While we may have plans for our lives, God can set us on a different path—one we might have never expected. The course of one man’s life was changed one summer in Northern Michigan at Lake Ann Camp.
“It just kind of hit me right where I was that the Lord had bigger plans for my life than me just living it for myself,” Brant Cole says.
As a high school student, Cole dreamed of playing college sports. But in a moment of reflection, Cole responded, “You know what, Lord, I give it all to you.”
He was open to what God had in store for him, and that moment at camp was a significant turning point.
Today Cole is a youth pastor at Walloon Lake Community Church (Walloon, Mich.), and he takes his students to Lake Ann Camp each summer. As Cole brings his students back to a place where his own life was changed, he knows what the camp environment can offer.
“With camp, one of the cool things about it is it allows students to get this third-perspective look on their life that no other experience can,” he says.
Throughout the week, campers have unique learning experiences that take shape in a variety of ways. Whether it’s interactions with other campers or building friendships with the counselors and camp staff, students are able to look at their life in a way they never had.
When considering the life change that a camp or conference environment can provide, Cole says the monetary cost is a small price to pay.
“When you’re able to step away from your life for a little bit and just be focused on one thing, it allows you to commune with God in a unique way, but also make decisions about your life that are necessary for your spiritual life to flourish.”
Recently, Cole had a conversation with a student about the spiritual aspect of our lives. We often think of our emotional or physical health, but we don’t always think of the spiritual part of ourselves.
Within student ministry, Cole considers one of the biggest challenges is getting past all the barriers and filters students have put in place to protect themselves.
“And rightly so,” he says. “Emotionally and physiologically there are so many things they are facing right now that are worth having filters and barriers for. When it comes to their spiritual life, they also have those.”
Camp provides something valuable that few other events can; camp allows those barriers to come down. “When everyone else is in the same unique environment that you are, you are kind of all in it together,” Cole says.
But it doesn’t all have to be serious. In fact, the activities are geared toward building trust and removing barriers to help students lighten up. “Because when a student is not having fun,” Cole says, “they are not going to be learning.”
Combining purposeful activities with an element of fun can result in campers forgetting about the worries of life and becoming open to what God has for them.