Easter Camp 2024

Buckle up for the recap of my past week. I already warned you it was going to be wild, and this last week has really incredible.

Monday morning I had a text from Jen and Dave that they’d landed in Auckland and would make it to Christchurch in the late afternoon. I had a couple admin tasks to get done despite it technically being my day off, but I headed to life group in anticipation of my friends joining in the middle. I had an incredible moment hugging the people who sent me on mission ten years ago and showing them the church space where I do ministry now. My life group friends welcomed Jen and Dave in for our gathering, and I took them home after to show them my house and have a quick chat before they crashed from jet lag and over a full day of travel.

Tuesday morning was supposed to be my one afternoon with Jen and Dave to hang out and show them Christchurch. Instead, we had a cup of coffee before my staff meeting, and plans changed when I discovered our marquee wasn’t set up like we hoped. Matt and I scrambled to find a few more volunteers, and my jet lagged American friends jumped in the car to help us. I already was impressed with my leader team and the servant heart so frequently found in RCC members, but this spontaneous set up and the full day of site assembly on Wednesday reminded me again of how wonderful it is to serve within this community. I really didn’t want to start camp exhausted, so I took Thursday morning off to spend some more time with Jen and Dave and drove them up to the Port Hills to get a view of my city before we went to church for youth to check in for camp.

All three days had had lots of moving pieces and unexpected changes (including a parent texting me Thursday afternoon to say they were dropping their kid off for the bus 45 minutes early – well before anyone would be at church). I can’t express my gratitude enough to everyone who let me shift plans and keep things moving so that the youth could have a beautiful Easter Camp experience. Our buses showed up, and we loaded up on time with minimal mishaps. I said goodbye to Jen and Dave between check-ins, and I wrapped dozens of green and yellow wristbands onto attendees as others piled gear on our trailer in the car park. It already felt like the past three weeks had been a blur, but we were finally here, and I thanked Rochelle for locking up the church as I loaded into the last van with two of my leaders to head to camp.

We arrived on site with no accidents, though a few young people couldn’t find their gear in the unloaded pile. I arrived to minimal chaos as Matt and the rest of the leaders have all been through this routine multiple times. I could point out a thousand times through the week that I’m grateful to lead alongside Matt, but I want to highlight how I really loved seeing him giving our group culture talk before heading out to Big Top on Thursday night. Easter Camp and leading youth is second nature to this guy, and watching how naturally he set up the goal of bonding as a group while seeking Jesus and growing together from Big Top seating to bet time routines was really beautiful. I learned a lot through this week about how to effectively lead an Easter Camp group.

I also had some beautiful moments in my element because I’m not exactly a novice when it comes to youth ministry. Friday afternoon I watched eight 12-13 year old boys bring their leader into a workshop on how to pray for your friends. These kids then split into two groups – one with me and another leader, the other with the year 9 boy leader – and practiced praying for each other. When the speaker asked each group to have a volunteer to be prayed for in the activity, one of the boys in my group spoke up saying, “We should pray for Laura.” I can’t tell you how precious it was to have these kids lay hands on me and pray for me in that moment.

Later that night in our marquee, we were sharing God moments from the day, and one of the leaders shared an encouraging picture he saw of the Holy Spirit and then also suggested we pray for me as a big group. I came to be a leader hoping to point people to Jesus, and how humbling to find that it was this group carrying me to the Lord.

Another important Friday detail to include was our intern asking at the leader meeting if we could find five youth or leaders willing to have a mullet shaved on stage by someone else in our group. I said I’d be willing to shave my whole head, but I didn’t want to keep a mullet, so I helped round out the five volunteers. Three of my leaders eagerly asked the event coordinators if I’d be able to get on stage since there was a few steps up. Mike and Hannah were both willing to give me an out if I didn’t want to shave my head, but I was fully on board. For the kids. Also, I looked great last time I shaved my head, so I have no fear of doing it again. Anyways, Hannah said if I was up for it, she’d contact me with the details to get me backstage and helped up to the front on Saturday night.

In the meantime, there was some of the un-fun admin of taking a group of 92 people to a camp event of 3,000. One of my leaders went home sick in the night, a couple of teenagers made some bad behaviour choices that occupied most of my Saturday, and a couple kids went home sick or with a fractured hand. You know, the usual. Have I mentioned how grateful I am to work with Matt? Sure I could have handled all that without him, but I really, really appreciated his camp experience with these particulars. Also with how to get our trailer on site before the mad dash of the gates opening because my plan would have got our gear back to church quite a bit later. It did mean a wrinkle in some of my other plans, but the incredible leader team I had pulled it off. Also, huge shout out to the parents who showed up to pack down and take gear back that made the couch tetris take what I thought would be three loads back in just two trailers.

I’m still leaving things out, but I want to include the head shaving before the haka, and that’s probably enough for one post.

Once our intern had the five people lined up with required parental permissions, he went and told the MC we’d be ready for the event. Here’s where the miscommunication becomes apparent – the MC only expected one pair from our group, but Quinn said we’d got five lined up – including me willing to shave my whole head. “Oh, we’ll definitely shave her head then,” he apparently said to Quinn. In the end, Quinn and I both went on stage with three other people from three other churches to get two minute mullets. During my introduction, the MC asked if I’d had a mullet before. I admitted I hadn’t but that I planned to shave my head after and had done that before. Then he asked the crowd if I should keep the mullet for a day which got the other MC starting a “keep the mullet” chant across Big Top. For about half of our two minutes, Maiah was trying to get the clippers to cut off my braid which I’d agreed to donate to a friend I ran into backstage who was collecting hair donations for wigs. For those who saw the video – that’s why I wouldn’t let Quinn throw it into the crowd.

Two minutes was insufficient to make anything close to a mullet with my hair, but we took the clippers back to camp to clean up Quinn’s mullet and finish shaving my head. We also got parental consent for a couple other late night hair cuts. I look great, but it’s autumn down here, so I’m also very grateful for my flatmate who let me wear her beanie the rest of camp. The MC saw me with the beanie the next day, and I had to reveal that I’d not kept the mullet. We both agreed our respective hairstyles suited each of us – he can rock the mullet, and I look great with a buzz. I was also chatting with a security guard before Big Top on Sunday about how I have no hesitation to do something silly if it might get one youth in 3,000 to clue in to the message happening on that stage after. He was telling me about how much he loved keeping young people safe at this event and would stand in front of the mosh pit with tears down his face as he prayed for the youth of his country while they worshipped together. Another friend texted me after I sent her a picture that it was so important to show young people that God can be fun. When we strip the Gospel of the full life of laughter and reconciliation involved, we mislead young people to think that God is all rules and no fun.

The Easter Camp team pulls off an incredible event each year that requires incredible feats of planning, heaps of money, and serious paperwork and manpower to pull off. They don’t do it for the instagram likes, fame, hype, or money. These people do it for Jesus. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know some of these people pouring their hearts into making the Easter Camp event a success. Success in their definition is lives transformed by Jesus, is kingdom moments, is God being glorified. Success is making space for the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit showed up. Matt was bouncing around on Sunday afternoon talking about how the place felt thin – like the Celtics talked about the thin places where it’s easier to encounter the supernatural and feel God’s presence. I was texting friends overseas to pray because the whole camp was thicccccccccccc with the Holy Spirit’s presence (using our joke of ranking the c’s from 3-12 of how intense the presence of God feels in a moment). There was something profound and powerful about entering into Big Top on Sunday night, and the stories after of what my youth and leaders felt are forever precious as every person in the room encountered God in some way. For a couple of our young people, it was their first real encounter with God, and it was profound and powerful. I’ll be praying into God developing those seeds planted in that moment for a long time! For others, it was a moment to own and understand who God has made them to be and celebrate relationship with their creator.

I knew we were working up to something, and as the speaker wrapped up his message, a group in the back stood up and began a haka. The haka is more than just a cool thing before a New Zealand rugby match, and it’s got a lot of cultural significance for people here. The room went completely silent as the group finished, and the speaker translated for the group before acknowledging the beauty of the Māori culture and emphasising how God is the God of Māori people as much as anyone else before responding himself with a haka. As he began, a couple other people scattered around the room joined in, and the presence of the Lord filled the space where cultures blended and honoured the same God together. I think that’s a moment that will be remembered for eternity.

The beauty of that moment is that it will have a lasting impact on people in that room. I’m so fired up about watching the youth of New Zealand spark a revival in this country. All week my year 9 boys’ leader kept telling me new faith comments and commitments his small group guys were making, and on the verge of tears he’d repeat, “I get five years of this.” This dude is pumped about the discipleship journey he’s been gifted with walking alongside these 16 boys. (He started with 12, and I joked he’d reach 24 by year 13; he’s ahead of that trajectory.) I’m pumped about being here for the transformation of lives through the work of Christ in this place.

I do not take lightly my invitation into this country and into this role. I’m privileged to journey alongside these young people, and I am so grateful for everyone joining in prayer over this camp through the past weeks. Please don’t stop; God is not done moving, and there are waves of revival coming to Christchurch that we need covered in prayer.

Monday morning we had one last message from Mike and Hannah encouraging everyone to be an outwards focused ministry that invited people into relationship with Jesus and community with other people. We were sent back to our sites to take communion together before pack down and loading onto buses. They specifically put communion at the end of camp to help us connect the things we’d learned and celebrated at camp to the routines and rhythms of life in church community during the rest of the year. I really value the intentionality behind the programming of this event to make space for young people to do things like bond as Jesus followers, ask leaders good discipleship questions, encounter the Holy Spirit, and worship God in community but all for the purpose of life transformation that is carried back into their schools and homes and neighbourhoods.

Watch closely, and hold me accountable if you don’t see marks of transformation in my life and those around me as we seek his presence and represent God’s kingdom here in Christchurch.

Leave a Reply