Each summer, many young lives are touched and changed for eternity at summer camps. Summer 2023 was no exception.
Sunset Lake Camp was the host location for Camp 4 Deaf Youth in 2022 and 2023. In 2022, only one Deaf girl, Shakira, came to camp. Counselors were thrilled to see her life change when she gave her heart to Jesus and was baptized six weeks later.
The number of Deaf campers for the July 2–9, 2023, camp swelled to four: two boys and two girls, including Shakira. In addition to the regular camp staff, an additional hand-picked team of hearing interpreters and Deaf counselors, some of whom came from Canada, California, Arkansas and Maryland, were hired. The Camp 4 Deaf Youth pastor was Jeff Jordan, the only Deaf Adventist pastor in North America.
Shakira spent the week pointing her cabin mate and new friend, Makayla, to Jesus. Shakira eagerly, yet gently, shared her love for God and the joy of the Christian walk. Makayla gave her heart to Jesus during a special appeal on Friday evening. Campers and counselors alike watched Shakira walk Makayla over to the freedom bell and encourage her to ring it loud, proclaiming to all her decision, just as Shakira did the year before — and Makayla did.
Meanwhile, Darby had zero interest in anything spiritual. Anytime Jesus was mentioned, he instantly tuned out. During worship, he would sit far away, looking at anything in the opposite direction to keep his attention diverted. By the end of the week, however, he was sitting with the group and participating.
On Sabbath morning, the worship program was held in a small amphitheater. Darby sat in the far back row while others were clustered together at the front. As Jordan spoke, Darby began to take interest, leaning forward and moving up one row at a time until he was sitting with the group. Though he did not make a confession for Christ, God was working and seeds of faith were planted in his heart’s soil.
Donald had a very rough start to the week. He showed some aggression and refused to participate in any of the activities. He sat by the lake the entire first day, in his own world. Several counselors tried to convince him to join the fun in various ways — even bribery — but nothing worked. They were frustrated but began praying especially for Donald.
Each day, Donald started to cave. He began taking part in gaga ball, water activities, archery, biking and the giant swing. By the end of the week, he didn’t want to miss a thing.
Halfway through the week, Donald joined in the singing at evening worship; signing with meaning as tears trickled down his face. He prayed the sweetest prayers. No one was surprised when he, too, decided to give his heart to Jesus at the end of the week. What a difference a few days and Jesus can make.
Saying farewell to Donald was difficult. He was not ready to go home just yet. He kept repeating that he wished he could stay for two weeks instead of just one and could not wait to return the next year. Tears streamed down his face as he hugged his counselors frequently and told them how much he loved them all and would miss them.
This is why Camp 4 Deaf Youth exists. Deaf kids haven’t had access to traditional summer camp programs, simply because of communication. Camp 4 Deaf Youth staff burst open the communication barriers in the Pacific Northwest.
It’s not just about interpreting activities, but the warm guidance of the counselors, friendship with Christian staff and the Word of God shared by a Deaf pastor — the love of God communicated through American Sign Language, the Deaf’s heart language and native “tongue.”
Washington Conference, North Pacific Union, North American Division Deaf ministries, Washington Conference evangelism ministry and private donors partnered to make this happen. We deeply appreciate Sunset Lake and each one of its staff for this joint endeavor to reach out to these precious souls.
The next Camp 4 Deaf Youth will be June 30 through July 7, 2024 at Sunset Lake Camp. For more information, check out camp4Deafyouth.com or our Facebook page for Camp 4 Deaf Youth. You may also email us at camp4Deafyouth@gmail.com.