Reflections from Caswell

written by Jimmy Newkirk, Associate Pastor (July 16, 2023)

It’s Friday evening and I write from a Ft. Caswell porch as a week of worship with our students comes to a close. The ocean breeze brings with it memories of days now committed to history.

Some reflections are of my own time as a youth at this same Baptist retreat center several decades ago. There are things that appear virtually unchanged while others are practically new. Though fun to reminisce, it seems most appropriate to view the past in the context of the joy I observe in those participating today.

God’s Word has been boldly proclaimed - this week from Ephesians - in a way that has transformed countless lives. Approximately 985 students gathered at Caswell to worship, to fellowship, to sing and pray and simply dwell in the presence of the Lord. Forty-six persons submitted their lives in saving faith, beginning a new relationship with Jesus. Another 96 recommitted themselves to a deeper walk with Him. And yet another 64 began exploring a vocational call to ministry and missions. These are just a few of the measurable responses for which we praise God!

What is less measurable are the spiritual battles being waged and won by students as they put on the full armor of God. We cannot measure the hours of prayer or the time in devotion and Bible study. We will never know the true value of Christian relationships formed, strengthened, and exercised. While we may count meals packaged to be delivered to the mission field, we cannot know the impact they will have on the Kingdom of God. Most importantly, we cannot begin to understand the joy that our Lord God receives as He hears the prayers and songs of worship, as He observes the fellowship and service, and as He watches lives be transformed into the likeness of Christ through the reading, preaching, and study of His Word.

As I reflect, I smile thinking of the groups of students, walking with arms across each other's shoulders, singing praises to the Lord as though no one were listening except God Himself.  I bow, simultaneously burdened for the prayer requests made known to me and in praise of the humble faith of those who recognize the value of such prayer. I sing new songs of praise because a new generation is finding their voice to honor and glorify a risen Savior. I thank God for the open Bibles and young minds seeking to know the Lord and His will. And I take joy in seeing stronger believers, though youth themselves, help others find their way through the struggles of this life.

The experiences of a week with students and reflections of my own lifelong journey of faith bring me to think of days yet to come. I find great comfort and joy to consider the future generations serving others and leading the church to honor the Lord. Observing the gospel centered love, the unhindered praise, selfless fellowship and service, unbridled prayer and worship seems to provide just a glimpse as to what our activities and relationships in heaven might look like.

Our youth demonstrate the unifying bond of the body of believers - united in Christ in a spiritual war of cosmic proportions. They know God has already won the fight. They are not concerned about age. They lay down their preferences. They do not let demographics or style, or history or future desires hinder their commitment to the cause. They are secure in the fortress of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

May God bless the next generation as they pursue the knowledge and the will of God. May God use those of us who go ahead of them as we proclaim His glories and make disciples who make disciples.