It’s a valuable and deeply held practice at Youth for Christ camps. Pre-teen and teenage campers between the ages of 11 and 19 have a crazy good time, indulge in generous amounts of fabulous food, and are introduced – some for the first time – to the merciful and just Good Shepherd. Each night as they gather, they hear God’s Word. During informal settings throughout the week and in deep conversations with their cabin leaders, they talk about the “mess” of their sin and how the Father sent His Son to redeem them and call them to Himself.
Strategically on day four, they’re asked to respond to the Savior’s invitation. They leave an all-camp meeting and head into the dark of night to sit alone, in silence, to contemplate, pray and choose – choose whether to say yes to Jesus.
At an appointed time, a sound rings through the camp that signals a response. Should a camper choose to say yes to the invitation of the God of the universe, to His love, to His forgiveness, and to His salvation, they indicate so by saying “yes.” One by one or sometimes in waves, kids shout, scream, and sometimes through tears, cry out “YES!”
I’ve had the privilege of being present for YFC Say Yes! nights on several occasions. In fact, I find myself going to Camp in great anticipation of that night and what the Good Shepherd will do.
Recently, though, I had a new and completely unexpected Say Yes! experience.
My husband and I were attending a church in our area for the first time. The worship had been deep and soulful. The content of the sermon had been meaty. The pastor dug into 2 Peter 3:8-10 beautifully and with great explanation. Another gentleman rose to offer the challenge: “Would you like to accept the Savior’s offer of mercy and forgiveness? Would you like to go with the Lord when he comes again?” he asked. “If you would like to make that decision for Jesus, raise your hand now. We would love to pray with you.” No response. He waited a moment, and then repeated “If you would like to make a decision for Jesus, raise your hand.” Then, he added a metaphoric, “Just say yes to Jesus.” It was within seconds that the quiet of the moment was broken when an adult woman threw her hand high up into the air and shouted a passionate “Yes!” Shortly thereafter, a gentleman did the same. His hand raised high, he yelled an enthusiastic “Yes.”
There were tears among the congregants. A hand raised to communicate a decision would have sufficed, but the eager, whole-hearted verbal response of a sheep that had been lost and now was found was deeply moving.
Angels were rejoicing. The Good Shepherd was celebrating.
Just like they did just nearly a half-century ago when I said yes.
How about you? Have the angels rejoiced yet on your behalf? Have you said yes to the quiet voice of the Shepherd’s calling?
But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.
2 Peter 3:8-10