The Experience Magazine - Summer 2017 PAGES


treetops, and soon the ‘song of the pines’ can be heard. The campers lift their voices in praise, and they hear from God. Each camp...The Lodge, The Pines, The Ranch, The Wild, Florida, and all the camps around the world have their own sacred spots they call ‘The Campfire.’ As campers and counselors assemble each week at these campfires, there is a sense of expectancy that hangs pregnant in the air... a patient waiting for the Spirit of God to move among the people bringing life and hope. As the first musical notes take rise and fill the air with praise to God, the active minds settle down, and campers forget the outside world, team competitions, and camp activities. The lyrics begin to speak the truth of love and forgiveness, and, within the solitude of each person’s mind, a willingness to be honest with God begins to develop. Soon guarded and wary hearts are laid bare and open before Him. When the preacher stands and opens God’s Word, the Spirit of God has complete liberty to move among the hearts of those who are willing to hear. Campers are challenged by God’s Word to examine their hearts. Many questions are asked. “Do you have unrepented sin?” “Who is the master of your life?” Personal questions are asked about holy living, sharing Jesus with others, surrendering their lives to God, and, for some, the most important question is, “Do you know God?” As the speaker brings the message to a close, he offers the opportunity for all those who made a spiritual decision to come forward and pick up a stick to throw into the fire as a symbol of dying to oneself and living for God. As the music plays, many campers respond to the cleansing, healing work the Holy Spirit has birthed in their souls. They pick up their stick and symbolically cast it in the fire. The desire borne in their hearts is to know God, to be known by Him, and to make Him known. Often with tears of joy and repentance, those encircling the fire lift their voices to sing, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus . Over the 70 years that Word of Life has held camps in the United States and around the world, countless thousands of campfire services have occurred, and hundreds of thousands of campers have had the opportunity to examine their hearts and to make lifelong decisions to follow Christ. Paul Johnson, a longtime friend of Word of Life, tells a great campfire story of a time when he had been invited by Jack Wyrtzen to attend the campfire service on The Island. On the way to The Island, he met another couple whom Jack had invited to attend the campfire. Paul recalls that as they were walking to the campfire site the man made an unusual statement as he looked around on The Island,

“This is about all I have left.” Paul thought it odd but didn’t have time to ask what he meant. Jack preached at the campfire that night, and around 200 young people came forward to dedicate their lives to Christ. It was a moving and powerful service. As Paul and the others were walking back to the boat dock, Paul asked the gentleman what he had meant when he had said, “This is about all I have left.” The man explained that at one time he had been the owner of a large trucking company and had given a contribution to Jack Wyrtzen for the purchase of the Island. Since that time, his company had experienced a significant downturn, and he only had one truck left. His ‘investment’ in The Island was the only thing he had left. Paul did some quick math. He reminded the man that around 200 young people made life-changing decisions that night. He multiplied that figure by the number of weeks of camp that summer and then multiplied that total by the number of years the camp had been open. Paul told the man that “if this was all he had left, he was still a very rich man.” The rewards would be great in heaven. But do the Decisions Last? I recently asked the Word of Life Bible Institute Alumni Group on Facebook if they had ever made a spiritual decision at a campfire service. Many shared they had and gave a word of testimony of how their lives had been forever changed. RichAndrews ( ‘92, ‘95 ): “My campfire decision happened at The Ranch during International Teens Involved week. I was 14, and I remember it like it was yesterday, sitting on Kenya Hill, listening to the speaker and being brought to the point of making a decision...what was I going to do? The way I saw it I wasn’t making a commitment to my church or Word of Life, but to the Lord and to me that was a big deal! So I walked down the hill, picked up my stick and threw it in the fire. As I stood around the fire, I had no idea what God was going to do with a 14-year-old kid who said in his heart, “All I am, all I have and all I ever hope to be, I now and forever dedicate to you, Lord Jesus... now hold me to it.” I’ve repeated those words hundreds of times over the years as a Word of Life staff member, and each time I say them, my heart is drawn back to that life- changing night.” In all fairness, speaking of telling campfire stories, some people believe that ‘over-zealous’ preachers ‘force’ emotional decisions at campfire services. A ‘forced’ decision may indeed be made by a young person who ‘responded’ to the invitation rather than feeling left out

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