Growing in Christ
By: Pastor Glenn DeSilva
July 28, 2023
ast week I served as camp pastor at Camp Frenda for Tween (ages 12-14) Camp. The camp property is in the Muskoka Lakes region of Ontario and is surrounded by lovely Lake Rosseau. The scenery is breathe taking, majestic white pines, red maples, and birch trees line the water’s edge of the property. The lake is clean, clear, and refreshing. Solid rock formations are everywhere and nature’s battle to survive is evident everywhere you turn. Closely observing the root system of white pine trees reveals a root system that is predicated on spreading wide over the rock formation because growing through the rock formations in Canada’s boreal forest is not an option. The spreading of roots far and wide is the only hope in battling the furious winds that bring a mighty pine crashing back down to earth. The will to survive is a basic instinct present in all of nature.
While at camp, every evening I would share a campfire story with the almost 200 people (campers, staff, and volunteers) in attendance. This year I chose the story, “I Will Die Free” the true-life story of Humberto Noble Alexander who as author Kay Risso shares is “the remarkable story of one man’s determined fight to stay alive and remain faithful to his Lord inside the very gates of hell. Denied sleep, given maggot-infested gruel to eat, beaten unmercifully, and forced to labor beyond the normal limits of human endurance, ‘the Pastor’ remained unbroken and more determined than ever to see the cross of Christ triumph behind concrete walls of unimaginable human misery.” Noble’s mighty cry “I will die free” sounded every evening around a campfire to close off the day and prepare campers and staff alike with a night of rest.
Of the 130-plus campers in attendance, 65% were non-Adventist and for many the worship talks each evening should have been anti-climactic after a day of fun activities such as skiing, horsemanship, rock-wall climbing, etc., but this could not have been further from the truth. One volunteer Dad said that his son’s highlight at camp was the evening’s story around the campfire. Other campers would ask me if I could share any secret inside information before Storytime and I would seriously and quietly respond, “I don’t know if Noble will make it!” and solemnly walked away. Each evening I would end the story on a cliffhanger ending and attempt to add some sound effects which kept my listeners on edge of their seats. Just to let you know, Noble did survive 22 years of imprisonment for his faith in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The book’s title was indeed prophetic and true.
As the Sabbath was drawing near, a boy’s unit camp counsellor was asked a question by one of his campers. “Who is this Jesus that the pastor keeps talking about and the Jesus that Noble keeps praying to for strength and endurance?” Unbelievable, one tween camper had never heard the name of Jesus! For the Sabbath morning devotional, I shared the message “Who is Jesus?” At the conclusion of the message, I extended an invitation to the crowded fireside worship audience to accept Jesus Christ as one’s personal Saviour. The Holy Spirit was truly present as decisions were made that would change camper’s life stories. The worship service concluded with a standing arm-in-arm audience singing the inspiring camp theme song, “What a Beautiful Name, the Name of Jesus Christ My Lord!” For each of us, the only way that we can remain faithful to the end is to be deeply rooted and planted in Christ Jesus like the white pine trees of Muskoka. Paul says in Colossians 2:7, “Let your roots grow down deep into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” AMEN.