Meeting with God on the Mountain

September 06, 2021 | Youth | Heidi Baumgartner

Mountain top experiences are not soon forgotten: a symphony performance, an exhilarating conversation, a hard-earned achievement, a significant life milestone or a discovery of natural beauty.

Sometimes, it is truly a mountain top experience.

Like many camps in an emerging pandemic environment, Sunset Lake Camp in Wilkeson, Washington, found themselves in need to shorten the camp week to accommodate safety protocols between overnight camper groups.

Instead of leaving on Sunday mornings, campers left on Friday evenings in a carefully executed system to protect the health and wellbeing of campers, parents and staff. This impacts the sequence of programming, staff days off as well as Sabbath.

“Sabbaths are very different; there are no kids here,” said Madison Turner, program director and chaplain. “This makes Thursdays and Fridays more important for helping campers spiritually connect with the messages and activities of the week.”

With the entire camp staff having Sabbaths off, they are rediscovering the benefits of Sabbath rest.

“We have a box in our minds about what Sabbath should look like,” said Shadrach Grentz, staff photographer. “We can worship God in many ways. This summer, the staff had opportunities to do something in nature and to experience God in a new way.”

One Friday night, Grentz and a few friends went to Sunrise, the highest point in Mount Rainier National Park, to camp overnight and watch the sunrise. Additional camp friends joined them in the wee hours of the morning for a short 3 a.m. hike to watch the pre-dawn colors and brilliant moon illuminating Mount Rainier.

As the sun came up around 5:30 a.m., the group of 20 took several moments to be silent and just listen. They joined together in a prayer circle in the morning light and then walked down to enjoy breakfast brought to them by the camp's executive director, David Yeagley.

“Not everyone does the outings,” Yeagley said. “We planned a series of outings (mostly around Mount Rainier) for those who wanted to go, and it has made an impact. At the end of Sabbath, when we come together for Bible study and worship, you hear the stories and see how the staff are rediscovering the blessings of Sabbath.”

Jessie Park, a student nurse and health assistant, wasn’t planning on going on each weekly outing. Yet with each excursion, she found herself learning life lessons like setting her own pace or stretching beyond her comfort zone. Most importantly, she found herself in greater awe of God’s creation. “I feel how magnificent God is when I am in nature,” she said.

“God wanted us to have a mountain top experience like this,” said Michael Herrera-Teran, a boy’s counselor. “I felt reassured and knew I could trust God in my relationships, thoughts, doubts and worries. This experience set me up for a better rest of my day and for a better week. I knew God was with me.”