If the Gospel is the most important message we’ve ever received, why are we so hesitant to share it with others? Jesus tells us that the harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few. This means that there are plenty of people in need of the Gospel but only a few people ready and willing to share it. Some people think that they have to sign up for foreign missions to spread the message of the Gospel to the world, but that’s simply not true. There are tons of people in our local community that need the Gospel and we are the ones God is calling to share it.
Inspire Sports Camps, A Gospel Focused Summer Camp
Back in college, I signed up to join the summer staff of Inspire Sports Camps, a gospel-focused summer sports camp for youth of inner cities across the northeast. I had no intention of signing up when Kurt, the director of the camp, visited the small Bible study group I attended on Mondays. I still had no intention of signing up when I took the informational brochure or when I signed up for their email list. However, I followed the Holy Spirit’s lead and volunteered at camp for three weeks that year. I couldn’t have made a better decision.
What is Inspire Sports Camps and what are they all about?
As I mentioned earlier, Inspire Sports Camps is a gospel-focused summer camp for young people living in inner cities. Their goal is to see cities transformed by creating unforgettable experiences for under served youth that lead to life changing encounters with Jesus Christ.
Inspire Sports Camps is a huge positive influence in the lives of many young people. Many have said that if it weren’t for camp they would have been out wandering on the streets. Others never even had the privilege of hearing the Gospel before. Many of the kids and teens that attend camp have experienced hardship that no child should have to go through.
If Inspire Sports Camps is about sports, how is the Gospel being shared?
It’s no secret, ISC is very much about sports. However, sports is not the main mission. Sports is one of the vehicles we use to share the Gospel message at camp. There’s always an opportunity to share the Gospel at camp. We can share in between meals and events, during group activities, and in small groups. Club, the largest event of the day is dedicated almost entirely to sharing the Gospel. Of course, Club also includes laughter, dancing, worship, and a ton of competitive games.
After Club, campers get to attend Small Groups with their counselors. In Small Groups, we continue discussing the message we heard in Club. Campers get to ask questions and counselors get to share their insight and guidance, pray with campers, listen to their concerns, and hopefully, lead them in making a decision for Christ.
My personal experience serving at Inspire Sports Camps
To be honest, I was pretty hesitant about signing up for camp. It was way out of my comfort zone. I didn’t like sports and I had only worked with kids on a few occasions. I worried about how I would relate to them or if I would have anything good to offer them.
But, I was thinking about serving my community and how I could be doing more to share the Gospel. And, as the director spoke, I felt God tugging on my heart to take a leap of faith. So, I did.
With doubt still in my heart, I took one of the informational brochures and signed up for their email list. Next thing I know, I was at Staff Training preparing to receive my first group of campers.
There was victorious singing, triumphant praise, and loud celebration from campers who knew that they were going home with the best gift they could ever receive: a relationship with Jesus.
I’ll be completely up front, camp was definitely not a walk in the park. It was both challenging and rewarding. The first thing I learned was how to become third. Becoming third meant putting God first, campers and everyone else second, and myself last. Isn’t that what the Gospel teaches us? Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, became third by emptying himself, taking the form of a servant, and dying a painful death on the cross for our sake. (Philippians 2:4-8)
I had to make sacrifices at camp that I really didn’t want to make. For example, last summer, I chose to attend soccer with the girls in my cabin group. Truthfully, I was terrified. If you know me, you’d know why. I don’t know how to run and I definitely don’t know how to dribble a ball or whatever that means.
However, when I put aside my fear of not knowing how to play the game of soccer something amazing happened. I remember struggling to keep up with everyone else as we were running warm up laps. There were two other girls struggling to keep up too. They were not too familiar with the game of soccer, either. I ran with them and helped to motivate them. By the end of the week, those two girls were doing exceptionally well. By putting myself third and stepping out of my comfort zone, I helped inspire two young girls to believe that they could do anything they put their minds to.
Yes, I felt stretched and pulled and camp was challenging at times. But it was all worth it. Campers opened up to me about their struggles, leaned on me for guidance, and most importantly, made the decision to follow Jesus.
I saw God break down walls of suffering and pain, and restore broken hearts that seemed shattered beyond repair. I witness campers who came in turned off to God and Christianity surrender to the loving embrace of Jesus Christ. There was victorious singing, triumphant praise, and loud celebration from campers who knew that they were going home with the best gift they could ever receive: a relationship with Jesus.
I started camp unsure of how I’d be able to contribute and ended realizing that my contribution was necessary. Even though I couldn’t always see the fruit of my labor, I knew that at the right time God would allow the seed I helped plant to grow.
How to get involved with Inspire Sports Camps
It may seem out of your comfort zone, but God often has to take us outside of where we’re comfortable to use us effectively.
There are many ways to get involved with Inspire Sports Camps.
First, ISC is currently recruiting volunteers to serve as summer staff. While the position is unpaid, all volunteers receive meals and housing at no cost to them.
Inspire Sports Camps hosts camp at the Taconic Retreat Center in Milan, NY each year. Even though camp is in New York, some volunteers travel as far as North Carolina and Virginia to serve on staff. Regardless of where in the United States you live, you are welcome to join the summer staff.
If you are unable to serve on the summer staff, you can always donate or sponsor a child. You can view the ways to support the ministry financially here. It only costs $180 to cover a camper’s lodging, meals, and camp activities for the entire week. Unfortunately, the families of many campers are unable to afford camp each year so sponsorships help them out tremendously.
100% of campers at Inspire Sports Camps are sponsored to go to camp. Campers are charged under $100 for an entire week of camp and Camper Sponsors cover the remaining cost of camp. Each camper sponsor receives a hand-written thank you note. You can donate a camper sponsorship here.
If you can’t help with a full sponsorship, I’m sure that any donation you make will be helpful.
Finally, if you know of kids and teens in your community who need to attend camp, you can work with the ISC leadership team to make it happen.
So, if you’ve been wondering how to share the Gospel without leaving your neighborhood, you may want to consider signing up for Inspire Sports Camps. It may seem out of your comfort zone, but God often has to take us outside of where we’re comfortable to use us effectively. If God is speaking to your heart, then take a leap in obedience and sign up for camp this year. If you still aren’t fully convinced, pray about it and ask God to lead you.
You can reach out to the ISC team by emailing Liscet Beauchea (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you have about serving on their summer staff.
Have you ever volunteered or served in your community? What was it like? What did you learn from it?