I’m not sure when it hit me. Perhaps it was the long drive up the mountain on a sparkling clear afternoon. Maybe it was while worshiping and praying on the Eastern overlook. It might have been while watching a group of pastors praying over teary-eyed campers, or maybe it was seeing those same high school students cheering for the performers in the talent show.
But hit me it did. Somewhere during four days at Laurel Ridge, I got it. I finally understood what it means to experience the Holy Spirit on that mountaintop. I felt what it means to have a fire lit within oneself as part of the camping experience.
I could write a travelogue of my visit to Laurel Ridge — what I did, who I worked with, what I saw, how I got there. But it’s the feeling and inspiration I took away after living the week’s theme, “Light the Fire” that makes for a more interesting tale.
In some ways, that theme was literal — moments around a blazing campfire made me feel blessed to be there. Under the stars, lit by the firelight, with talented M-staffers playing and the whole camp singing, followed by inspirational words from pastors and the moving “Jude Benediction” to close things out… all I can say is I was awestruck. And to be able to add my guitar to those of the counselors the following night ranks high with my favorite playing experiences ever.
In other ways, lighting the fire meant kindling an interest in something new. I led a photography interest group with a group of three campers and two counselors. We talked about cameras and how they worked, then each took one of my cameras with the charge to find and photograph things that said “Laurel Ridge” to them. What they returned with was wonderful — images of trees, flowers, campers, the bell, the lake, signs, trails, crafts and more. When taken together, those personal images tell a compelling story of the feeling of Laurel Ridge.
The Thursday morning sunrise service rekindled my awe of the majesty of God’s creation. I woke before six to pray and sing with a group of about 30 campers and counselors in the dawn light. We then climbed to the Eastern Overlook for a service lit by the sun rising through the clouds over the distant mountains. Prayer and quiet contemplation in that heavenly light left us with a feeling of wonder and peace.
Time at Laurel Ridge lit fires of friendship between campers. During my few days there, I met and worked with a wonderful group of Moravians. Some were people whose paths had crossed mine before: pastors, counselors, M-staff members, even campers. But more importantly, I met many new people who shared their love for the Lord, their church, and the experience of being together. I could see friendships forming among the campers, too — ones that would last far beyond the closing worship come Saturday morning.
Senior High Camp also sparked a greater interest in Moravian mission among the campers. In one session, we learned about the church around the world, heard from campers from Jamaica and Canada, and recognized and blessed all of those who involved in mission for their current and future work. I could see that this group of kids would make a difference in the world.
I saw the flame of talent burning in this group of campers, too. Wednesday night was talent show night. I know there’s solid talent among the youth of the Southern Province — I had seen some of it at Convo in 2012 — but I was blown away by the singing, playing, acting and yes, even goofing around that occurred on that stage. There were songs of faith, love and hope, lifted with great feeling. Even more overwhelming, however, was the response of the campers. Wild cheering and clapping followed each performance, as the campers supported and appreciated the talents of their peers.
But I think where I really saw the fires of faith being lit and stoked was in the Communion Service on Friday. Led by the pastors in residence that week, the service included times of personal prayer, with each minister praying-over individuals or groups of campers. Tears, laughter and hugs were in abundance. I even found myself surrounded by two pastors, praying over my work, my team and me. One couldn’t help feeling the Holy Spirit alight in all those present.
I could go on for pages and pages about my few days at Laurel Ridge, and perhaps one day I will; space prevents me from doing so here. But as I drove back toward civilization on Saturday afternoon, I knew that the fires lit at Laurel Ridge would warm me long after I’d left the mountain. And, of course, I can’t wait to get back.
From the September 2014 Moravian Magazine