Camp Ocoee, nestled in the hills of East Tennessee, can be a quiet and serene place. When campers are there, it is anything but. The grounds come to life and buzz with activity. Camp becomes dynamic and vibrant. When Bellevue’s middle school group rolled in, the place exploded with energy. Buses were unloaded, suitcases and overnight bags were lined up, and middle schoolers poured in, ready to have fun and learn about the Lord.
Throughout the week, students could be found competing in intense team games on the rec field, playing at the water park, or practicing for the infamous lip sync battle. Cory O’Hara, Bellevue’s Middle School Pastor, said building community through all these activities is what “kicks us off for an incredible summer.”
Screaming for your team to win or dancing on stage are the moments that make camp a blast, and singing praise to the Lord together and diving into God’s Word are the moments that make camp meaningful. The central theme this year was “Discovering God Through His Ways, Word, Works, and Will.” Through this study, leaders saw students transformed.
“So many students made professions of faith, decisions to set up baptism in the weeks ahead, and responded to a call to ministry,” Cory said.
A lot of growth happened in the span of just a few days. Bryan Tipton was the leader of the 8th grade boys, who were pumped about games and the fun stuff but were a little skeptical about worship and group time. Eventually, that all changed.
“It was evident that many of them began to grasp the larger purpose of the week on a personal level, and many showed an increased willingness to share in our group times and speak about how the Lord was working on them,” Bryan said.
Jake Stoope also saw God work through the 7th grade boys he led.
“The coolest moment was seeing my guys worship on their knees, arms wrapped around each other, praying and singing praises to the Lord. As a leader, that is all you can ask for in a camp experience,” he said.
Prayer is a powerful thing, and that was obvious during prayer night at Camp Ocoee. Students were given prayer prompts: pray that they will live differently when they get back home, pray for someone that is difficult to love, and pray for the person right next to them. Crystal Fabacher, a parent and a leader, saw firsthand how much that night impacted students.
“Seeing the students laying hands on their friends and praying over each other was the most beautiful God-moment of the week!” she said.
Middle schoolers returned from Camp Ocoee with memories that will last a lifetime and, more importantly, hearts on fire that will continue to burn for the Lord. Lydia Summers is a leader who can attest to this.
“This generation loves the Lord like no other generation I’ve seen,” Lydia said. “I am so excited to see all that the Lord is going to do in and through them!”