The first time I ever visited Camp Covecrest, there was one moment outside the small, white chapel that I’ll never forget.
“Men of God-”
A group of men were huddled together in a circle just outside the chapel doors, swaying side to side, quietly chanting a call-and-response that was progressively getting louder.
“Men of God-”
14-year-old me was in absolute awe of these men. It wasn’t just because they were soon yelling at the top of their lungs and their shouts echoed off the nearby hills, it was because they were all college-aged guys who were living out their faith and serving as summer missionaries.
At the time, I was already struggling with finding stability in my faith in high school, and the idea of going to college and being able to stay holy seemed as likely as me being able to walk across the lake not far from that chapel at Covecrest.
But here were a group of college kids guiding us through obstacle courses, leading our small groups, answering my questions, and seeming so incredibly joyful in pursuing holiness.
Being able to journey with those summer missionaries during my week of camp, and learn from the men especially, absolutely helped make me the man I am today.
Today though, we face a dilemma: we need more men to rise up.
This past summer, more than 5,000 middle and high school students attended a Life Teen Summer Camp. Parishes from all around the country traveled to Georgia and California for a week full of fun, messy, classic summer camp activities mixed with powerful, insightful and uplifting prayer experiences.
The 22 weeks of camp would not have been possible without summer missionaries. College students from all over the world serve on summer staff at Covecrest, Hidden Lake, and Golden State to help each teen who visited camp grow closer to Christ.
Many teens arrive to camp like I did: with serious doubts, big questions, and a lack of consistency in their faith. The missionaries that journeyed with my parish, especially Mark, our male summer staffer, helped 14-year-old me understand that God had a great plan for me, and that it wasn’t all going to be revealed at once.
Mark didn’t try to have all the answers, act like he was the holiest guy on the planet, or even pretend like he himself had it all together; he simply met me where I was at, walked with me throughout the week, and pushed me closer to God. Through the way he served on summer staff, when I saw Mark, I saw Christ.
Mark was just one of several men who were in that circle at Covecrest years ago.
This next summer, for the sake of the thousands of teens coming to Life Teen Summer Camp 2017, we need more men today to fill that circle.
Answer The Call
The summer staff are the hands and feet of camp; serving meals, assisting in prayer activities, and leading the fun throughout the week are just a few of the essential roles performed.
A normal summer staff group typically consists of twelve men and twelve women, per session of camp. With five sessions in total across three summer camps, that’s about 120 summer staff every summer: 60 men and 60 women.
While college-aged women have been steadily filling out applications since they opened in August, at the time of writing this blog, only 16 male applications have been submitted.
From Matthew 9:37, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” We need more Catholic, college-aged men to answer the call. If this is you, or if you know someone who you think would be a great Life Teen Summer Missionary, in the words of John Cena — the time is now.
The impact that summer missionaries can have is powerful. My experiences at summer camp eventually led me to apply to be a summer missionary in 2012, and it was the most fulfilling summer of my entire life. The opportunity to lead teens closer to Christ, in the same way that I was led, felt like I was truly living out my baptismal call to be a missionary, a call we all share.
If you’re a young man reading this — we need you. Teens need you. The female summer staff need you. The Church needs you. There are entire parishes, schools and communities that can be radically changed by a group of young, male leaders.
We need more men to apply not just in order to make summer camp happen, but because we have the opportunity to truly change the world with authentic, Catholic masculinity.
Men, it’s time to rise up. If you feel like you’re being called to something big but you’re not quite sure what, or you have the desire to be a part of something larger than yourself, pray about this.
While I’ll never forget that image of the men at Covecrest huddled together arm-in-arm, yelling like madmen in the Georgia mountains, I’ll also never forget the impact those missionaries had on me at a time when I needed it the most.
They showed me the path to become a man of God, to conquer temptation, to love sacrificially, and to rise up into my faith, which continues to grow louder, and louder, and louder.
“MEN OF GOD-”
Applications are open until November 15th, and more information can be found about summer missions and summer staff at https://lifeteen.com/missions/summermissions/.