If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your hands!

Hi everyone,

Welcome to a new series on the Senior Camp Blog! For the month of October we’ll be writing of the theme of “What are you thankful for?“.

Here’s what I (Joanne Agustin) am thankful for:

There are many, many things that I thank God for on a regular basis. In the past few days of praying for what to write about in this blog I noticed that He’s blessed me SO MUCH in a certain area…

I’m going to give you some examples, then you can guess what they all have in common!


When I was working as a missionary my church sent me money to help pay my salary. They sent A LOT of money, like a CRAZY amount of money for a small church, so that I could support myself and my ministry.


When I was about to make a not-so-wise decision my mom was not afraid to tell me what she thought, and she and my dad helped me think about it all the way through even though it was a tough and heated argument.


When Chris and I got married a whole bunch of friends and family came to our wedding from far and wide (some flew all the way from the Philippines, some drove all the way from the US and the Maritimes!) to show us that they cared.


When I was in a tough situation and told her about my problems, one of my friends never failed to send me a reminder email that she was praying for the specific things I asked for.


When a pastor read an inappropriate email I sent he messaged me back telling me that I should apologize to those I wronged. It was awkward and I was really embarrassed.


When I was feeling really lonely and far away from home a friend sent me a big box of comfort items (lotions, bubble bath, sweaters, and mittens) to survive the cold winter.


When my friend found out that I have to pay to do my laundry in my apartment building she invited me to use her washer and dryer so I could save money.


Can you guess what these all have in common? Scroll down to see!

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*drumroll, please*

These are all examples of people acting out in love for me in real, costly ways!

Here’s what I mean: people went out of their way to do something for me that they could have easily chosen not to. They could have saved time. They could have used their money for other things. They could have avoided awkward conflict. But instead, because they loved me, they took a step forward and did something unexpected to show me that they cared about me.

They lived out the command that Jesus gave his disciples:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

-John 13:34-35

I thank God every day for the people who love me, pray for me, and care for me in tangible ways. I thank the Holy Spirit for nudging their hearts and prompting them to act. I thank Jesus for the example of sacrificial love he gave us so that we have a model to aim for.

Have you noticed others loving you in a surprising way?

If so, thank God for them. Then thank those who showed you love!

If not, keep thinking about it, because love is shown in many different ways and you might have missed it.

No matter what: think of how Jesus loved you and let that be an encouragement for you to love others in a real, costly way.

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#countdowntocamp: Only 4 weeks away!

In honour of the 4 weeks left until camp 2015, let me count down the 4 top things I love about SYC:

4. Camp Livingstone

Lake Lovering early in the morning

Now, I do know that Senior Youth Camp has not always been hosted at Camp Livingstone, but in most of our minds “SYC” and “Camp Livingstone” go hand-in-hand. I love the set up of the cabins, the rustic wooden worship hall, and the new floaty lake jungle gym! Being away from home and in a woodsy area is refreshing and really makes me feel like I am in a special place where special things can happen. Speaking of special things…

3. Super fun games

Giant Dutch Blitz!

Something that has always intrigued me about SYC is the creativity of the wide games we play at camp. Of course there are the standard camp-type activities (like capture the flag, soccer, and campfire songs) but there are also really cool, original games that I never realized could be real! We’ve played Giant Dutch Blitz, Super Mario Bros., Stock Exchanges, even greasy watermelons! Every year there are old games improved by time, and new games to try for the first time.

2. Meeting friends (both old and new)

Cabin 3, 2011

I’ve been coming to SYC as a staff member for 4 years, with 1 year as a camper before that. When I first stepped foot at Senior Camp I had no idea that some of the people I would meet would one day become some of my closest friends! There are always a few people who you lose touch with over time, but there are also some who stand the test of time and will become influential people in your life. And every year that I come back I get the chance to see them again, and the amazing opportunity to meet new people who might eventually become tried-and-true buddies!

1. Meeting with God

Workshop List

Last, and not the least (actually it’s the greatest!) is the opportunity to get away from regular life in order to meet with God. For me this happens in many ways: worshiping through song, learning from others in workshops and mealtime conversations, revelations through prayer and reading the bible, and in the still moments when I open myself up to hearing from the Lord.

What are your top 4 favourite things about SYC? Comment below!

The Dangerous Gospel

The book of Acts tells us of the Early Christians and those who didn’t like them. There was once a guy named Saul who was a devout Jew who believed that Christians were abominations of the Jewish faith and should be taught a lesson. He beat, tortured, and killed Christians. He busted into home churches and dragged out families of Christians to be executed in front of the whole town.

One day a man named Stephen, who was one of Jesus’ best missionaries, was caught by Saul and was forced to go on trial for the “horrible lies” he was telling about Jesus. Stephen, full of the holy spirit, gave a really compelling speech reminding the Jews that in their long history with God they would always rebel and didn’t listen to God when they should have. Stephen basically told them that when they killed Jesus Christ, who was sent by God, they had done it again: they betrayed and murdered the gift that came from God.

The Jewish leaders who had put Stephen on trial (including Saul) freaked out and in a rage threw rocks at Stephen until he was dead.

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Now, we could focus on the horrible things that happened to Stephen and the people that Saul killed in his efforts to cleanse Israel of Christians. But instead I suggest we focus on what happened after Stephen was killed:

Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. (Acts 8:2-5) Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phonecia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to Hellenists [Greeks] also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21)

Did you notice what I noticed? The Christians just buried one of the most loved leaders in the church, and Saul was out to get every single Christian he could find and throw them in jail. But those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Persecution wasn’t going to stop Jesus’ followers from spreading the good news. In fact, studies have shown that persecution is the reason that the Gospel spread so far and wide! (You can find out more about it here). Because these brave men and women were chased out of their hometowns and forced to run to far away lands the Good News of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire. A great number who believed turned to the Lord.

Right now, as modern Christians living in North America, we don’t experience persecution in the same way Early Christians did then. I firmly believe that this is why modern North American Christians are complacent about Missions. It’s easy to go to church in the mornings, sing worship songs at the top of your lungs, and have open conversations about faith in public areas.

But consider this: What if you were considered an outsider for being a Christian? What if you would get fired for being a Christian? What if you would get beaten and tortured for being a Christian? Would you want to give the Gospel to your friends and invite them to share the same fate as you? 

Here are some stories of men, women, and kids who have answered YES:

Kids of Courage tells stories of kids and youth who are persecuted for their decisions to follow Jesus

Kim Jung Wook, imprisoned in North Korea Monica, Fatu and Esther, Nigerian women whose Christian husbands were killed.

Paez Christians, a Columbian group of people who defied their tribal leaders.

Shafia, a Pakistani woman who loves Jesus.

You can learn more at Voice of the Martyrs, where these video clips were published. You can also click here for a map of countries where sharing the gospel is dangerous.

It might be interesting to know that Saul, the biggest persecutor of Christians, had a vision from God in Acts 9 and becomes a Christian.God changes his name to Paul and he goes on to write thirteen books in the New Testament, including Romans, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, etc… just to name a few!

The Jesus we know and love offers salvation to all, and because of it the Gospel we bring to the world is a dangerous one. When the Holy Spirit calls you to share the Good News, no matter how dangerous it is, answer the call! The rewards that come from preaching about Jesus are infinitely more than the temporary discomforts of this world.

-Joanne 🙂

Where Faith and Service Collide

About a month ago I was asked to give my testimony at a Christian Women’s Club here in Manitoba where I’ve been living and working for the past bit. In preparation for sharing my story I started thinking back to when I was a young Christian and I was struggling with a particular passage in Matthew where Jesus was schooling his disciples.

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)

Whaaaaatttttt. Theeeee. Heeeeeck.

skeptical3rdworldkid
You’d think those would be some pretty good signs of salvation. Or something.

Until then I was pretty sure that I was doing this whole “Christian” thing right. I was active in my church, had a bunch of Christian friends, and did all the stuff that I was supposed to be doing. I served on the worship team, I volunteered with Christian organizations (Crosstalk, anyone?), I was the very model of a modern Christian teenager. Yet, Jesus told his followers that you could prophecy (WHAT? That’s an intense mark of a Christian), cast out demons (WHAT THE WHAT? That’s an even more intense mark of a Christian!), and do many mighty works in His name (WHAAAATTTTTT? Miracles are works of the Holy Spirit! A miracle worker must be a Christian!) yet still not be fit to be welcomed into heaven. These are not easy things to do!

onedoesnotsimply
No biggie.

Okay, okay. I must be missing something here. Clearly good works, even miraculous ones, aren’t enough to get me into heaven. ‘Following the rules’ isn’t the recipe for success.

Let’s go to the other extreme. How about I just have faith and believe in Jesus and that should be good enough for me? I can sit in church, listen to the sermon, and go home and do whatever I want because I BELIEVE, and that’s all I need, right? Read the book of James, in all of its glory. It talks all about the importance of having faith and a firm belief in God. But to keep it short let’s concentrate on chapter 2, shall we?

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2: 14-17, ESV)

scumbagsteve
You know you’ve done it.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2: 18-19, ESV)

whatifitoldyou
True story bro. Check out C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”

(side note: I love James’ sarcasm. ZING!)

Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2: 20-26, ESV)

Abraham and Rahab’s good works were evidence of the faith they had in God. Their faith and their service went hand-in-hand.

whynotboth
And there should always be a party afterwards.

That’s exactly it, people. You can’t just do good works and volunteer and serve without a strong faith in Jesus. You can’t just believe that Jesus is your saviour without following his example to serve and love the people around you. You’ve gotta have both!

So here’s what you do: Ask God “What do I need to work on? Faith, or service? OR BOTH!?” And believe me, if you ask Him to give you more chances to test what you believe, He will do it. If you ask Him to give you more opportunities to serve, He will do it. He will shape you into the faithful servant He wants you to be!

underestimatemypower
God can (and will!) kick your butt into shape.

Thanks friends!

-Joanne 🙂