I had the privilege in June of traveling with our high school students on their annual summer trip. This year, we attended Idaho Servant Adventures, a summer service camp for high-schoolers located on the Coeur D’Alene River north of Wallace, Idaho. It was the fourth trip to this camp for our church, but the first trip to Idaho for me. I’d had great reports from youth and adult leaders who had attended before, so I eagerly anticipated my turn to spend a week in the Silver Valley.
Idaho Servant Adventures is in a class apart from other high school summer camps I’ve been around before. Whereas most camps focus primarily on spiritual education and encouragement, with a lot of recreation mixed in, ISA’s focus was primarily on serving the friends and neighbors of its surrounding community. The area is called the Silver Valley because there is a lot of silver in the mountains and there were once many active silver mines. However, because the price of silver didn’t keep up with the cost of production, nearly all of the mines are now closed. Many of the people living there, particularly the elderly, didn’t have the resources to relocate and so live below the poverty line.
Service is built into the whole fabric of the camp. Immediately after breakfast, the students broke up into teams and completed their “restore chores” (chores to help clean up the camp itself). Afterwards, students would gather into their service teams of about 6-8 students and 1-2 adults. Each service team would travel out of camp to a person’s home for service. All kinds of projects were completed to help the neighbors. My service team worked at the home of an elderly woman called Judy. We washed her windows and garage doors, pulled her weeds, removed several bushes, trimmed her trees, cut her grass (including a lot of weed-whacking up an embankment!), tilled her garden, and split wood (her home is heated by firewood). There was definitely a sense of purpose and accomplishment in helping her clean up her yard and house. The smile on her face at the end of the week was reward enough for our service.
The real genius of the service teams is that they were comprised of students and leaders from several churches. The camp provided opportunities for us to gather as a church group, but also a lot of opportunities to get to know students and leaders from other parts of the country. This showed all of us how we can work together with other Christians to serve and show mercy to our neighbors. Additionally, the kids learned how to work together to accomplish a greater goal. Each of the students was given a unique responsibility for the week, essential to the success of the service team. One was responsible for gathering the tools, another for securing direction to the service site. There was also a person responsible for making and bringing lunch, one for taking pictures and keeping track of time, and one for leading a devotion during lunch. During the course of the week, we witnessed each student grow into his or her role and learn how to work together to serve their neighbors.
Each year, the camp has a theme. This year, the theme was “Masterpiece,” drawn from Ephesians 2:10a: “We are God’s workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Each day the devotions and evening programs focused on what it means that we are God’s masterpiece in Jesus Christ. It was easy to reflect on God’s masterpiece in Idaho. The grandeur of the mountains in the morning mist and the magnificence of being in the proximity of God’s creatures (we saw a moose and elk up close) drew us into contemplation of God’s craftsmanship in creation. But we also saw God’s masterpiece in each other as we served together, in the people we served as we learned their stories and saw the crosses and the grace of God at work in their lives, and in our growth as Christians created by God to serve one another with our lives. The week truly was a masterpiece. Thank you to everyone who helped make it possible through your financial support, encouragement, and especially prayers.