by Sara-Jean Litke
One of the major highlights for me was how God used one of the students in my cabin, Rachel, to start a Gospel conversation with another student, Sophie. It all started on Friday afternoon. I had just finished my shift at the canteen when I ran into Rachel on the way back to the cabin. I hadn’t had much time to talk with her earlier in the week to really find out where she was at with God. So, when I ran into her, I asked if she wanted to go canoeing, and she did. While canoeing, I asked the basic get to know you questions of school, family and church. I found out that she is attending the same church I went to while I was in high school! It also gave me insight into what she may and may not know about Jesus. When we finished canoeing, we headed back towards the cabin and along the way I asked her “the question.”
“If you died tonight do you know where you would go?”
Her answer supported my hunch about what she knew and where she was at with God, “I don’t know, and I’m not too worried about; it’s not like I’m dying right now, so I don’t really think about it.”
Naturally I asked, “What if you died in your sleep tonight? Or a random tree fell on you and killed you? Wouldn’t you want to know? The Bible tells us that we can know for sure one way or another. Can I show you?” And she agreed to let me show her.
The next hour, we read verses as I drew out the Jesus bridge illustration and discussed what Jesus did for us. At the end, I asked if she knew for sure now where she was going and why. And without hesitation she said Heaven because of what Jesus did for her on the cross. Woot!! Then I gave her the assignment to read the book we had given all the students, Life in 6 Words. The book walks you through the Gospel using the word “Gospel” as an acrostic. I didn’t want to assume she became a believer in that moment and that might seem odd to you, but sometimes students just say what they think you want them to say or pretend to understand and won’t ask questions because they might get it wrong. That’s why I assigned the book for her. It reiterates what we talked about and gave her more time to process it all. Which leads me to the second half of this story…
Sophie was not at camp for most of the week because she was getting over an illness, so she arrived Friday morning. The girls in our cabin did an amazing job welcoming her and bringing her into the fold of what was all happening at camp. Like Rachel, I didn’t know Sophie very well. She had started attending T.N.T. (a past Campus Life Student Ministry program) in the summer because her brother Dawson had started Ground Zero (another Student Ministry program) and enjoyed it and had encouraged her to check it out. Her mom was also very excited to get her involved and asked lots of questions. The only other thing I really knew about Sophie was that her family attended a very traditional church–one that tends to be more works oriented–and that led me to suspect she may not have all the pieces of the Gospel.
So it was Saturday now, and I hadn’t seen much of Sophie because she’s catching up on getting the full experience of camp. Again I was on the way back to the cabin after my shift at the canteen, and I was super tried and looking forward to my first nap of the week. When I got to the cabin, I found Rachel and Sophie hanging out. I told them I was going to take a nap and that they could hang out but to be quiet. Sophie said she was probably going to take a nap, too. I asked Rachel if she had finished the book, and she said no, so I told to read while we nap, so that if she had questions about what she was reading she could ask me. Before closing my eyes, I had to go to the bathroom. During that trek, I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me, “You need to talk to Sophie; you need to ask her 'the question.'” To be honest, I really just wanted to nap. But I knew I had ask “the question.” I prayed and told God I’ll do it, but you need to give me energy for the rest of the day because I’m not going to make it.
When I got back to the cabin, I asked Sophie “the question.” Well I tried. Before I could even finish the question, she just said, “Heaven.” I was caught off guard by how she just answered, but then I turned to Rachel and she said, “I asked her the question you asked me.” WOW! Then I asked Sophie the follow up question, “How do you know?”
“Well, God is forgiving, and I asked God to forgive my sins, so I think I’m good," she answered.
“What about Jesus?” I asked.
“Well, Jesus is God, so Jesus forgives me sins. I just ask, and I am forgiven and then there’s taking communion, and other things,” Sophie responded.
“What about what Jesus did on the cross?”
Long pause. “That’s what I don’t know, I’m kind of confused about what He did.”
Rachel knew where this conversation was going and instead of leaving, she stayed and listened as I walked Sophie through the Bible and the Jesus Bridge illustration of what Jesus did and then asked her what she was trusting in to get to Heaven. I use an illustration to ask the question of what people are trusting in to have right relationship with God, and I asked her to point to which one she was trusting in. She pointed to the middle one: Jesus and works.
Then we went back and read Ephesians 2:8-9, John 3:16, and Romans 10:9-10, and I asked what do those verses say? She then pointed to the first circle and said, “Jesus died for my sins and rose again. I just need to believe in Him?”
“YES! Does this make more sense now, knowing what Jesus did for you?”
“I think it does,” she said.
I asked again. “So if you died tonight, where would you go?”
“How do you know?”
She answered, “Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again.”
Again, I didn’t want to assume anything. I gave her the same assignment I gave Rachel, to read the book and to ask questions if she had any. By then it was dinner time. Sophie left before Rachel so I asked Rachel why she brought up “the question” with Sophie. Rachel said that Sophie had asked about the book I had assigned to her, and then Rachel told her about our conversation and how I asked her “the question.” Rachel thought it was good to ask Sophie the same question. Rachel even asked her how she knew was going to Heaven to which Sophie never responded, and then I walked in from bathroom as Sophie was thinking on how to answer that question.
This was God at work! He orchestrated the whole thing! How cool is that?! And that’s not the end!
Later that evening during cabin devotions I asked the girls the questions, “What has been your highlight from this week, and what’s one thing you’ve learned that you want to stick with you when you go home?” Sophie shared second, and what she said blew my mind! Her highlight was her cabin because they had loved on her so and the one thing she learned was, “What we talked about before dinner, how Jesus died for sins.” It made me want to jump up on my bed and say, “HALLELUJAH!” I didn’t, but it did make me smile so big and give her hug which I think she thought was weird, but whatever, she’s family now.