Imagine you are on a winding, potholed road in the dusty mountains on the westside of my island home. As you travel this curvy road you are awestruck by the splendor of the ocean that appears to lie just at the base of these windblown peaks. Soon you come to a rustic camp that is tucked away in the foothills of the W Ridge. As you enter the Camp you are struck by something that’s, well, almost divine, though you hesitate to describe it as such.
At the top of a little rise there is a faded yellow house with brown trim. It has the air of a New England cottage about it and from its open windows the clear laughter of young voices drifts through the air. You weave your way towards the house on a path that is arched by magnificent banyan trees and you are accompanied by confident chickens that have much to say. You are drawn towards the house by the strumming of a guitar and as you peer in the window you see 20 young adolescents sprawled in the living room. There is a mixture of boys and girls; one of the boys is skillfully drawing out the voice of his guitar and many of the youngsters are singing along with it. Never before have you felt such peace nor witnessed such harmony; perhaps it is divine and you have stepped into heaven’s foyer.
This was the 40 Hours with Jesus. From the initial spark of the idea in my heart in the spring until the mountain road gate closed behind us on the way home, God placed His signature blessing upon this endeavor. The schedule for the 40 Hours revolved around eight core lessons:
– Walking with Jesus à understanding what it means to truly follow Christ and discovering that from the very garden of Creation God has sought people to walk in communion with Him. In slowing down we discover Christ.
– Conversing with Jesus à learning how to identify and cultivate a prayerful heart. The depth of our relationship with Christ can be gauged by the attitude of our prayers.
– Mountaintop Moments à discovering the beauty of those blessed moments when we know for a fact that Jesus is with us. What can we take away from those experiences that will help us endure through the valley?
– Nourishment from Jesus à grasping the fact that earthly hunger cannot satisfy spiritual needs. Our physical needs are what draw us to Jesus because He is the only One who can truly satisfy. What is distracting us from Jesus?
– Listening to Jesus à realizing that Jesus follows up on what we tell Him. He listens to what we say and it is of utmost importance that we listen when He speaks, because His words shape our future. “The difference between success and failure is only the width of the boat.”
– Spiritual Workouts à practicing our faith is what strengthens it and there are 3 main types of “exercises” that build our faith and help us to mature in our walk with Christ. Yet these exercises require daily discipline and self-control.
– Facing the Fear à grappling with the thought that our greatest fear is to completely surrender to Christ. We must put into words what is holding us back from giving 100% to Jesus. It should be our fears that compel us to go to Him.
– Witnesses and Testifiers à focusing on the Beatitudes we see that a true Christian lives according to principles that defy human nature. But in doing so we are blessed, and our blessings should testify to the Savior whom we serve.
I taught four of these lessons, and the other four were beautifully planned and taught by two incredible pastors, one of whom was also one of the camp counselors. One father and two mothers came as counselors as well, and provided essential support to the lessons and the general functioning of the 40 Hours. The students were divided into five equal teams that had an even rotation of cooking or cleaning, freeing the adults to pray, guide, instruct, and counsel. Between lessons and meals the students had time to be alone for Bible study and prayer, or to converse with their accountability partner. The first day concluded with board games, popcorn and hot chocolate. The second day was wrapped up with time around a campfire that included worship songs by our student worship leader, and discussion related to everything learned up to that point.
My earnest prayer for this time was that Jesus would be there with us and felt by all who attended, and that time would stand still so that we could absorb the experience in depth. I knew He was there:
v When every obstacle to our stay was perfectly resolved with just the right timing.
v By the number of campers that resulted in an exact ratio of 4 students to every 1 counselor, considering the fact that there were only 2 male counselors versus 3 female counselors (we had 8 boys and 12 girls).
v By the number of each gender that resulted in a perfect pairing of accountability partners of the same gender.
v As I observed the willingness of these youth to sit attentively to each lesson (that lasted close to an hour each) while taking notes and reading long Bible passages.
v Because I never heard complaining about the lessons, the food, the clean-up, the heat, the cold, the early hour of rising (5AM the second day), etc.
v For there was only joyful harmony between all of the students and the counselors.
v When it became apparent that all 8 of the lessons overlapped to perfection, though we did not consult each other as we planned them.
This list of evidence could last for pages, for every moment of that 40 Hours bespoke God’s immense presence in the midst of us. Yet the truly most powerful moments came with the prayers of the girls as they talked to Jesus in the middle of the night when they volunteered to join me in an all-night prayer vigil, and the trail of sweat left by the young worship leader as he carried his guitar on the two-mile hike to the mountaintop because I mentioned it would be a beautiful place to worship. These students served, listened, and opened their hearts to the quiet; they came away with a sense of contentment about who they are as individuals created by a loving God.
Never before have I experienced Christ so richly and fully as I did with my students and the other four counselors. For me, it was a glimpse of God’s ideal. He came and asked, “Children, where are you?” and we could say with a whole heart, “Here, Jesus!” In our final debriefing before leaving the mountain one boy thoughtfully asked, “Why did the 40 Hours seem longer than 40 Hours?” Because my prayer was answered and time stood still.