Beginning a New Journey by Phil Connors

Pathfinders wrapped up this past week with the final resident camp of the summer. Students have been attending camp since June and nearly two months later they all are preparing to head back to school. This summer has been themed around taking students deeper in their faith. Oftentimes we think of a week at summer camp as simply an extended vacation for parents and a week for students to keep themselves occupied. Looking back though this summer has been so much more than that. Students connected to God.

I had campers whose lives were changed – for an eternity. We cannot forget that East Tennessee is a mission field. Some of my students were convinced there was no grace for them because their sins were too great. Most had a story of a broken home. Some had been abused. Some struggled with addictions. The connecting strand in all of these stories was sin. Sin which built a wall and disconnected them from God. Every single one of these students felt this disconnect but it had not dawned on many of them that the answer to this problem was accepting Christ as Lord over the entirety of their lives. I personally got to lead several students in their initial acceptance of Christ. We did not leave them their though with only a prayer under their belts.

The theme of the chapel services this year was spiritual practices. It was our desire to give the students tools with which to dig into their faith and to take personal responsibility for their growth. They have learned the importance of digging into their Bible, praying, worship, meditation, confession, and living a life of simplicity. Gone are the days of cultural Christianity which largely contributed to peoples jaded views of Christianity. We have reached a point in America where it is no longer profitable to be a Christian and now is the time that the chaff will blow away and those truly committed to the kingdom of God will remain. Although many see this as a sign of the decline of the United States I think it can be viewed positively. Christ will shine gloriously through those who truly are in love with Him and their commitment will act as a powerful testimony to the saving work of Christ. This is one of the problems students have today. They see a Christian culture but not Christians. That is changing. Students connecting today are doing so not because of a culture but because of their realization of their need for God. Consequently, they are seeking avenues to go deeper in their faith.

A strength of Pathfinders is connecting students to local churches. Students cannot attain depth in their faith if they are in a godly environment only once a year. A number of students have explicitly asked us to get them involved because their parents refused to go to church or even drop them off at a church. Pathfinders does its best to help connect these students. Several staff members even drive students to church themselves.

God worked incredible things at Pathfinders this summer. Students offered their broken lives to God. They were given tools to help them grow personally in their faith and many have sought to connect to a church to grow communally in their faith. Christ’s fame and glory is growing despite a world that stands against Him. His call to this next generation has not fallen on deaf ears and I am thankful that Pathfinders has been a voice of truth resounding in the foothills of Tennessee.

This summer has ended but for these students they are only beginning their journey of faith and Pathfinders has played a pivotal role for many of these students in urging them towards finishing their race strong.