Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In Training to Combat Satan

In Training to Combat SatanMilitary-Style Camp Aims to Toughen Teens For Spiritual Warfare
By Kay CampbellReligion News ServiceSaturday, August 18, 2007; B09
KELSO, Tenn. -- "What's this?" roared Henry Phillips. "There's trash on the floor in here."
Inside the simple block cabin, teenage girls stood at attention at the ends of their bunks, each bed neatly made up with a Bible and study notebook on top of the pillow.
Trash cluttered the entryway to the little cabin; Phillips, "sergeant major" to the campers, had just dumped over the trash can, spilling crumpled paper towels and cups onto the freshly swept floor.
"There's to be no trash in the cabins whatsoever!" Phillips shouted, his voice ragged from a week as drill sergeant at Spiritual Warfare Camp. "And no trash in your hearts. Do you have the message?"
"Yes, sergeant major," the girls answered in chorus, their eyes focused straight ahead as he marched up and down the line.
Inspections at the weeklong camp, designed to toughen bodies and souls, were just one of the rough parts. If you pass the camp general, Pastor Lou Ostrzicki of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Hazel Green, Ala., and forget to salute, you will be on the ground doing push-ups. Make a wrong remark, and you might have a dog biscuit pushed into your mouth.
Unlike North Dakota's Kids on Fire School of Ministry, the subject of the 2006 documentary "Jesus Camp," Spiritual Warfare Camp concentrates on children's spiritual, mental and physical fitness, not on their political actions. The services at Spiritual Warfare Camp are lively, but they don't tip into the charismatic speaking in tongues as did the North Dakota camp, now on hiatus.
Each day at Spiritual Warfare Camp began with a half-hour of physical training and a run, then another half-hour of prayer done while marching.
One squad of boys spent a day wearing diapers over their jeans after the boys whined about push-ups. At this camp, there are no excuses, no whining and no let-up.
What matters in life, Phillips told the kids, is not what happens to you but how you deal with it. Abuse comes because life isn't fair. That's what Satan does to Christians, no matter how hard they try, the camp leaders say.
The kids were met the first day with the command to walk through the pool with their clothes on and then roll in the dirt. The first morning's inspection was like an act of vandalism.
"The first day, we tore everything out of there," Phillips said as he and the camp officers headed to the next cabin. "There's a little bit of edge here."
Phillips explained, "That's what Satan does: He tears up your life."
Phillips knows about disruption. He survived three tours in Vietnam, failed marriages, one child's death and another's drug addiction. Now a middle school history teacher, he is determined to help other kids make better decisions than he did.
One activity turned a trail hike into an exercise in decision-making. A paint-ball course taught campers to work together toward a common goal. They earned each meal by memorizing a Bible verse from a list of Scripture about character, steadfastness and God's love.
The themes at Spiritual Warfare Camp are teamwork, respect for authority and creating the right relationships in life. The cabin squads went everywhere together, lined up behind a leader holding the squad's guidon, or flag. They chanted march cadences, some traditional, some special to the camp: "Alpha squad will always fight. . . . Under God we will unite."
Henry Phillips learned about the camp from Louie Barnett, who established the first camp in Michigan. Phillips's children attended one. Phillips was so impressed that he gave up weeks of summer vacation to help run the camp in Michigan for 14 years. This year, he decided to set up one closer to home.
The camp was held at Crystal Springs Camp, a Cumberland Presbyterian campground in eastern Lincoln County, Tenn. The camp, attended by 48 teens this year, has a capacity of 120. Phillips said he expects it to be full next year, since all of this year's campers have told him that they want to return.
Aaron Ball, 15, of Tullahoma, Tenn., said this year's camp helped keep him on the course he chose last year when he attended the camp in Michigan.
"This camp turned my life around," Ball said. "I did a 180. Before, I thought life was just stupid, and I wondered, 'What's the use of living?' But after camp, I was really on fire for God. Now I know why I'm living."
Kay Campbell writes for the Huntsville Times in Huntsville, Ala.

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