But the time is coming-indeed it’s here now-when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.

John 16:32 NLT

We want to share with you a few faith-building stories of how God has been moving at our Middle School and Teen Camps, which are wrapping up this weekend in the Santa Cruz mountains. 

This year’s camps were themed “I Got You,” and the goal of the camps was to help teenagers and middle schoolers understand that with God, they are never alone, and they can find real happiness.  

Loneliness and unhappiness are having a significant impact on our youth. According to a recent CDC survey, the percentage of American high school students who feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent in 2009 to 44 percent in 2021—the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded.

This sadness isn’t limited to American teenagers, either. In 2018, researchers in Scotland found found that more than half of 18-24 year olds experience depression when they feel lonely, with 42% saying it leads to anxiety. 67% of these young adults said their mental health worsens as a result of feeling lonely.

It is important they know that God says “I Got You.” 

Through the Scriptures, classes, conversations, and prayer times at camp, God came through for the teens and middle schoolers, helping them find both freedom from loneliness by being fully known and real happiness by turning to God.

 

We’ll have more stories for you in the weeks to come, but for now we wanted to share a few quick quotes and snippets from the campers:

  • “If camp was a week long, I’d get baptized before I left.”
  • “I learned that God can be my ride-or-die.” 
  • “I see that having a relationship with God gives me the ability to love others.” 

One of the medical staff members on site said this was the best Christian camp he had ever been to. He said he noticed that the camp was relatable, inspiring, and full of creative ways to teach about God.

After the first class at one of the camps, a camper talked about how the lesson, Scriptures, and sharing related in great specificity to his pain and struggles. He shared vulnerably about his past, his fears, and his heartbreak. He was inspired to learn that God and real friendships are the answers to his loneliness. 

Another teen who is currently studying the Bible helped one of his friends at camp make a decision to start studying the Bible too. His friend was excited that God could provide real happiness. The friend is set to study the Bible and the young man who is studying and helped him wants to be baptized soon. 

In the first women’s class at the 11th/12th grade camp, a camper broke down in tears in the middle of the lesson. Her counselor took her out for a walk to talk. The camper was extremely vulnerable and specific about pressures she felt, difficult home-life dynamics, and how she lives in denial. In the final women’s class, she learned she needs to “tell herself the truth,” and practice that daily, starting at camp! She made a decision to study the Bible. 

Another teen who initially wasn’t interested or participating in discussions had a breakthrough after acknowledging how unhappy he feels. He was very open and vulnerable about the pressure he feels to be perfect and his feelings in his relationship with his parents. Then he said that he was interested in studying the Bible.

And finally, one of the teen girls shared openly about the difficulties she has had in school, having been bullied because of her health challenges. Another teen took her to pray the next morning and she expressed how great it was to talk about real things and learn how to be honest through prayer. She felt so much more confident the rest of the day. Praying with a spiritual friend helped her let go of her insecurities and find a lot more confidence engaging and participating in the rest of the camp activities.

There will be so many more incredible stories to come about how God moved during this time away at camp, and we look forward to sharing them with you. We know that many of you have prayed and supported the camps in different ways, even if you weren’t there in person, and we want you to know that your spiritual efforts are making a difference in the lives of the next generation!

Till next week,

Sam and Tenea Manuel

Sam Manuel

Sam Manuel

Sam is a former outside linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. Since retiring from the NFL, Sam has worked in the ministry serving communities in the Bay Area.

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