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Camp Connect: The Comeback

May 17, 2021
By Suzanne Akins, Event Coordinator/Camp Director

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14

It was February 1980 and one of the earliest memories of my childhood. I’m not even sure if it’s an actual memory or I’ve just been a part of the retelling of the story so many times that it sits like a memory.

My brothers and I were sprawled out on our orange shag carpet watching the medal round of Olympic hockey on our tube TV with the antennae set just right. It was a showdown between the underdog amateurs of the United States and the powerhouse professionals of the Soviet Union.

We didn’t know the rules of hockey; we were Georgia kids. But it didn’t matter because we were all in, screaming for that puck to get in the right goal, calling our players by their first names like they were family. All we knew was that every card in the deck was stacked against “our team” and we were going to fight (from our living room floor) for a miracle.

The final minutes proved victorious for the United States and we knew instantly we had just been part of a historic moment. One we would never forget.

It was a miracle on ice.

We all love a comeback story. It’s ingrained in us. We fight for the underdogs and rejoice in their victories. Give me Hoosiers, Rocky, Seabiscuit, Bad News Bears, Rudy, Mighty Ducks – any movie about an underdog – and I’ll watch it wholeheartedly, pretending I have no idea how it’s going to end. I’ll sit on pins and needles, I’ll cheer, and in the end, I’ll cry. It’s what we do.

After canceling all of Camp Connect’s summer camps last year, we knew we needed, and wanted, a comeback in 2021. Unlike the movies, we didn’t know how this was going to end. Not only is the pandemic still around, but our home base, Epworth By The Sea, remains closed to house the salvage workers of the Golden Ray shipwreck. We prayed for God to provide a place and clarify the details.   

On a whim (or so I thought), I made a call to Camp Jekyll, just a couple of bridges away in the same county, knowing full well that they run 4-H camps all summer long with their own staff. When the director answered the phone, I introduced myself and said “I’d like to throw a Hail Mary your way. Can I book your camp for the entire summer?” Silence followed and after a few uncomfortable moments I said, “Never mind. I know you’ve got camps. Just thought I’d check.”

“Your timing is catching me off guard,” he said. “The University of Georgia, just 30 minutes ago, moved all of our 4-H camps to one location, Rock Eagle. Our calendar has been wiped clean. My facilities manager and food services manager are heartbroken because I just told them the news that we would not have any kids here this summer. Mrs. Akins, if you’re serious, this will save us. Our site is hemorrhaging and may not make it much longer if we don’t have camps.”

The prevenient grace of God had never felt more real than in that moment. The Comeback Story for Camp Connect is unveiling in real time. I’m on pins and needles, cheering (and maybe even crying) because we get to connect kids with Christ this summer at all of our sold-out camps. Not only are we able to have a full summer of camps, we’re able to keep it on the coast, feeling like home. God’s provision.  

Will it be different? Yes. Our location is changing for the first time in more than 70 years. Our staff of college students will be leading a camp with a focus on healing after a pandemic. We have significant protocols to implement and follow to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. It will be different.

Will it be life-changing? YES! More than 400 campers will pull away for a week to focus on their relationship with Christ through worship, community-building, and fun. Join us by praying for God to move mightily through the lives of everyone involved in Camp Connect. It will be life-changing!

In those final seconds of the Olympic hockey matchup, you could hear the announcer, Al Michaels, yell into the microphone, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

This may not be a miracle on ice story, but it sure feels like a miracle on the beach.

Suzanne Akins is the Director of Camping & Retreats for the South Georgia Conference. Follow Camp Connect via Facebook and Instagram.

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