November 2008 - Vol. 24

Valley of Glenariff, County Antrim in Northern Ireland

Camp Nazareth Finds Gold in the Hills

By Steve Johnson

For the past 24 years the Community of Nazareth in Dublin, Ireland, a member community of the Sword of the Spirit, has organized an annual week long camp for their young people. Over 70 people attended this year’s camp, including more than 50 young people from the ages of 7 to 17. Steve Johnson, director for Camp Nazareth, shares some of the highlights of this year's Camp Nazareth experience.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.” Matthew 5:1
As we were preparing for Camp Nazareth 2008, one of my team texted me this prophetic word: There is gold waiting to be discovered in the hills of Antrim. The Lord wants us to help uncover it. Shining his light on this gold will reflect His glory and majesty.

We had already decided that our theme for the camp would be on “being a disciple” as modeled by the beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5 and Luke Chapter 6. Our planned venue was Kilmore House in the beautiful valley of Glenariff, County Antrim. As I reflected on this word I began to see us as a group of people planning a trip to join the crowds at the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of dispersing after listening to Jesus, we would stick around at the foot of the mountain for a week, discussing what we had heard and reflecting on what it could all mean. As youth leaders, we were not so much teachers as older brothers and sisters seeking to help those younger than us to better understand the words spoken by the Master as he taught on that hill long ago. In effect, to help uncover the gold, the immeasurable treasure that was contained in God’s word.

And so as the largest ever Camp Nazareth kicked off in late June we were 70 strong with 50 of us as participant campers between the ages of 7 and 17 this perspective stimulated our curiosity and captured our imagination. What was it like to climb that mountain with the crowds? Were there children among them? Elderly people needing assistance? What were the people expecting? What sort of reactions did Jesus’ words evoke? Excitement? Disappointment? Anger? Confusion? How many times did he teach the beatitudes? Did he phrase his words differently for different audiences and situations?

As we reflected on topics such as “blessed are the poor in spirit,” “blessed are the meek,” “blessed are the pure in heart,” “blessed are you when men revile and persecute you,” we began to see the centrality of this teaching for every disciple. These were not lofty theories or pious “waffle.” Jesus did not just deliver this teaching and then leave his audience to figure it out on their own. He demonstrated it through the witness of his life. And we found that the pages of the New Testament letters were full of reflections on the beatitudes. 

Finally, we saw in the beatitudes a call to holiness and a challenge to greatness that left us asking, “Does God really see all of that in me?” More treasure waiting to be uncovered!

Inspired by Camp Hope in New Jersey, the first Camp Nazareth took place 24 years ago. Since then it has been an annual event. Many of those running the camp this year had once been campers themselves.

The camp combines prayer, teaching and activities such as games, swimming, hikes, scripture hunts and drama. And lots of fun!

We experienced the international aspect of our life in the Sword of the Spirit through our visiting campers from Belfast, Madrid and Southampton, UK and through the service of visiting staffers from communities in Newark, Miami, Belfast, Beirut, and Michigan.

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