By Matt Brubaker |

Citizens of Heaven: Reflections on Summer Camp 2016

This world is not our home.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.” – Philippians 3:20-21

This was my 7th year as the Summer Camp Director at Black Rock Retreat. I was a counselor/program staff for 6 years prior to that and a camper for 8 years prior to that. You might say Black Rock Retreat is like a home to me! Many whose lives have intersected with Black Rock Retreat have felt similarly and have used words such as “safe,” “refuge,” “favorite place in the world,” and “home” to describe Black Rock Retreat. What is it about Black Rock Retreat that can make people feel so at home within the community or within the silence here?

Is it the counselors? The epic games on the ball field? The worship around the campfire? The bonds formed in a cabin? The one-on-one discussions between counselors and campers? The baked oatmeal?!

One of the counselors from this summer, Ivan, put it wisely when he wrote in his end-of-summer evaluation form: “This has been an amazing experience of community in faith. It’s a small slice of heaven!”

It’s not the baked oatmeal or the games that give you that glimpse of heaven, although that’s what I would have sworn it was growing up! It’s the Holy Spirit working through the body of Christ in the context of community. The fun and games and food is just the icing on the cake.

That is exactly what I had hoped to accomplish this year with our theme “Citizens of Heaven.” I wanted our staff and campers to experience just a small glimpse of what Heaven is like. We live in a world of sin, pain, and brokenness, and many of our campers experience that on a daily basis.

But we have the hope of something greater. Through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, we can become Citizens of Heaven. As such, we are aliens and strangers on this earth. This world is not our home. Our mission as we are passing through is to share the good news of Jesus with others so that they may also join in our heavenly citizenship. We shared these truths with campers and we offered them the opportunity to experience it. We showed them a small slice of Heaven by living and worshiping in community and we watched God do his amazing work of transformation!

God was faithful! There were 48 campers who gave their lives to Christ and became Citizens of Heaven! Another 127 rededicated their lives, and 600 campers reported growing in their relationship with Christ. We don’t do massive alter calls or push campers to make decisions. We simply share the good news (scatter the seeds) and then live it out in community (water the seeds) and then we let God do the work of bringing about a harvest of righteousness. So we can’t take credit for those numbers because only God can change hearts. We are so thankful to have participated in His work this summer!

April’s Story

I want to end with sharing a story about one of these new Citizens of Heaven. The story was written by April, one of our female counselors. It’s a beautiful story of God’s transformation and how He used camp to bring this young lady into his kingdom with great joy!


During the entire week, my camper Shaunee (name changed) paid close attention to the spiritual talks and was excited to share what she learned during cabin discussion. She shared that although she is in a Christian home and goes to church, the time at camp reached her in a fresh way and on a deeper level. It really helped bring the discussion together and added so much cabin unity. One evening after discussion, the others began getting ready for bed, but Shaunee stuck around with me and my co-counselor, Ella. Earlier in the day, Shaunee and Ella had a one-on-one together and Shaunee wanted to share something with me about their one-on-one. With an eager, giggly smile and the encouragement of Ella, Shaunee quietly told me that she asked Jesus to come into her heart. A quiet moment soon became one of rejoicing as Ella and I began crying and laughing with her. We were able to tell her that the angels were having a party in Heaven over her becoming a Christian. She remained excited the entire week about her decision to follow Jesus. Her mother heard the news on Friday evening when Shaunee was picked up and more tears were shed. Experiencing the transformation with Shaunee was so beautiful and encouraging. Being able to rejoice with people in their transformation is such a blessing! Even one camper coming to Christ would make the entire summer more than worth it. Seeing this life changed definitely served as motivation to continue sharing Christ and ignited my excitement to do that both inside and outside of camp.

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

Thank you to all who support the ministry of summer camp at Black Rock Retreat through your prayers and giving!

Josh Foley
Summer Camp Director

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