Letter from Gerard O’Brien

Dear St Thomas’ family

My first Summercamp was in 2014. 45 high school students set out for the beautiful Youthworks Rathane campsite in Port Hacking. There were only two students attending who had just finished year 12: Callum Morris and Alexander Worton. And among a small group of students about to start year 7 were Jasmine Eatough and David Worton.

We set out for the same campsite on January 16, 2021 with 92 high school students. This year Callum was preaching (and his wife Brittany was an amazing camp nurse), Alexander was one of the directors, and Jasmine and David were leading Summercamp as Lights leaders for the first time. It has brought great joy to watch these then-teenagers grow up in Jesus into the young adults they are today. And Summercamp has had a huge impact on that.

God is at the centre of Summercamp. We started each day with a half-hour Quiet Time in his word. We heard six excellent, deep, exegetical talks from the book of Ephesians from Callum. We learned of how the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead has also raised us up with Christ into the heavenly realms, and the impact that has on our day-to-day walk as Christians. And these aren’t kids talks: they’re 20-25 minute sermons that mine the riches of God’s word. We had hour-long discussion groups each day to reflect on God’s word together. We spent time in prayer together. We had seminars on topics like assurance, dating, body image and mental health. A highlight for many was to have one of our year 12 students present a very helpful, faithful and well-thought-through seminar on predestination. James West led us as we sang songs to the Lord and to each other (youth were allowed to sing outside with masks on). We asked campers for feedback on what most impacted them on camp and every single comment had to do with how they had grown as Christians or in their understanding of God’s word. 

The highlight for me was in discussion groups. We asked students to think what God’s will might be for their lives and for this world. They spent a minute or so thinking about it and then we read Ephesians 1:9–10, which says God’s will is ‘to unite all things in him (Jesus)’. The penny dropped for a year 11 boy as he realised that God’s will for this universe centres on Jesus (and not on us) and he said he had goosebumps just thinking about it.

Then there’s the community aspect of Summercamp. We’re in tighter quarters these days as Summercamp has grown. But with so many Christian teenagers, there is love and grace and humility and kindness abounding. Another camper commented that one thing they’ll share with friends when they go home is ‘the lack of judgment and sheer love and support for one another in the talent fest’. This is a space where, instead of tearing each other down (like so often happens at school), teenagers build each other up. Friendships in Christ grow at greater rates on Summercamp. I think it’s a bit like how Paul seemed only to spend a few weeks with the Thessalonians (Acts 17:1–9), yet it was such an intense time of fellowship that when he wrote to them, he wrote with great love and affection. It has been beautiful to watch over the years as these relationships that grow so much in the week of Summercamp turn into lifelong friendships as youth grow up and continue to walk in Christ together as young adults.

And Summercamp is a whole lot of fun. There are wide games, messy games, time to swim in the lake and the pool, the legendary Summercamp Cup (the enormous trophy now has 10 years of the winning tribe engraved on it), a movie night, campfires, basketball, cricket and just hanging out at free time.

Thank you everyone who prayed for Summercamp. Thank you to the directors (Jess Egan, Jordy Fung and Alexander Worton). Thank you to all the incredible Lights leaders and the servant squad who gave their time and energy (and some, days of annual leave from work) to make Summercamp so amazing. Thank you parents for prioritising the discipleship of your children and allowing us to be a part of that. Thanks to the campers who came ready to love God, love each other and love summer. Thank you to Youthworks for a beautiful site and for all the adjustments they made to make this camp work within COVID restrictions. And thanks most of all to our great God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, by his Spirit continues to advance his kingdom among the youth of St Thomas’.

In Christ,
Gerard O’Brien