Camp Shipshewana, or the Brethren Retreat at Shipshewana Lake, has incited many transformations within my life. Were it not for this place, I would not be who I am today. To be truthful, I’m not convinced that I would still be alive if it weren’t for the metamorphosis that God initiated in me as a result of what I have experienced, and continue to experience, at camp.
I have been a camper at Camp Shipshewana since I was eight years old. It was there that I first accepted Jesus Christ into my heart as my Savior. I went back every summer that I could. I never made any friends that I saw at camp every year. I always kind of stayed in the background, but I still loved my time as a camper! I think that even before I recognized it, I yearned to be in the presence of the Spirit of God. Camp is where I felt that presence. Not in a church. Not in my home. Only at Camp. That’s not to say that camp is the only place where the Lord’s Spirit resides, it is just more obvious and prominent to me when I am at camp.
Despite my love for Camp Shipshewana, I decided to not go one summer. That was undoubtedly the worst summer of my life. Hands down. That awful summer turned into a terrible year of deep depression and thoughts of suicide. Between my parents’ divorce and coming out of an idolatrous relationship, I was lost and hurting. The spring of that year, I decided to apply to be a Junior Counselor for Camp Shipshewana 2011 and by God’s grace, I was accepted. That summer led me out of a season of darkness and was vital in my spiritual formation.
During my time of service at the camp, I was able to feel like I was loved for who I am again. I was able to find an unmoving and unshakable foundation for my identity and my faith. I was able to overcome the numbness that had overtaken my life. I no longer had to simply tolerate life. I was freed from my burdens and pain. I could really live again. It was during that summer that God called me to ministry, even though I didn’t recognize it until afterward.
I have been truly hooked on camp ever since that summer and I came up every opportunity I could. This has led to multiple years as a counselor, an internship, and a full-time staff position. I grow constantly whenever I am at camp.
Every summer, hurting children are offered an opportunity to experience what I believe to be a little taste of Heaven. They are able to leave their world of pain and struggles and experience the fully present Spirit of God. I am blessed by being able to witness the hand of God at work in their lives and by how He uses me to impact them, and them to impact me. At camp, everyone grows, and everyone is loved.
And Where is Matt Zuber today?
He is in Oregon attending college at Multnomah University. http://www.multnomah.edu/
What a huge step for this young man as he continues his quest to discern his call to ministry.
Matt has traveled overseas twice now on missions trips. And he is serving as a Salvation Army Camp in Portland area.
Man is becoming a man dedicated to the service of God.
Keep an eye on this young life. He has much to offer!
I love your story and know there are many others who have similar stories.
That is why I dedicate my summers to Middle School camp at Shenandoah Meadows. I would absolutely be thrilled to be able to do camp or a retreat center all year round where people can come for healing, rest, and maybe a time to find out what God is telling them but the world around them is drowning out His still small voice.
Keep up the great work! Maybe someday we will meet and we can share more camp stories.
As someone who has been privileged to work at 4 of our Brethren Camps (Bethany, Shipshe, Peniel
Love this story! As an adult in my forties I was afforded the wonderful blessing of serving on staff for Senior High week at Camp Peniel in Meyersdale,PA. And it changed my life. I never went to church camp as a child, growing up as a navy brat, moving up and down the East Coast. But I became a huge advocate for them in the time I served on staff from 2007-2012. Our church camps are invaluable tools in ministering to our children as well as serving as a training ground for the next generation of ministry workers.