Summer Camp Altar Call

by Josh Mosey

Eyes closed, head down, I waited. I heard shifting chairs, shuffling feet. I risked a peek at my shoes. The kid to my left was gone. To my right, there stood a boy from a different cabin.

If he goes, I’ll go I decided.

He stayed. I stayed.

Together we waited.

It was the final morning at Lake Ann Baptist Youth Camp. Decision time.

When the feet stopped shuffling and the chairs stopped scraping, a camp staff member told us we could open our eyes. I looked around the room. Out of the two hundred kids that had filled the chapel moments earlier, there were five of us left.

Why didn’t they go?

I knew why I hadn’t followed the others. The altar call was not meant for me. I wasn’t concerned about my salvation, having said the magic prayer five years earlier. That formulaic admission that I was a sinner in need of saving and the recognition that only Jesus could do the job. Words that a five-year-old may say without understanding the depths of sin or salvation or the love of Jesus. Words I would later say and mean earnestly, but for now, for camp, I was covered.

In fact, I doubted that the altar call had been meant for most of the kids who left the chapel with their counselors. How many had simply gone because they didn’t want to be left behind?

“Free time until noon,” said the staffer before walking out, leaving us to our own devices.

I walked over to my cabin. Empty. I didn’t know what I should be doing. I started to wish that I had simply gone with the other kids.

The craft hut was empty. The snack shop was closed. No lifeguard sat by the water’s edge. I walked the grounds.

In the distance, I saw my counselor sitting in the circle with the other kids from my cabin. I decided to approach them. Maybe it wasn’t too late to join in.

The conversation stopped as I stepped close.

“Hey Josh,” said my counselor. “What are you doing? Why don’t you go back to the cabin and wait for us? We’re talking.”

“Oh,” I said.

And so I went back to my cabin. I sat on my bunk and read the only book I brought with me to camp. My Bible.

When my cabin mates returned, my reading material was viewed with suspicion. After all, I was the apostate of the group. I was the lost sheep that did not come at the shepherd’s call.

I wanted to explain why I didn’t go with them. I wanted to understand why my counselor had sent me away. I wanted to be part of the team.

But at church camp, spiritual relationships aren’t healed through talking theology. We went swimming instead. And when the dinner bell rang, apostate though I may have been, I was invited to bow my head for the pre-meal prayer, and I was one with my cabin again.


Josh Mosey is a writer, blogger, and member of the Weaklings writer’s group, which organizes the Jot Conference. Josh has gone from working as a camp director to a marketing manager for Discovery House, the publishing arm of Our Daily Bread Ministries. At night, he writes and spends time with his beautiful family.