On Wednesday night I spoke at the campfire service at the Word of Life Campground. Afterward I told Marlene (who stayed in the room babysitting Eli) that the service was stunning in its simplicity.
At 8 PM 200+ people gathered on the wooden benches built into the hillside overlooking Andrews Pond. While several young men lit the fire, Jason Perkins got on the P.A. and invited others to come to the service.
Then we sang two songs and two college students shared their testimonies.
A missionary from India spoke for four minutes.
Another song and then I was introduced.
By this time the sun was almost down so light from the fire filled the sky. We all watched as the sparks flew upward and then disappeared. It was a beautiful evening, almost perfect for an event like this. And no bugs, at least none that I felt.
As I spoke the crowd seemed to vanish into the darkness in front of me. Since the theme of the evening was “consecration,” I challenged those present to yield every part of life to Jesus so that we might know and do his will. After 20 minutes I was done.
Six or seven counselors stood in front of the fire holding sticks to give to those who came forward. By taking a stick and throwing it into the fire, you were saying, “Lord, I’m yielding my life to you.” Several times Jason told the crowd that these were not “magic sticks.” Throwing a stick into the fire would not change anything by itself. It was just a symbol of a heart yielded to the Lord.
As we sang “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” people started coming forward immediately. One young girl came even before the singing started. Soon over 100 people stood in a circle around the fire. It was both public and personal because no one knew exactly why a particular person had come forward. When Jason invited the men to commit themselves to be godly husbands and father, many more walked forward, took a stick, and threw it in the fire.
Jason explained that coming forward is a start, not an end, and that we would need to yield ourselves to the Lord each day. “That’s just how dedication works.” He encouraged families to go back to their campsites and talk over what God had spoken to each of them. As we left the campfire and walked into the darkness, we sang “I love you, Lord.”
It was simple, profound, and deeply moving. I do not doubt that lives were changed on Wednesday night, including my own.
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the founder and President of Keep Believing Ministries.