An Inside Look at Pine Hills Boys Camp -- Russ Raney

I recently had a unique opportunity to be an adult observer at Pine Hills Boys Camp. Late last year, my son (now entering 7th grade) expressed an interest in attending Pine Hills after hearing about the fun time a friend had there last summer. We wanted him to be able to participate in this experience, but because of dietary restrictions the only way he could attend would be if Dad went along to help with his food. Thus, I became the oldest ‘camper’ at Pine Hills this year and had the opportunity to watch the boys immerse themselves in the Pine Hills experience. And what I saw made me glad my son was able to be there. Here is a taste of what I observed:

  • Boys learning to work together as a team to accomplish a goal.
  • Boys being given opportunities to be leaders and develop leadership skills.
  • Boys learning to respect authority and building new friendships.
  • Boys engaged in healthy physical activity that sometimes challenged them beyond their comfort zones as they learned what they can do when they dig deeper.
  • Boys having fun at the beautiful YMCA Camp facility (where Pine Hills is held) with cool activities like a 50’ climbing wall, a high ropes course, a high dive platform, and much more.
  • A good relationship between the Pine Hills Camp and the YMCA Camp staff because of the way the Pine Hills kids conduct themselves and care for the facilities.
  • A very capable team of men who directed, organized, and led Pine Hills Camp with a maturity beyond their years, and with an obvious desire to keep the campers safe, and to see them grow in faith, know God’s love, and experience the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.
  • Speakers who encouraged and challenged the boys in their faith.
  • Boys who were excited about worshipping the Lord.
  • Prayer meetings where the Holy Spirit was moving and impacting lives.
  • A fun ‘gong’ show where boys (of all ages) got to showcase their ‘talents’ (I use that word loosely in some instances). 
  • Former campers who continue to return year after year to help on the service team, or as a counselor, or in some other capacity because of the great time they have.
  • Boys learning that pursuing God wholeheartedly is a lifelong adventure for real, manly men.

It’s no wonder so many former campers keep coming back. This was a great experience for my son and all the boys there; one they won’t forget, one that moves them along the path of Godly manhood, and one which brings glory to our Awesome God.

Pine Hills Girls Camp -- 2009

Spending a week at Pine Hills was the best thing that happened to me in my summer! I met so many friends there. There were so many activities for us that the councilors and staff put together, such as game day and workshops, but most importantly there was the prayer meeting which was where I and other girls could just say “Yes” to Jesus. As I said before, I met so many new friends at Pine Hills. I thought I knew everyone there, but I was mistaken. We had 125 campers this year and 50 counselors which is the record. I met girls I had never met in my life and girls that I saw before at Pine Hills but never spent time talking with them. There were campers that traveled from Florida and Ireland to come.  I have so many new friends who are going to the same high school as me.

GirlsCamp2009There were so many activities that we could do at Pine Hills. In the morning we would have initiatives, which were different obstacles for cabins to try and overcome. We would have to work together as a cabin and listen to each other, or we wouldn’t be able to finish it. Those were one of my favorite parts of the day.

My favorite initiative was the 12 foot wall. The 12 foot wall was a wall (of course), but we had to climb up it with nothing to hold onto just our cabin mates pushing from below or pulling up at the top. The catch was that only three people were allowed at the top.  The extras had to go down the latter and ‘spot’ for the ones who hadn’t climbed yet. You were not able to help them up. We had so much fun doing that.

Other activities were workshops which would last most of the afternoon. Earlier during the school year we signed up for what we wanted to do during workshops. My favorite workshop was swimming. They had a high dive that was 15 feet high, which you could jump off. Other workshops I did were Broadway Revue, which was dancing. We would perform that later at the talent show. I also did Pine Hills Scrapbooking. They had all sorts of activities from dancing to sports to arts and crafts to horseback riding even to a high ropes course.

Most importantly at Pine Hills we came closer to God through morning and night prayers and on Wednesday and Thursday night prayer meetings. During morning prayers they would introduce a new chapter to us because our theme this year was: The Greatest Story ever told. The counselors would perform a skit for us and then one of the leadership team would give us a talk about the chapter. 

For example, one chapter was the Entrance of Evil. Ruth Dirkes gave a talk to us about because of the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan is going to tempt us, but we have our guardian angels to protect us from Satan. After the talk we would have a some time to praise Jesus.

On Wednesday and Thursday we would have one night to just praise Jesus. It was exactly like morning prayers with very moving skits and a talk. The only thing that was different was that we had so much longer to praise God. There was prayer ministry in the back of the tent. I saw so many girls slain in the Spirit and almost everyone was crying (in a good way). I felt so much closer to God.

Before I went to camp,  I was very anxious about high school, but after those two prayer meetings I felt so much more peaceful. God worked through so many girls and especially in me. I feel that I can praise Jesus without worrying what my friends think of me.  The prayer meetings were by far my favorite part of Pine Hills.

Pine Hills was so much for me and I bet for all the other 124 campers there also. I can’t wait to be a counselor there someday.

Pine Hills Boys Camp -- 2009

We have been running the Pine Hills Boys and Girls camps so long that they are now led by former campers—who were themselves at camps led by former campers!  There is a heritage of more than 25 years of building into the lives of young people, introducing them to a deep experience of the Lord, and pointing them toward a Spirit-empowered life for Jesus.  And God has blessed the campers and staff year after year! BoysCamp200902This year we faced some special challenges.  More than ever before, the camp is reaching young folks with no historical connection to The Word of God.  This is wonderful in that it extends the reach of our mission.  But it also means that campers come with less background and have to ‘hit the ground running’.  Some have no experience with charismatic life before getting thrown in the deep end at camp.  But God worked wonderfully to open kids hearts and bring them into an experience of the Spirit.

Given the state of the economy, there were financial challenges, as well.  Many families struggled to be able to afford camp.  Initially we only had 50+ boys signed up, largely because of this.  We had a tremendous response among the girls, eventually accepting 128 campers!  However, many of them needed scholarship help, as well.  Eventually we were able to make it possible for 92 boys to come to camp.  In total we extended more than $15,000 worth of scholarships, almost three times the annual amount for the last few years. 

But the investment by community families, former camp families, churches of campers and others was worth it.  Both the Boys Camp and Girls Camp leaders reported that this was probably the best year ever—and that is saying a lot!  There seemed to be a greater sense of unity among the staffs, more responsiveness on the part of everyone to the Lord, and on top of all that they had great weather!

Below you can hear from the campers themselves about their experience at camp.  Let’s keep praying for them that what the Lord began in them at camp will be sustained in the year ahead.

At Pine Hills I really experienced God and had a lot of fun.  Thanks a lot, J.BoysCamp200901

I really liked the high dive.  It was sooooo awesome.  I also liked the final battle.  I pulled liked, 13 raider flags.  I threw a balloon at Mr. Awesome, but it bounced off and I got really amazed.  I also kind of experienced God.  Not as much as last year though.  But I will still try to be good at home and talk to God all the time.  Well, that’s about it ok.  Bye.  C.

I felt God’s love for the first in a long time.

I really experienced Jesus this year at Pine Hills and that is very special to me.

I have never been so close to God in my life.  M.

I experienced God’s love for the first time.

I gave my life to Jesus and went all out for him for the first time this week.  C.

I experienced God’s love powerfully for the first time.  And I had one of the best weeks of my life.  M.

This camp was one of the most fun things involving God I’ve ever had.  I wish I could come every year but I hope that others have the same experience as me.

I heard God’s voice and learned how much he loved me.

I have experienced God in one of the most intense prayer meetings ever in one of the best weeks of my life

I have been going to Pine Hills for 3 years and this year I experienced God’s love the most.  B.

I’ve experienced God’s love in a way I have never experienced before here at Pine Hills.  Thanks to prayer meetings, I have recommitted myself to Christ Jesus.

I’ve experienced God in many ways before this year at camp, but this year was really special because I was ‘slain in the Spirit’ for the first time.  And it was one of the best experiences in my life.  M.

I spoke in tongues for the first time.   D.

This camp experience has been the best experience in my life.  I have built up my joy, confidence, (muscles), spirit and lot more stuff.  This camp is the best and I hope I can continue coming.

For the first time ever I’ve felt the will to get out of my shell.  M.

At Pine Hills I came to be the man that God wanted me to be both spiritually and mentally.  I thank The Word of God with all my heart for the great service you have done to me.  Your works have saved many souls and I am truly grateful for your undying efforts.  P.