You know the old line, “I went to (fill in the city name), and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”?
Well, I went to Man Camp, and all I got was a renewed sense of my identity, a chance to step out of my comfort zone, lots of fun, great memories…and my life changed through a single prayer on the final night - an all-time profound moment for me.
For context, Man Camp is a weekend getaway with Crossroads Church at a campsite in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thousands of men come from all over the country (literally) to drink beer, play games, listen to music, make friendships, and hear a word from the church’s pastor, Brian Tome.
In short - it’s a playground for adult men who want some positive change in their lives.
I had been to Man Camp once before, but this time, I felt God prompting me to step into a leadership role. In fact, He’d been nudging me in that direction for a while. In many of my morning times in prayer, He reminded me that I am a leader…
…or I could be if I would leave fear behind and fulfill a role he had for my life. Fear had been an unwanted companion for many years: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of displeasing others, especially my parents. Fear kept me from doing many things in my life, like going away to college (I stayed home where it was nice and safe and commuted).
It was time for my fear to be faced head-on. I was planning to go to Man Camp again anyway, but I felt God telling me to sign up as a Trip Captain (TC). A TC leads a small group of campers by guiding them through the weekend and leading conversations around the campfire. Anxious to tackle this fear in my life, I signed up and dove into the weekend.
Our group was having the time of our lives right off the bat. We had hilariously completed the obstacle course as a team, watched (and I emphasize watched) the arm wrestling competition, shared lots of jokes, cooked a meal together, drank beer, and had many honest conversations.
My group was composed of some old friends and a few guys I’d never met before, but no one stays strangers for long at Man Camp. The shared experiences allowed guys to get to know each other quickly and easily (we all know vulnerability is tough for everyone, especially guys). By the final night, we were becoming brothers.
On that last night, it was starting to get late, and while most of us were winding down, one guy in my group said he wanted to go to the prayer tent. He and another gentleman went, but I stayed behind, ready for some sleep after a long day.
As I started nodding off, one of my buddies said he had never gone to the prayer tent - an open space to receive prayer from other leaders. I felt a tug from God saying that I should take him. I knew it probably meant God had something for him there. As tired as I was, I wanted to be a good friend and felt like this was what a good leader would do.
We walked to the tent, and there was still a line, even at that late hour. When it was my turn, I thought, “Eh, maybe I’ll just ask for a quick prayer and be out of there quickly.” It reminded me of when I’ll say I’ll only watch five minutes of Monday Night Football and proceed to stay up till midnight cheering on a team I never cared about…just me?
My ‘quick’ trip turned into an extended prayer session with two extraordinary men. They asked me why I was there. I said for prayer, perhaps prayer over my finances. My wife and I have been experiencing a challenging financial situation since she closed her business to heal from serious health issues. I figured I could get this covered and be all set with my prayer quota for the day.
They did that and asked more questions about my relationship with Jesus. I told them I’d been baptized and developed a deeper relationship with Jesus. I shared that God had made some promises and blessings over me that I believe will come true someday. Then, I shared that God had been prodding me to use my gift for writing, but I wasn’t using it.
That’s when one of the guys praying for me said, “You’re afraid of something. You’re afraid of trust, trusting God, and trusting your gifts. I’m going to cast out that spirit of fear right now.”
Cast out? What was this, The Exorcist?
But I thought about it, and he was right; I was afraid of a lot of things, as I mentioned earlier. I missed opportunities throughout my life simply because of fear. Heck, I was fearful of even addressing my fear. I was even afraid to use God’s gifts for me, like writing. I could always write, but I never had confidence in my writing. I was so afraid of criticism that I gave up on my dreams of being a creative writer.
I understood intellectually that the root of the fear stemmed from feeling unworthy - unworthy of achievement, happiness, and God’s love. I felt like I would probably fail, so why try? It was hard to break free from these feelings and thoughts, even though God told me that his love would break me free if I completely trusted him with my life.
I know it sounds crazy, but for the first time in my life, I felt the fear leave as they prayed. I was told I had nothing to fear, that God was with me, and that the spirit of fear had no power over me.
The man reminded me that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside me (Romans 8:10-11). With it, I, too, can do great things just like Jesus said we could, without a spirit of fear controlling me.
I walked back to camp stunned. I still don’t completely understand what happened, but at that moment, I knew it was a turning point in my life. I thought I was taking my friend to the prayer tent, but it turned out he was taking me. God wanted me in that tent that night and made it happen.
To this day, I can’t believe I can’t remember the names of the guys who prayed for me. I am eternally grateful for them, their boldness, their faith, and what they did for me that night (hopefully, they read this!).
Since that night at camp, I’ve started trusting God even more. I have deeper, more intimate conversations with Jesus about my life and the future missions he has for me. It took time, but I finally cast out fear and started writing. In fact, this article was written during a thirty-day challenge to write every day. I plan to keep writing, inspired by God, to bring messages of hope, encouragement, and strength to other men.
I still have my moments. I can be slow to act on an opportunity because that fear still whispers in my ear, trying to hold me back. But now, I’m much better equipped to overcome it by relying on God’s voice as the true voice and the only one I should let guide me.
I firmly believe change can happen at Man Camp (and other Crossroads camps). But even if I had just attended for the beer and wood-chopping, I would’ve had a blast. In my times at Man Camp, I’ve seen men who want to be better husbands, fathers, and friends. Men who need, and in some cases, receive physical and spiritual healing at camp. They are starting - or restarting - a relationship with Jesus.
I can’t promise baptism, healing, or profound moments will happen for everyone. But as Wayne Gretzky (and Michael Scott, and now me) allegedly once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
The signup for next year’s trip just began with a discount, and I don’t believe you will regret it. Take your shot, guys!
Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.