Serving Our Nation's Servants

Being at Trail West Lodge, Young Life’s family camp in Colorado, to serve on an assignment team with other Young Life staff is always a wonderful time. It’s a blessing to serve families who vacation at Trail West. Many of the guests are fellow believers and a part of the Young Life mission. This past summer’s assignment was no exception, but it was our last week of the assignment that was the most amazing.
The last week at Trail West was reserved for a group of families that canceled in late May. God had other plans for this week! Instead, a group of Christian businessmen called Impact Colorado Springs worked with Young Life to bring 40 military families from Fort Carson — the Army’s famed “mountain post” in Colorado Springs — to Trail West in August. And because Impact Colorado raised money and Young Life lowered prices to give these military families the best week of their lives, the families vacationed at Trail West for free.
Much-needed vacation
Most of these soldiers spent the previous year in Iraq and only reunited with their families in the spring. Only three of the 40 families had any idea what Young Life was all about; these folks just signed up for a family vacation. One family didn’t know they were coming until after camp started, when they were called off the waiting list because another family didn’t arrive Sunday afternoon.
From the moment they arrived to a Young Life welcome, the families were wide-eyed with surprise and delight. The sight of horses racing up the road, the Young Life version of Toy Story’s Woody and Jessie — our program characters for the week — dancing on a wagon, and work crew kids carrying their luggage seemed overwhelming to many of our new guests. One boy asked where their tents were and was thrilled to learn he’d be staying in one of the condominiums.
Reaching out to families
The beginning of the week was interesting as we got to know the military families and they got to know Young Life. Many families didn’t attend club the first night. Instead, the Aspen Grove was filled with families playing basketball, tennis and sand volleyball. While the military leaders offered to order families to attend club, we prayed instead that God would draw them to club to hear the Gospel.
And He answered those prayers. Our assigned team, along with high school and college kids serving on work crew and summer staff, played the role of Young Life leaders that week to children, teenagers and their parents. We initiated and built relationships with families, played together and had great conversations about life.
By the end of the week, these tough military guys (and girls) were having the time of their lives! It was so fun to watch them laugh with their kids as they square-danced or played in the pool. One man had been in the military for 29 years, married for 28 years and had never taken a family vacation! Others had seen their kids and spouses only once or twice in the last year. And most of them would be headed back to Iraq in the next few months.
Love in action
The last night at Young Life camp is typically reserved for Say-So, which is a time when campers who have decided to follow Christ can stand up and “say so.” At family camp, that evening gives kids and parents an opportunity to say what God has done in their lives. It was incredible to hear what God did that week in the lives of the guests. Several people met Christ (one summer staff guy even led a man to Christ in Spanish!); marriages were restored; and soldiers were reminded that they don’t go into the desert alone — God is with them!
The soldiers couldn’t stop thanking us for all we’d done that week, but we kept thinking that they do so much for us every day. It was humbling to see these big, tough soldiers with tears in their eyes talking about how God met them that week. I don’t think there were any dry eyes in the house — mine certainly weren’t! I came home with a renewed commitment to pray for our soldiers. I am so thankful for how they serve us, and I am in awe of what they and their families give for our nation.
I’m also more in awe of the God who put this week together. The God who loves people and wanted to give a group of soldiers the opportunity to see His love in action. The God who wanted 40 military families to hear the truth of the Gospel. The God who is present at Trail West and in Iraq. He is the God I am honored and thankful to serve.
Julie Clapp is the Director of Alumni and Events for the North Central Texas Region, and served as summer staff coordinator at Trail West during August 2004.