The annual trip to Bible camp at Washington Family Ranch expanded this year. The Oregon Conference youth department added a second week to the Bible camp experience to include students in junior high as well.
“Junior high can be a terrible time for youth,” said Jason Calvert, Oregon Conference associate youth director. “There are a lot of confusing things going on and sometimes it feels like everything is falling apart."
"We want to create spaces to remind junior high kids that they are loved and that God is willing to walk with them through all of that and can make a difference in their life today," continued Calvert.
"I believe providing positive spiritual experiences at the beginning of the year creates the foundation for the rest of it. It encourages kids to go back and make their school communities better, too," Calvert added.
"Even beyond that, we remember that the high school years pass quickly and today’s youth are already growing into leadership. We want to train them for that and prepare them to take ownership of their youth ministry. Planting seeds for that vision starts in seventh and eighth grade,” said Calvert.
Each Bible camp experience was uniquely tailored to its age group. More than 200 junior high students attended their respective Bible camp, which focused on the theme “Fully Alive!” and featured a familiar face: Urijah Saenz, who served in Oregon as a Big Lake staff member and youth pastor at Bend Adventist Church before moving to California.
“Saenz did a great job sharing what it means to be fully alive in Jesus,” said Calvert. “He focused his message on John 10 and the idea that our calling from Jesus is more than just having a beating heart and breathing lungs; it’s about living life fully the way Jesus calls us to.”
The second week of Bible camp saw more than 600 high school students in attendance, which featured speaker Baron Savory and the theme of “Disruption.” “For this season of high school students, we wanted to recognize the disruptive time they have been living through,” explained Calvert.
“For many, their entire high school experience has been nothing but disruption — from COVID 19 and the lockdowns, to everything else happening in the world, it’s been so full of disruptions and it's easy to get bogged down in the negativity of it all. But when we walk back through the pages of scripture, we see that God shows up and does some of his most powerful work in seasons like that," said Calvert.
"We wanted to give the students a lens to help them understand that," he added. "Instead of focusing on how bad things are, what if we focused on how God would show up in the midst of them?"
"God shows up in the disruption and often calls humans to help Him disrupt the trajectories of people or groups of people," shared Calvert. "We want to encourage that pivot from ‘life is bad and the world is awful’ to ‘God is working and He’s calling us to disrupt the paths of society and lives when they’re headed in harmful directions.'”
Bible camp is a labor of love that brings youth, local church families, school staff and volunteers, and so many others together every year. Oregon Conference leaders are so grateful for the village that invests so strongly in young people as they set out into the world and follow the calling God places in each of their lives.