At Camp Siloam, whenever someone makes a commitment to the Lord, we have them ring the bell at the tower. It rings loud throughout the valley, and all across Camp people stop to clap and cheer. We love to celebrate and affirm our brothers and sisters in Christ.
"Revival is happening."
Camp Siloam's Executive Director Jason Wilkie shared this with me when Caleb and I arrived at orientation last week. He spoke of God's Holy Spirit breaking down walls and bringing people to Him that never truly surrendered to Him.
God has given us a glimpse of the work He plans to accomplish over the summer by starting first with the summer staff. Throughout orientation, three staffers followed-through with baptism post-salvation, and one more authentically began her relationship with Christ. Here are their stories:
"You can feel God here."
"I came to Camp for the first time as an 8-year-old, and I could sense God drawing me to Himself."
Caiden understood the gospel and gave His life to the Lord, and while he was baptized shortly afterwards, he didn't understand what baptism was supposed to represent. He got baptized simply because that's what church kids did.
"Now that I understand baptism, I wanted to act in obedience to God and be baptized. I feared being judged because of that decision."
The devil tries to split us with hateful attitudes and judgement passed on one another. This form of destruction comes most often in communities where Cultural Christianity has a strong presence, and each of the baptized staffers could recognize some of that in their own communities.
"I decided to get baptized at Camp because these people have a deep understanding of God, and they were ready to celebrate with me."
The summer staffers have begun celebration and eagerly await the other souls God will draw to Himself this summer.
"I remember asking Him into my heart and knowing that He had me."
Shelby grew up going to church consistently until her family was told not to come back because of a divorce in the family. After experiencing the hurt this exclusion brought, she only attended church a few times a year when with her dad.
As an early teenager, Shelby recalls a baptism experience.
"I can't even remember why I got baptized. I just remember the rest of my siblings and I all got baptized on the same day. I thought it was the thing Christian kids did."
It wasn't until a few years later that Shelby realized she needed a relationship with God.
"It was God's timing. I had started going to church when my very solid Christian grandfather died. I began to wonder where he went."
She had heard the gospel in church, but to her, the Bible was just a book of stories. At the passing of her grandfather, those stories became real.
"Every day is not guaranteed. I needed security in my relationship with Christ."
Shelby gave her life to the Lord as a teenager but never got baptized after her salvation.
"I didn't realize you could get re-baptized. When I learned you could, God kept putting it on my mind."
While baptism does not secure your salvation, it serves as an obedient act of humility and proclamation of faith.
"I was a little embarrassed about people finding out I hadn't been baptized on the right side of my salvation."
Shelby, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, let go of the fear of what people might say and stepped out in obedience to God. She, like the others, were baptized in the Flint Creek that runs through Camp Siloam.
"Everybody here has been so supportive. Two weeks ago, I didn't know these people, and now they have encouraged me and constantly pushed me toward Christ because we all have this common goal."
"You can see in the way we serve each other that our common goal is Christ."
Cali has spent her entire life in the same church - a church, she claims, that boldly speaks truth.
As a child, Cali thought she knew the gospel, but she didn't understand the importance of the decision she was trying to make.
"I just tried to leave the bad things out versus actually living for Christ."
As a senior in high school, Cali had been asked to step into a leadership role at her church. At that point, she knew she had to take her relationship with God seriously.
"I realized how amazing Jesus' actions for me were. That's when my relationship with God truly began."
Cali quickly saw the fruit of her commitment. As she led, she saw God speaking through her.
"Words would start coming out of me and I would know: This isn't me. This is God speaking."
She quickly plugged in to a God-centered community at college because she wanted to stay deeply committed to God. When she arrived at Camp, God laid it on her heart to follow-through with baptism.
"I was worried about what the impression of me would be if I said something about not having been baptized. I quickly realized, pride needs to be set aside because this is all God; it's nothing I can do. I did not save myself."
She spoke up, and Camp Siloam's new Director of Programs Scott Maxwell baptized her the following day. Those in Cali's life have been nothing but encouraging.
"They're telling me, 'You're getting your relationship right with Jesus. I'm so proud of you.'"
Her fellow summer staffers have been equally encouraging, for at Camp Siloam, we encourage and celebrate authenticity.
"I've been 100% myself since I stepped foot on this Camp."
Following God includes a relationship. For Taylor, the relationship had taken a backseat to knowledge.
"My family has served as missionaries since I was six."
As her family prepared to go overseas together, Taylor made a friend who accepted Jesus and got baptized in a bathtub.
"I thought that sounded fun, and I knew the answers even though I didn't understand the commitment it meant."
As she grew up overseas, Taylor's knowledge grew, but her heart was unsettled.
"I remember my parents talking to my sister about needing 100% faith. They said, 'Doubt is not from God, so if you don't have assurance of your salvation then you need to evaluate your faith.'"
While Taylor recognized that she felt the same way, it wasn't until she returned to the United States and began college that she recognized her relationship with God had never started even though she had the knowledge.
"There are so many temptations that you simply cannot fight if you don't have God."
Over the last year, Taylor has experienced multiple forms of pain and tragedy. Through it all, God led her to work at Camp Siloam this summer.
"I listened to everyone talk about how the gospel had changed their lives. I don't know if it ever changed my life. There needed to be a turning point."
Taylor felt the Holy Spirit drawing her to settle her relationship with God.
"I needed to follow Jesus in my heart and not just in my head."
Though fear of being an inadequate counselor accompanied coming forward with her decision, she knew the decision would only have been postponed.
Now Taylor has surrendered her life to God. She rang the bell on campus, and all through the valley we celebrate her decision, anticipating those who will follow with more decisions this summer.
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”