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The Jesus Tree

Every camp has its sacred places. Spots considered holy ground because they’re the places over years and years where people have made life changing decisions.

These decisions usually start with significant conversations between camp staff and campers, between campers and other campers and most often between a camper and the God of the universe. As a result, over time, there’s an expectation that something significant will happen when someone’s sitting in one of these places.

At our two overnight camps there are a number of these pieces of holy ground. One spot at our Michigan overnight camp has become known as the “Jesus Tree”. It’s a beautiful old crab apple tree surrounded by stone seats located between the entrance of the Olson Auditorium and the New Frontier’s Dining Hall.

Over the years it’s been a place where a camp counselor and his/her campers have sat before or after a meal to discuss the spiritual theme of the day. Through these conversations many campers have made significant spiritual decisions. Thus this crab apple tree became known as “the Jesus tree.”

When we began the construction of Olson Auditorium one former staffer pulled me aside to ask for my assurance that we wouldn’t cut down “the Jesus tree” in the process. It was a request rooted in the knowledge that places can be sacred and thus needs saving even from the “progress of ministry.”

I agreed and so our construction team protected “the Jesus tree” during the entire building process though it sits in a less than ideal spot in our landscape plan.

And the Jesus tree still stands today on the edge of full bloom in anticipation of another summer of campers making  life changing decisions and having transforming encounters with Jesus while sitting in the cool of its shade and in the midst of the aroma of its fruit.

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