have been squandering my time in investing things that do not have an eternal value. This, indeed, was the night where I was heavily reminded of my decision way back July 2007 to serve the Lord, full-time. I, in my stubbornness, have allowed the world’s pressures to dictate my decisions, but looking back, I knew all along that the Lord was directing my life to that very point, to that very night, where I finally said “YES” to His call. 
I knew that the rest of my steps will only be filled with meaning and purpose when it is fully surrendered to His will, to His call, to His leading, without any trace of selfish ambitions or any self-centered desire. That night, I stepped out of my comfort zones, into the center of God’s will, and after that night, life has never been the same again.
Wednesday morning came and Sir Mark spoke about “Is There Not a Cause to Stand for the Word of God?” and it focused on loving the Word of God so much that we read and treasure it again and again, as God’s love letter to us. He also mentioned how the Word of God must be the sure foundation of our lives, and that we must study it to show ourselves approved before the Lord. He reminded us of the many functions and purposes of God’s Word to our lives, and how we cannot decipher which is right from wrong apart from the Word of God, being the absolute authority. Indeed, the Word of God is true and there is no reason for us to doubt its authority and its power. Instead we must learn to read, love and live the Word of God. (Coincidentally it sounds like the motto of my undergraduate degree, which was literature. Well what there is better to read, live and love other than the infallible Word of God, being the Literature of all other forms of literature?)
Wednesday evening, Sir Mark talked about “Is There Not a Cause to Stand Against the Giant of Pride?” And here, shots were fired, and daggers flew as bullets straight to the hearts of everyone. Pride is our constant battle, and through God’s Word we are reminded that it has never been about me, us, him, her, them, you. It has always been about Christ. Here we found that there is no room for pride in a Christian’s life, for pride ruins everything—our witnessing, our testimony, our lifestyle, our conduct, behavior, attitude. Indeed, “pride goeth before destruction”. Sir Mark mentioned how pride has ruined different people during the time of David, including David himself, and that how the same effect could happen to us if we do not surrender our pride to the Lord. The Lord greatly moved hearts in that message and tons and bulks of pride were left surrendered at the altar.
Thursday morning was Sir Mark’s last message, for in the evening he held a very powerful and moving Evangelistic Concert (more on that later). He discussed about “Is There Not a Cause to Have the Right Kind of Music?” and our hearts were challenged again, as the Lord searched into our playlists and revealed to us how the kind of music that we listen to can draw our hearts away from Him. Sir Mark also differentiated praise and worship and reminded us of the reality of how, sadly, even some churches around the world have come to confuse the two, only to bring the glory of music into themselves. From the richest book of songs which is Psalms, David has written so much regarding one’s attitude in praising and worshipping the Lord, and how it has been very different to the world’s attitude today. Here, we were reminded to put away songs that do not bring honor to the Lord. It also reminded us of our lives, and that how it should be a constant worship—wherein we constantly lose ourselves, our own will—in our adoration to God. It helped us evaluate our motives for singing to God in church or even outside church. It also helped us evaluate our lifestyles—whether we still worship Him in spirit and in truth, whether we worship Him with a pure and unfeigned motive, whether we are fully surrendered as we come to worship Him, or not. Here he even used the powerful testimony of his mother, showing us that yes, God-centered music can speak so much. It can tell so much of God’s love, grace, power, and it can stir up and challenge hearts and lives to turn from the world and return to the Lord.
Thursday evening’s evangelistic concert indeed resounded Sir Mark’s last message. Through his singing, we were still able to find His Word being preached, we were still able to find ourselves needing the Lord more than ever, we were still able to witness, experience and feel the Lord’s hand so gently upon our lives, regardless of the battles we are about to face once we got down from the mountains. Indeed even until the last night, lives were changed. True enough, it did not make a difference whether it was the preaching or the singing of God’s Word.  Regardless, nevertheless, God’s Word changes lives.
To encapsulate the messages, our notebooks had less of notes, for Sir Mark Gray did not leave ‘quotable quotes’ for us to take note of. But his anecdotal, true-to-life stories all made a mark in our hearts and minds. It further proved that God’s Word and Its truths are always relevant to where we are now. We can always find that our stories in life are universal, and it can be traced back to the Word of God. We realized that the David of the Bible is no different from the Christians nowadays—both human, both capable to fail, but also both empowered by the Lord, both fighting a battle that is not theirs but the Lord’s, both fighting a battle that the Lord has already won, both capable of slaying giants through the might and power of the Lord. We may not remember so much words that Sir Mark Gray uttered, but we were reminded so much of the Word of God heavily imprinted on our hearts and minds. This is one of the many reasons this camp shall always be unique to each heart and life. The Lord is greatly to be praised for impressing unto our His Word through the teaching, preaching and singing of His Word.
But the peculiarity of Youth Camp 2017 does not end with the messages and songs. It continues with the program of the camp itself, being very simple, yet profound. Here another ‘first’ was crafted into the history of Youth Camps—that is, the Ladies’ and Men’s Choir that literally gave a joyful noise unto the Lord. The Ladies Choir involved ALL the ladies of the camp—from Sir Mark Gray’s wife, Ma’am Mary, up to the background or hidden workers of the camp. We sang “Ring the Bells of Heaven” with a wonderful ‘ring ring ring ring’ twist. The same went with the Men’s Choir as they sang “Blessed Jesus, Take My Hand” with an ‘echoing’ twist. We enjoyed it so much for this was the first time it ever happened in camp.
More than the joint choirs, campers also had a different experience on their morning session, which was entitled “Knowledge Challenge”. The Knowledge Challenge was not an ordinary Bible Quiz—it actually reveals how much we do not know the Word of God and how much effort we should place in reading and studying it. Each day, the Knowledge Challenge came in a different fashion, from 4 Pics 1 Word (Tuesday), Wheel of Fortune (Wednesday, where the historical, phenomenal ‘Shepherd’s Bag’ incident happened) to Double Trouble (Thursday), the six groups (which will be further discussed later) collaborated and gave their best when it came to their knowledge of the Word of God. We discovered and learned so much too about the life of David and about the events, characters, settings, themes that could be found in God’s Word.
In the afternoon, the six groups’ members were also divided to two sets of games. If you are a sporty person and thinks that ball is life, you are fit for the ball games which included Basketball, Volleyball and Basketball – Shooting. However, if you are like me who prefers to play indoor parlor games, you may want to try the “Minute to Win It” set of games. But these were not the easy and the usual parlor games. These games tested the integrity and honesty of the group, as well as their strategic skills, but most importantly, it tested their perseverance and determination, all because these games did not allow substitutions to happen. If it is your turn, you have to finish the task before you can hand it to the person after you. It was a test of stamina and character at the same time.
Speaking of the six groups, the host church decided to use 6 weapons that were used during David’s time. Note: All of these weapons start with the letter “S” (okay if you just noticed it now then let me tell you that you are a little too late). The groups are as follows, starting from the champion to the 6’th place. 1. Spear 2. Staff 3. Shepherd’s Axe 4. Shield 5. Slingshot 6. Sword
          It was very evident that all groups enjoyed their company, whether they win or lose. Each group has their memorable moment, for instance:             1. Spear’s tagline – ‘napaka—‘             2. Staff’s greatest moment of pride and humiliation when they were overconfident and said Shepherd’s Axe instead of Shepherd’s Bag during the Wheel of Fortune Knowledge Challenge.            3. Shepherd’s Axe – I could not give one as of the moment, but this was the group who thought that they would be the champions not until Spear and even Staff overtook them.           4. Shield – the only group who had their own cheer which is a simple “1, 2, 3, Go Shield!”             5. Slingshot and its great decline             6. Sword and its consistency to stay on the ground/bottom                      More than these memorable moments, we still have a lot, one of which is the heavy rain that poured last Monday night after dinner. It opened up the ‘van ministry’ to those churches who had vans at the campsite to pick up the campers from the dorms to the dining hall and vice-versa. We thank the hearts of the drivers who fetched us back and forth. It also built the camaraderie between churches right immediately at the first night.                          If you are reading this and you are a camper of that week’s camp, I am sure you could give more memorable moments of your own. We all have new friends as well as old friends who have met again after quite some time. This is also the camp where we had new church friends like “Bahay Pare BBC” and the returning “BBC Sta. Mesa”, this somehow built bridges with the other churches we already know. How blessed it is to form networks of Christian friends who can pray for one another?                  So Yes! There is a cause! And yes! This camp will always be one camp to remember. More than that however, our prayer must always be that our voices and our lives could keep echoing the theme song, that, 
“Yes, there is a cause—to stand for God alone, to speak His words of love, to live dedicated to serve our Lord, to stand, speak and live holy lives.”                
         Truth be told, Youth Camps are one of God's most memorable and amazing ways of showing the world that He is still calling, He is still working and that He has always been winning.


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