by Father Stephen Osburn
What an amazing time we all had this year at the Rocky Mountain Orthodox Youth Camp! By far one of the best camp experiences one could have. Now myself, I had the pleasure of being the speaker for this year’s camp and as such, my topic was on how to become a good Athlete in Christ. For those who don’t know, I am a huge sports fan (“Go Knights Go!”) and when I was asked to give the talks, I knew exactly what topic to pick for a couple reasons: One, in our faith, especially through Parables, relating to things within the world helps expand our understanding of what we believe. It makes us better Christians. It makes us better Orthodox. It helps us spread the Gospel. Two, St. Paul when first preaching the Gospel used sports as his allegory both from a deep admiration for sports but also because sports and faith are interconnected. They both come from the same model. You see, when someone wants to be a good athlete they have to train. They have to practice. They have to hone their craft. If they don’t, they won’t win, they won’t be very good. They will struggle. Same goes with our faith. If we don’t learn to pray - if we don’t practice praying - if we don’t come to church - if we don’t fast - we won’t be much of a Christian. So St. Paul uses the imagery of sports because of its deep rooted connection with our daily struggles as Christians.
That much was clear from the outset of the discussions, which included talking about equipping our souls with the right gear through prayer and fasting, facing adversity in our faith, becoming the GOATs (Greatest of All Time) in the form of saints, and not just being Athletes in Christ but becoming Champions in Christ. However, it is far more important to highlight the kids in this reflection for this year’s camp. Their enthusiasm was contagious - really, really contagious. The smiles and joy on their faces made it worth all the exhaustion endured over the four days. Throughout the camp, many of the planned activities involved playing games, participating in sports, going to the lake, making tie-dye shirts, putting on an amazing talent show (and it was really, really good - even the part where one group made their skit praising the SJ Sharks and bashing the Vegas Golden Knights…), going faithfully to church services, and actively engaging with the themes during “cabin time”. They all came with a real sense of wanting to be at the camp. When the last day came, I asked a good 30 kids if they were sad to be going home and if they had fun. Not a single kid was ready to go home. They wanted to just stay at camp, go to church at camp, and be in fellowship with every one there. That is something to behold.
I’ll end this brief reflection with a plea rather than expanding more into the camp itself. For every young person and every parent is this plea: This camp is a wonderful experience and will be life changing. For parents, if your child didn’t go this year, please, “pretty, please” consider having them go next year. You’ll all earn “coolest parent ever!” points which rumor has it, are redeemable towards extra chores. It’s true. I promise. For young people, GO. TO. CAMP. NEXT. YEAR! I promise you will have the best time of your life. You will make friends who will be your friends your whole life. You will learn things about yourself, your limits, and your faith that you didn’t know was possible. You will experience real joy in deep communion with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Finally, this camp will not only be a ton of fun but it will shape your identity to that which is focused entirely on Christ and Christ alone. That in itself is worth more than anything you can buy or see on Instagram. Trust me on this. Go to camp. And if you can’t go to this one, go to the nearest Orthodox camp you can go to next year. You can thank me later.
Wanna have the time of your life, reaffirm your faith, and strengthen your love of Christ? I can’t say this enough, find out where your nearest Orthodox camp is next year and make sure your kids go (and parents, become volunteers and counselors).