“The more the Spirit quenches our thirst, the thirstier we become.” This quote by one of my favorite authors, Father Wilfrid Stinessen speaks to my desire for the young people (and all people for that matter) of the Diocese of Sioux Falls. When one encounters Jesus Christ, they are changed.
I encountered Jesus Christ, as a youth growing up in northeast South Dakota, 22 years ago. As a teenager, I had my fair share of struggles both at school and at home. Along with these things, I had a lot of questions such as “does God even exist?” or “If God does exist, why does he allow bad things to happen?” Probably one of my biggest questions was “why does it seem like God loves everyone else more than He loves me?”
I remember going to Discipleship Camp as a high school student just wanting to get away from everything. I didn’t go because I wanted to grow in my faith. In fact, I was so angry at God at the time, I was mostly wanting to confirm that even if God was real, He didn’t love me.
The first thing that struck me about the camp was how happy everyone was. “Of course, they are happy” I thought, “they haven’t had to go through what I’ve been through”. As camp went on and the counselors began to share their lives with me, I realized how wrong I was. It begged the question “If they have also had suffering in their life, how can they be happy? What do they have that I don’t?” Similar to the bystanders in the book of Acts, I was curious if they had been drinking.
Long story short one of the leaders at camp, during a time of prayer and adoration, invited us to consider God’s love for us…to be open to receiving whatever God has in store for us. For just a moment, I remember praying to God “if you are real, please show yourself to me.” And that He did. In only a few moments God gave me just a simple taste of His love for me, a glimpse of heaven. He revealed to me His great power in freeing me, at least for a moment, from the burdens that I had been carrying for far too long. I was made new.
As we approach summer, it is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of moments that are not so easily available throughout the rest of the year. Taking time to retreat a bit allows us to step away from some of the weight that we carry in our everyday lives and provides opportunities to find peace and comfort in God. For me, it was through D-Camp that God revealed some of the lies that had been weighing on me for so long. This encounter has continued to be a source of grace and hope as I strive to give my life to Him each and every day. The more I become aware of God’s love for me and for the whole world, the thirstier I become.
Now, for me this opportunity and space came through Discipleship Camp. I am blessed today to direct the same camp that affected me so deeply 22 years ago and I’ve been able to offer a similar space for over 2000 young people since I started working at the diocese in 2010.
D-Camp is just one experience though of many that provides a space like this. We are blessed in our diocese to have so many pastors, parish staff, and volunteers committed to our young people and providing more opportunities in the summer than ever before. Whether it’s a conference, mission trip, or even a day trip to an amusement park these opportunities exist to breathe life into us, our friendships, our realities, and our parishes.
On another note, it is important to realize that these sorts of “extraordinary” events are not as necessary as one might think. Sure, they are a good and true source of grace for many. For others though, opportunities like this just are not an option.
We must recognize that at all times and in all places God is drawing us to himself. Opportunities like D-Camp help make us more aware of this. Also though, committing to smaller “retreat” opportunities like setting aside quiet prayer time each day or going on walks and offering a rosary can become invaluable sources of grace.
This summer, let us commit to creating the space that allows God to speak His love to us and satisfy our thirst.