*cue “Growing Up In the Lord” by Acappella – ca. 1987
A few Sundays ago was “Senior Sunday” at my church. All of the graduating seniors at our church were presented with a bible during morning worship, and a slideshow was shown featuring pictures of their lives from back when they were little babies to now – 18 years of life.
The theme for worship was “Family” – our youth minister spoke about how this class of graduating seniors had really come together and created a family amongst themselves, demonstrated by the love they had for each another.
It made me think back to my years of being in my church’s youth group, and how I was really blessed to have an amazing youth group family from middle school until my senior year of high school. Those were some of the best years of my life – I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I thought I would take some time to reflect back on those years and write out some of my most memorable moments – I’m sure I’ve missed some, but I picked my top 10 moments, which are written about in more detail below. My memory has failed me on many of the specifics, and I wish I had more pictures to share (I used disposable cameras back then!)
I also really wanted to thank each of you who were a part of my Camelback Church youth group family – (you know who you are!) – you meant a lot to me, and I honestly miss you all! Thanks for some amazing memories!
Favorite and Memorable Moments of the Camelback Youth Group (1998 – 2005)
1. Christmas Parties at the Robert’s House – this was a special memory for me, not only because it was a fun Christmas tradition, but because it took place at my Grandma’s house. My grandma died when she was only 75, that was during my senior year in high school. When I think of my grandma, I think of her giant front yard with the horseshoe driveway – I think of chicken enchiladas, which were the main course for any and every event – and I think of the big Lazy Susan table in their dining room where we used to eat. Each year she would host the youth group Christmas parties, which would always include a gift exchange – one of those where you steal gifts from other people and eventually they get “frozen.”
2. The Glow Stick Debacle – I want to say that this was during an event called “Youth WAVE” (Youth With A Vision for Evangelism). It could have been another camp, but I can’t remember. The camp took place on a college campus, Pepperdine University I believe. (Again, I may be mixing some details up, but that’s not the point.) The girls’ dorms we were staying in for the week had a main living room area, and then individual rooms for sleeping. One night, one of the girls had the idea to take glow sticks, break them open, and splash them around the dorm for a crazy neon dance party of sorts. The idea was that the glow sticks were water-based, and when the liquid evaporated, the mess would magically be gone. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The liquid dried all over the dorm room wall, floors, ceilings… literally everything! We were then left worrying that we would be in big trouble, maybe getting fined for property damages. I admit, I was actually not in the dorm when the glow stick madness was happening. I came in the aftermath and got to help try to clean up the glow stick splatters all over the room! Despite not even being there for the fun part, this memory is one I will never forget!
3. Copper Basin Bible Camp – This camp is located in Prescott, Arizona, and I went there for a week every summer from third grade until my senior year of high school. I even worked there a few summers as a junior counselor. My great-uncle Ethan (he’s Santa in the above picture) would live up there in the summers and work as the camp nurse. I can’t think of CBBC without Ethan. Some of the best parts of camp were singing in the gazebo, hiking up the mountain at night to look at the stars… and to sing (of course), and Thursday night, which was skit night. You never knew what to expect during skit night – if you signed up it seemed like they let you do almost anything you wanted. Most of the skits I was a part of typically involved singing or acting out scenes from our favorite movies. One year a bunch of the girls decided to do an “It’s a Small World” skit – we had one person who personified the clock from the ride, and after she chimed, the rest of us came out and pretended to be little animatronic dolls while we sang the song.
4. The Acapella Singing – the great Church of Christ tradition: acapella singing! We would sing whenever we got a chance – in the bus or vans on trips, at camps, at LTC (Leadership Training for Christ), in skits… and any good devo had to have some singing! Also, our youth group had some really awesome singers in it – I mean really, we sounded AMAZING! Singing is how I feel most connected to God in worship, so I am thankful to have had a youth group that loved to sing together.
5. The Back Parking Lot/Hill – After church on Sunday and Wednesday nights, all of us would go to the back parking lot and hang out. There were picnic tables and a giant hill, as well as a basketball and volleyball court. Sometimes we would play hackysack, sometimes we would listen to the guys play guitar and sing Weezer or Green Day. Skateboards were in for a while, and I remember attempting to learn how to do a kick flip (never happened). It seemed like we would just hang out for hours until the final cars were pulling away from the building and our parents were telling us we had to leave. Lots of friendships made in that parking lot.
6. Lock-ins – lock-ins: every kid’s dream and every chaperone’s nightmare. These were a blast when I was growing up! There was just something that was so much fun about getting to spend the night and run around the empty building . There would typically be a few games of “Sardines,” where one person would be “It” – this person was the one who would hide first, and everyone else had to find them and then hide with them. Potentially one person could be left all alone trying to find the entire group of people – and it’s definitely creepy when suddenly all of your friends seem to start disappearing. We had this really long hallway of classrooms that we would run up and down and hide in, and usually someone would get hurt by running into an open door that they couldn’t see. It was awesome.
Lock-ins kind of have an ebb and flow of energy. During one of the quieter “down times,” a few of us went into one of the little kid classrooms and found this toy that was basically a toy camera – you would look inside it and it had pictures of animals. It was called, “Trip to the Zoo.” I think there were probably 15 or 20 pictures, and we decided (for some reason) that we would memorize the order of the animals. One person would look in the viewfinder at the pictures and the rest of us would try to guess what animal they were on. It would end ceremoniously with a shout of “trip to the zoo!” because the last picture had the name of the toy.
If you’re curious about the toy, here’s a video showing it!
7. Encounter – if you went to Encounter than you’ll remember one thing: black plastic. Each room was decked out in black plastic tarps. Encounter was a week-long camp that lots of churches attended, I don’t even remember what city it was in now. The first Encounter trip I got to go on was when I was about to go into high school, so I remember feeling very cool because I was old enough to go with the high schoolers on the trip. The theme was “Survivor” (like the show) which will tell you how old I am. Each room would be some sort of experience – for example, one room I went to was supposed to mimic what hell would be like (yes, seriously) so it was pitch black with ominous music and a sulphur-y smell… and then we transitioned to the “heaven” room, which was bright with white cloth everywhere and pleasant music. Another room a guy used the illustration of an unsaved person being like a fish out of water – and he literally put a goldfish in the middle of the floor and waited to see if anyone would pick it up and save it. I was close to the fish, but didn’t save it. (Blame it on the bystander effect!) I remember the guy teaching the class even pointed to me and was like, “Why didn’t you do anything?”
8. Bible Bowl – for those of you who might be unfamiliar with what a Bible Bowl is, it’s basically a competitive test of your knowledge over a book of the bible. You are on a team of 4 people, and there are prizes for top individual scores and top team scores. It seemed like we were always studying either the book of Luke or Revelation. There were usually four rounds of 25 questions, so 100 overall. And let me tell you, Bible Bowl was no joke. I remember filling out study guides and reading my bible for hours to try to memorize the information. One time during a particular Bible Bowl, a team from another church accused someone on my team of cheating, which they hadn’t been. It was so intense! I’m not sure how our teams were picked, but there were definitely A teams and B teams, and even some C teams. People who hadn’t studied very much found interesting ways to try to pick answers – either by flipping a coin or making a pattern on their answer sheet, or even just picking ‘C’ for every question.
9. Trapped in Boston – one of the first big trips I took with the youth group was when I was a freshman in high school. We went all the way to Boston (from Arizona) to put on a Vacation Bible School at a small Church of Christ. The theme of the VBS was “God is Awesome!” (yes I still have my shirt from it!) The most memorable part of the trip for me was when we got into a small fender bender in one of those long 15 passenger vans – someone thought they were in a turn lane, when they weren’t, and hit us. For the next hour (maybe 2?) we were stuck inside this van, with no air conditioning, in the middle of a very humid day in Boston. It was one of those vans that had rows with three people squished in them – needless to say we were all ready to get out! One of the chaperones had told us we had to stay in the van (for safety?) and we were all dying! When I found this shirt, it seemed too perfect to remember the trip by…
10. Friendships – this last one may be a bit cheesy, and it doesn’t really count as a specific moment in time, but the best thing of all about being in my youth group was the friendships I made. You guys were my best friends, my family. It seemed like almost every day of the week we were over at each other’s houses, watching movies, playing video games like Dance Dance Revolution… taking Disneyland trips together, going out to eat on Sunday nights… we just enjoyed being together. Thank you dear friends – again, you know who you are ❤