Something Big Just Happened at Big Sandy Camp

Something Big Just Happened at Big Sandy Camp

By Chyelle Dvorak

Something big happens when people unite under the name of Jesus, especially in worship. When that fellowship takes place in a serene setting in Northern Minnesota, God’s creation forms the perfect place for growth.

“The worship that we do is beyond amazing, especially when everyone’s worshiping together. It’s a magical feeling.”

This is how camper Sarah Nash of Waconia described her favorite part of Big Sandy Camp. Nash is going into her junior year of high school, and will do PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Options) online through Crown College this fall. For Nash, as much as she loves outdoor activities, the opportunity to spend time connecting with counselors, friends, and the Lord stands out the most to her.

“My heart just needed it,” says Nash. “It’s a nice get-away from everything that’s going on at home. It’s so beautiful here, and peaceful and calm. I’ve also been blessed with the amazing people I’ve been put around.”

Ellie Petersen, a Communication Arts and Literature Education major, is a member of one of the worship bands from Crown and says she loves worshiping because it becomes a prayer. “It’s fun to be up there in prayer and worship in front of people and say, ‘Wow, I get to be here to welcome God and be an example for these kids.’ This is a fun break in my summer where I can go from working all the time to full worship for a couple weeks.”

Hundreds of kids, both in middle school and high school, visit Big Sandy Camp each week during the summer. Located just north of McGregor, Minnesota, Big Sandy is the perfect getaway distance from the Twin Cities without being too far away. Being part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance is not the only thing Crown and Big Sandy have in common — both share a commitment to shaping the next generation.

In addition to fun camping activities like wakeboarding and mud tug-of-war, the staff at Big Sandy are on a mission to speak into the spiritual lives of every kid who visits. “Every week a different speaker comes up and will present a unique message following our theme,” says Noah Grulke, the Media Director for Big Sandy who has been involved at the camp since his childhood. “This summer we are doing identity, so speakers will share different aspects about our identity in Christ.”

Dr. Ken Castor, Associate Professor of Youth Ministry at Crown College, spoke at Big Sandy for the high school encampment. Dr. Castor became involved at Big Sandy shortly after he started at Crown in 2010. Crown has many current students and alumni serving in worship bands and as camp counselors and lifeguards, to name a few roles.

“Every time I come up, there’s a Crown person here or a former student of mine who’s now doing ministry here,” says Dr. Castor. “I’ve met many high schoolers at retreats here who can’t wait to get to Crown. Everybody talks about Big Sandy when you’re at Crown, and everybody talks about Crown when you’re at Big Sandy.”

A lot of intentional thought and prayer goes into choosing the theme for the summer speakers. The phrase Dr. Castor used the entire week he spoke was, “You’ve been made by a loving God, who wants to be with you so that you can be with Him and share Him with others.” When students become grounded firmly in their identity in Christ, they are freed from anxieties and worries about themselves. They learn they are valued.

“After spending time thinking about God and growing in your faith, you discover how highly God thinks of you including how much He wants to do in your life,” says Dr. Castor. “Students really appreciate that higher calling and higher standard. When a lot of society looks down on them, they appreciate hearing, ‘You can do a lot more than what the world thinks you can do. God created you to do amazing things. You don’t have to do the things the world says you should be doing that are messing you up. You can do even better things.’”

The partnership between Crown and Big Sandy exists because of the people who are willing to make it happen. Nicole Blake is a volunteer camp counselor who graduated from Crown last May with a degree in Psychology. When asked what she loves about Big Sandy, Blake had a ready response.

“I really just love the lake,” joked Blake. “And I love working with middle and high school age kids; they are my favorite.”

In addition to being placed right on the edge of Big Sandy Lake, known for its walleye breeding ground and ecosystem variety, the camp is a great place to learn leadership skills. Hannah Painting, the summer Waterfront Director, also graduated from Crown last May with a degree in Secondary English Education. Leadership is one life skill Big Sandy gave her the opportunity to practice.

“I have definitely learned how to work with different types of people — how to lead and manage them,” says Painting. “It’s easy for me to do my thing and delegate to people what to do, but I’ve learned to come alongside them and say, ‘hey, this what we expect of you. We hold you to a high standard because we respect you and we value you.’”

Spending time with God, brilliant people, counselors, speakers, staff members, and new friends is just one of the benefits to going up north to Big Sandy. Just as Nash points out, the middle schoolers and high schoolers at Big Sandy are surrounded by people who care. Big Sandy is teaching kids to see their identity in Christ, which is a priceless reminder at any age.