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It changed my life!

Young boy ready to swim at Lakeview Camp

The Rev. Benton Heisler shares why he and his entire family believe in Christian camping. Registration is now open for the nine United Methodist camps and affiliate sites in Michigan.

Director of Connectional Ministry

Yes, my experiences, as a child, young adult and adult who has attended a significant number of Christian camping opportunities, were transformative to my faith development, and personal relationship with the Living God found in Jesus Christ. My experiences are not unique, I know. In fact, I recently had a brief conversation with my car mechanic. 

“You work with a bishop, right? What Church are you with again?” “United Methodist,” I said.

From there the conversation turned to our current local church experiences, and those of our children and reminiscing about how both of us had spent time at Christian camps. Both acknowledged how it had shaped our kids, and we both expressed commitments to pay for our grand children to attend camp. It is that important to us!

Kids dousing a counselor at camp
A counselor at Judson Collins Center remembers his baptism thanks to an eager group of campers. ~photo courtesy of Michigan Conference Camping Ministries

I recall reading some study some time ago, I am not able to quote it unfortunately, but the statistics revealed that something like 80% of people who make a commitment of faith in Jesus Christ do so before the age of 18. The vast majority of those commitments are made at some camping or retreat context. Further, I recall the study noted that the vast majority of those who do not offer their life to Christ before age 18 rarely ever do so after that. Painful to read. Worse, the consequences are eternal.

Romans 6:23 teaches us, “The wages of sin is death.” I Timothy 1:15 proclaims, “Christ came into the world to save sinners.” I believe every one of those camping experiences touched on these realities and promises in one way or another. How many of us at a Vacation Bible School, camp or Sunday School have memorized John 3:16? “For God so loved the world, that God sent God’s only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life.”

As I sit in a local library working, as my car is repaired, I am surrounded by the sound of preschoolers at “story hour.” The next generation of campers! Now is the time for you to go to the websites and register your children, grandchildren nieces and nephews, or the child or youth next door for a life changing week at a Christian camp! My bias of course is for one of our nine United Methodist camps across Michigan or our affiliate camps at Lake Louise Camp, Camp Michigamme, and Bay Shore Camp.

It costs $400 to send a camper for the week. It is no small amount, but the experience is priceless. I realize that many parents have to choose between sports camps, vacations and day-to day-expenses. Scholarships are available, local churches often assist, you can contribute directly to the Camp Scholarship Fund or just write that check for the family you want to bless! Pay it forward!

Campers play in the ice of Lake Michigan
Camping is not just for summer. A mid-winter retreat for young people provided a polar experience of the Lake Michigan shoreline near Pentwater. ~ Facebook/Lake Michigan Camp

My parents were camp counselors. I became a camper and then a counselor. Linda and I met 45 years ago on a camp team, and we created a deep friendship that has now spanned 40+ years of marriage. Both our daughters have been campers and on the permanent staff of summer camps. We believe in Christian camping.

So, before the summer schedule gets all booked, or you spend any extra cash on some “distraction” that really doesn’t satisfy, change somebody’s life and help them meet the Living God in Jesus Christ through an experience at camp. Pass It On!

~“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)”  Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

Last Updated on October 31, 2023

The Michigan Conference