At first, I thought the name was too much. Too charismatic or something. But really, it makes sense. Jesus said, “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues, they will take up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover“ (Mark 16:17-18), so if we’re going to a camp to encounter Jesus, we shouldn’t be surprised or even offended at such things as healing and miracles.
So all summer long, I was excited about Signs and Wonders Camp. It was my opportunity to help with children’s ministry at IHOP:EG, and I was eager to learn how to take kids past praying a prayer of salvation and memorizing John 3:16. Those things are amazing, but I really believe that God can take kids so much deeper. The volunteer training before camp got me even more excited. The director shared about her vision for the week, and her energy and passion were contagious.
When the kids finally began to arrive that Wednesday evening, I began to think this would be like any other Vacation Bible School. The children were just as young, just as cute, and just as goofy. Many of them had very Biblical names (Elijah, Beulah, Joshua, etc.), but other than that, they seemed just like your typical 6-12 year old kids. As my group of 9 and 10 year old girls filed in, we decorated our team shield, and they creatively named our team “God’s Girly Defenders,” covering it in glitter and stickers (again, just like any other group of little girls would do).
However, as we transitioned into worship, I started to see that these kids were not your average group of elementary school students. Within minutes, hands were raised, eyes were closed, and kids were dancing before the Lord. Not every single kid, of course. But many. And that in itself is amazing. I have been to hundreds of worship services with adults who were much less engaged. It’s easy to stand and sing the worlds while thinking about a million other things. I know from experience. But these children seemed to understand the value of truly worshipping their Creator with all their hearts, and I hope they never lose that.
Early into the service, the pastor asked the children to pray over the leaders. I was so touched as children half my height surrounded me, praying aloud. “God, I pray that she would make room in her heart for you,” prayed one little girl while another prayed over me in tongues, which I later learned was a gift she had received only minutes before. It was beautiful.
After praying, the kids returned to worship and sang to Jesus for a long time, longer than many adults could handle. The youngest children were tired and many sat down on the floor, but others stayed engaged, even long after my own feet were beginning to tire. Following worship, the pastor gave a message about Daniel. The children stayed impressively quiet and even took notes in their workbooks. The youngest kids could barely write, but they carefully copied down the indicated scriptures and filled in the blanks. One little girl later told me that these study sessions were her favorite part of camp (even better than a water slide, that’s crazy!).
The next morning kicked off the first full day of camp. It started with worship and a time of prayer for Israel. I was stunned to see these tiny little kids up at the microphone praying for the lost in Israel to be saved. At the time, I didn’t even know what to pray for Israel or why I should pray for a nation so far from my own. But these kids got it. They prayed powerful prayers. One girl in my group even told me that she had a vision of pushing the Holy Spirit to Israel. As she raised her hands and cried out to God, it was easy to forget that she was only nine years old. That is, until she suddenly opened her eyes and asked me to take her to the restroom. Yep, these were definitely children we were working with.
After the morning session, we got to spend more time with our groups for breakout sessions, recreation, arts and crafts, and mealtimes. One of the highlights of my week was having the girls in our group share what they were learning and experiencing. Many of them were having real encounters with God, hearing Him speak to them, and having visions of healing in their home or shaking the earth with their prayers. And because they are not so jaded as us adults, they had no problem believing that these things were from God!
The last night of camp was definitely the highlight of the week. The kids knew that sick people were coming to receive healing, and they were ready to see God move. Worship was high-energy, and the kids danced their little hearts out next to leaders who were equally enthusiastic. I was especially moved when I saw a whole family (mom, dad, and two kids) worshipping together. I realized I’d never seen that before. Typically, the mom is engaged and the dad just stands and mouths the words. Or the dad is engaged but the kids are playing on the mom’s phone. Or one parent isn’t even present. But as that whole family worshipped together, I really saw God’s vision for family. Loving and worshipping God in unity. And when that happens, it’s really powerful.
As I worshipped with the children, I felt an unprecedented sense of freedom. Worship is supposed to be free. We shouldn’t have to worry about what people think about us, even though we often do. We should be able to be undignified before the Lord. I love to raise my hands and do sign language during worship, but among these children, I felt even more freedom than normal. For some reason, it was much easier to connect to God. I guess it's just because I love God and I love children. I could feel God’s pleasure.
After worship, it got even better. The pastor called everyone in the room that was suffering from some kind of physical sickness, injury, or disease to come forward. Forty or fifty people formed a line, and then the children were released to pray for them. They laid hands on people with back pain, foot injuries, broken arms, and diabetes. And they prayed. Hard. I know plenty of adults who struggle to pray for 5 minutes (confession: I used to be one of them!), but these children prayed for at least 45 minutes, probably more. Some children roamed around attempting to pray for every person in the room. Others set their hearts on one individual and prayed with them the entire time. At one point, I saw one little girl from my group sitting down. I approached her and asked why she wasn’t praying, and she replied that she was tired. I encouraged her to keep praying and was so touched when I saw her take her 6-year-old sister’s hand and lead her to a person waiting for prayer. If only people my age could see the value of pressing in when we don’t feel like it!
About the time when I thought the kids had prayed enough, the pastor called everyone in the room to gather around one young woman who need prayer. He explained that she had cancer. She was a supermodel and not much older than I, and it was shocking to imagine that death could be so near to her. It was incredible to watch the room circle around this woman, covering her in prayer. My heart broke as I watched a man on crutches hobble over to join the group, forsaking his own desire to be healed in order to partner with God in saving this woman’s life. The children cried out alongside their counselors, and the prayers went on for a long time. I knew that it was powerful but couldn’t help the nagging doubts in the back of my mind. What were the chances that God would actually heal this woman of cancer? People pray for healing all the time…and people still die.
Finally, the time of prayer ended. There was no climactic finish, no one jumping up and down and rejoicing over their healing. Just a short message and a slightly chaotic dismissal. I left and couldn’t help but wonder if anyone had actually been healed. Perhaps the kids would simply leave thinking that God had done something when nothing had really happened at all. I was a bit disappointed to be honest. Camp was great, but didn’t God have something more in mind for these children who were so hungrily seeking His face?
Apparently He did. Because several days ago, I received an email about Signs and Wonders Camp. We were told that the woman with cancer had gone to her doctors over the past several weeks and had been miraculously declared cancer free. Wow. What a powerful sign of the age to come, where all of our bodies will be healed, resurrected, and glorified. And what powerful proof that God stills does signs. He still does wonders.
To see pictures from Signs and Wonders Camp, check out the Signs and Wonders Camp Slideshow!