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Dear parents, friends, and anyone who has a loved one at Life Teen Camp Hidden Lake this week,
My name is Jon Givens and I have the great opportunity to journey with your high school students this week at camp. I work full-time for Life Teen, and getting to host a week of camp is one of the highlights of my year. I am from St. Louis, MO, and I have a wife and two beautiful kids at home (Noah is 2, Kate is 4 months). They couldn’t be with me this week, so if you could throw up a quick prayer for them, I would appreciate it.
Every day, I’m going to write a little synopsis of what we will be talking about during the main session. Hopefully this will help you stay tuned in to what is happening while we are at camp, and maybe even give you some talking points when your teens come home next Saturday and you want to talk about their experience.
On Monday night, we will be talking about the importance of community. At Life Teen, we don’t allow teens to sign up individually, they must sign up as a group with their parish. The main reason for this is that it is SO important that when they become fired up about their faith this week, they have a group of people that they experienced it with that they can go home with to live it out.
Jesus Christ called twelve apostles to follow him, and that number grew in the early Church as a large community of disciples grew. Like the Israelites, they were called to community to worship. They expressed this worship when they went to Mass and celebrated the “breaking of the bread.” We are made for community – we are not created for isolation. God intentionally designed us to support and complement each other. No person is created to be “alone.”
We’ve gathered at camp for a specific purpose, as well – God has called this unique community together to support each other and to worship. We are gathered together in a special way throughout the week to meet Christ in the Mass, just as the Israelites met God at the mountain.
THANK YOU for sharing your teens with us this week. I hope this is a great week for you as well as them. Please keep us in your prayers, and I will keep you in my prayers. If you need anything or have a specific question for me, you can e-mail me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Tuesday! Today is a great day at camp. Monday night everyone got settled in and by Tuesday morning Camp Hidden Lake starts to feel like home.
Tuesday evening will provide all of the teens with an opportunity to go to reconciliation. This sacrament is a beautiful part of our Catholic faith, but it is certainly something that can be uncomfortable for many. I know that for me personally, I still struggle with going to confession on a regular basis. Many of the teens here may go all the time, but I know for many of them it may have been years since their last reconciliation.
In my talk tonight, I want to share how reconciliation is not a scary thing in which we are forced to crawl back to God and beg for forgiveness. Often, I view myself as a beggar asking God to have pity on me and just give me one more chance. But God offers himself to us with immeasurable love and says, “Give ME one more chance to help you.”
Take a second to read Luke 15:11-32.
This is a story that we all know and have probably read many times. The important point that I want to bring attention to is that when the father saw his son still a long way off, he RAN to him and embraced him. This changes our view of God from a vengeful judgmental God, to one that just wants to love and embrace us. The point of this story is not the sins of the son, it is the unending love of the father. The son needed to come back to allow the father to show him that love.
When we sin, we cast ourselves into darkness. We distance ourselves from God. Without God’s grace and mercy, we will be lost to darkness forever. Jesus Christ is the light that shines in this darkness. Jesus gave his life so that we could have life; his mercy is bigger than our sin. We must be honest about our sin and allow the light of Christ to shine into that darkness so it can be dispelled and we can be free. We do this through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Please pray for all of the teens tonight, especially the ones that have a heavy heart when we talk about forgiveness. Many of them may have something in their life that is distancing them from God. My prayer is that they can offer that up to God tonight and let it go.
It has been a wonderful week of camp so far, and it is hard to believe that we are already about halfway done! I have been pushing and challenging the teens every step of the way, and they have been challenging me in my life to keep going deeper in my own faith life.
Tonight, we will be diving into scripture and how the “word has become flesh.” Sometimes we as Catholics get the reputation of not reading scripture, and we don’t take the time to let it have an impact on our personal lives. Sure we hear the readings at Mass, but it can become static to us, or it feels like a textbook with people, places, and facts that you have to memorize for a test.
God uses our language in sacred scripture to speak truth to us. The story of salvation is God’s love story with us. If we were in love with someone we would want to know everything about them. The bible reveals God to us.
I am going to have the teens look up some Bible verses, and I welcome you to do the same:
The Word became flesh to show that we have a loving God who didn’t want to stay up in heaven and send down rules, he sent his son to live with us, be human, and suffer. This allows us to feel united with God when we suffer, because he understands and has lived it.
The Old Testament was about laws and the memorization of rules. The New Testament is about Jesus’ call to “drop our nets and follow him.”
What “nets” in your own life do you need to let go of and drop so you can follow God more closely?
Following the talk, we will go to Mass and after each reading the teens will have the opportunity for 5-10 minutes of reflection and journaling so they can truly concentrate on the scripture and what God is revealing to them through His word.
I hope you are all doing well! I am so blessed to be with your kids this week, they are so inspiring and they continue to respond to the challenges that I am putting in front of them to go deeper in their faith. They have been building community through the ropes courses and other fun activities, but they have also been praying with each other and encouraging each other to participate in the sacraments every night.
We continue to have Mass everyday, and last night they were given the opportunity to journal throughout the mass after each reading so they could really meditate on what God was telling them through the scripture.
Tonight, we are going to mix up our normal flow of the main session. We are going to start as a big group for some praise and worship music, but then we will break up into men’s and women’s sessions. Luckily for the teens, they get to hear from someone other than me tonight. For the men, they will get to hear from the main musician this week, and below is a blurb from him about what he is talking about:
My name is Matt Franklin and I do Youth Ministry in Oceanside, California. I am so blessed to be at Hidden Lake this week to lead and worship with this amazing team and all these awesome students!
In tonight’s men session, we will be tackling the question of, “Do I have what it takes?” This question has been present in the lives of men from the beginning. Do I have what it takes to make the team, to get the girl, to get into a good college, to honor God with my life? No matter who you are, the question remains and the answer is…YES!
We will be reading the story of Ehud from the book of Judges 3:12-23. In this story we will see that God can restore an entire people and use the most unlikely of characters (according to the worlds standards) to assist in his plan of salvation and victory. We are all Ehud to some extent but through our faith in Him, God will use us to do incredible things because we do indeed have what it takes!
The women will hear from one of our staff members, Amanda Grassi, from our sister camp, Camp Covecrest in Tiger, Georgia. Here’s a blurb from her as well.
What a blessing to be able to journey with your daughters, even for such a short time. The focus of women’s talk is our true identities as beloved daughters of a loving Father. We will touch on the struggles we face with how we see ourselves, comparison, and our sexuality. We also touched on how to be loving sisters instead of “drama mamas.” One big encouragement was for the ladies to trust the wisdom and guidance of the Church, their youth leaders and you, even when they don’t always understand the “why” behind things.
Parents, if you aren’t talking to your daughters about these things, it’s never too late to start! If you don’t talk to them about it, they will learn from other places: movies, magazines, friends, etc. Don’t be afraid to touch on difficult topics—it can be daunting, especially if you don’t know where to start. If you feel like you don’t know the “why” behind Church teaching or just need a hand in how to approach topics, here are a few excellent resources to help out: “Theology of the Body for Beginners” by Christopher West, and “Beyond the Birds and the Bees (Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids)” by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak. There’s also a great little booklet called, “Pure Womanhood” by Crystalina Evert that would be a great to go through with your daughters. May the Lord bless you and all of your conversations!
Today is the last full day of camp, and will hopefully be one of the most memorable! This afternoon we will have muddy games where your kids will be absolutely covered from head to toe with mud, and I promise lots of great pictures will be taken and posted online. I have also promised that I will be joining them, so I’m sure I will get more than my share of mud in the face from your wonderful teens.
All week we have been talking about building up our communities and how we are called to live out our faith when we leave camp and go back home. That is all very important, but tonight I want it to be an extremely personal experience for them. This is all about them and God, no one else, face to face.
We will talk about the last supper, which is a passage that we know well and we are called to remember every time we celebrate Mass. The last supper is so beautiful to me because this is what Jesus chose to do in the final hours before he knew he would be tortured and crucified. He had a LOT on his mind. He was busy, and when we leave camp tomorrow we will go back into our busy lives. But before he left his disciples, he sat down with them face to face and shared a meal with them.
This is what Jesus is offering us when we have Eucharistic Adoration this evening. A personal Jesus who comes to be with us so we can experience him and see him face to face. He doesn’t just come to us as a group or as a community, He comes to be with each person individually to love them, care for them, and show them His mercy.
I will have us all meditate on Matthew chapter 9:18-26. This is where the woman sees Jesus in a crowd and knows that if she can just reach out to him and touch him, she will be healed. In the midst of a busy crowd, Jesus notices her and says that, “her faith has saved her.”
In this same way, we can have the courage to reach out to Jesus tonight and offer him our lives. This personal connection and relationship with Jesus is the true way that we can live out everything that we have learned this week at camp.
I challenge you to spend some time in prayer tonight for your teens. If you can, maybe go to a local Adoration chapel and join with us. We will be in adoration from 7:45-8:45 EST.
I would like to say that it has been an honor to serve this week and get to know your teens. I have been praying for you throughout this week as well that you would open yourself to God’s call in your life, and allow yourself to be inspired by your teens and continue these conversations when they get home this weekend.
If you ever need anything, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. My full-time job at Life Teen is fundraising and development. You have see the first-hand impact of Life Teen camps on teenagers. If you or anyone that you know would be interested in talking about how you could possibly donate to help us continue to improve and expand Life Teen camps, please call me!
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