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By Joyell Nevins – CFFM Blogger

**All photos courtesy of Debi Pilot Photography

We’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts – where?

Down at YES Camp, that’s where!

Christian Family Fellowship just wrapped up its 26th annual Youth Excelling Spiritually (YES!) Camp. This year, the theme was “The Joy of the Lord is Our strength!”

That line comes from the book of Nehemiah, who became a Jewish cup-bearer of a secular king after his people were taken into captivity. Years later, God worked through Nehemiah to return to his homeland and rebuild Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 1).

Nehemiah organizes the people to build back the wall and re-establish the city (not an easy task!). Seven chapters and almost a full year later, those people of Israel are gathered together “as one man” in the heart of the city.

Ezra the scribe and priest reads from the book of the Law of Moses (their Bible) – and the people weep. Their response upon hearing the Word that they hadn’t necessarily followed was to be filled with sadness and likely shame.

But God through Nehemiah has a different exhortation for them:

“Then [Nehemiah] said to [the people of Israel], ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord.

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength….And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.” Nehemiah 8:10, 12 ESV

The people are exhorted to rejoice and have a party! They are even encouraged to “send portions” to those who have none, meaning to share their food and drink with those in need so that everyone can participate. Rather than wallowing in condemnation and shame over what happened in the past, they were to be filled with the joy of the Lord and to celebrate what was to come!

That’s the same concept with YES! Camp. No matter what past mistakes or worries the campers carried in, they were able to experience the freedom and joy of the Lord together.

From Coast to Coast

CFF hosted 72 campers and 30 crew from 22 different states – literally from coast to coast!

Some of those campers were brand new, and some of them have grown up at camp. Some of them had just recently met Jesus, and some of them have been his friend for years.

But almost all of them received a refreshing, renewed joy, and – if they desired it – an even deeper connection with our Father God and His son Jesus Christ.

Every morning began with affirmations about who we are in Christ, often taken straight from the previous day’s teachings. Every evening ended with what we call “soaking” – spending quiet time in worship with specially chosen songs.

In between, there was a plethora of activity! Sprinkled throughout the week were 18 teachers.

 Campers heard preaching from a 30-something out of Florida and exhortation from a 60-something out of Colorado.

They marched and became ‘battle-ready’ for the Kingdom with a former Marine. They learned about relationships from a married couple who have nine kids in their home.

Jon & Sami Hagar shared about marriage -showing their own brand of joy at the same time.

Campers were invited to become a member of the Jesus club, and they were invited to sit at the table with the Lord.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” Psalm 23:5 NKJV

The youth were reminded of their identify in Christ and taught about what comes in their spiritual tool kit. The power of light versus the power of darkness and the importance of having a spiritual foundation also gave the campers spiritual food for thought.

Sing and Play with Jesus

Music was another thread throughout the camp. Campers were able to do congregational dancing with a local believer, and they raised the roof through praise with the band Delighted.

Laced in between that hot Bible were many ways to laugh and play. They canoed down the Stillwater River, swam and slid at a local water park, and filled a bowling alley.

These ladies were the first ones to make it down the river.

There were camp games involving refillable water balloons (particularly difficult to catch!) and vacuuming goldfish crackers with a straw. There was even an opportunity to dress up and get funky with the camp dance, complete with professional DJ.

They got goofy at meal times with songs about frogs and jellyfish, and then got serious about personal relationships and spiritual questions when in their power groups.

Many of the songs involved animals and mayhem – like this “Crocodile Song.”

The Power of Community

The power groups were at the heart of YES! Camp this year. Ten different groups, loosely grouped by age, but more so compiled by prayer and the spiritual leading of Camp Director Tonia Shroyer and her team.

Each power group came up with their own name, and these gentlemen called themselves The Ocho Oreos.

Campers ate breakfast in their power groups and met for almost an hour each day. Those meetings involved play, laughter, manifestations, and sometimes, tears.

At YES! Camp, both in groups and outside of them, relationships were developed and hearts were healed. Faith was nurtured, and seeds of love were planted.

This young member is experiencing the joy of camp!

Do you want to join us next year? . If you are between the ages of 12 and 25 and want to experience the joy, email sarah@cffm.org for more information. Spots are limited to 75 applicants, so save your space early!