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Campers and counselors gather around a fire on the last night of Inside Out.
Photo by Wes Becknell

After a year without camp, lyrics are hard to remember. God’s presence isn’t.

NORMAN, Okla. — I forgot the words to “Days of Elijah.”  

“It’s something like ‘these are the days of the harvest,’ right?” my brain asked itself as we approached the chorus. 

“No! That’s verse two. This is … trials! And though these are days of great trials, of famine and darkness and sword, Still we are the voice in the desert crying, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Behold, he comes …’”

I doubt any of the kids sitting around the campfire noticed me stumbling over the lyrics. But I did. “I’ve led this song so many times,” I mentally scolded myself. “Well, not recently. Not in the last year.”

That’s when I broke down.

Maybe it was sleep deprivation. It was the final night of Inside Out, the camp that my congregation, the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, does for kids in grades 1 through 6. Every summer I’m blessed with a cabin of noisy young men for whom the words “lights out” have no meaning. It’s an annual reminder of why I’m OK with being a father of daughters only.

Related: A place to grow and learn about Jesus

Honestly, my boys were great this year — Rhett the Threat, Manny-mal, Double G (we all got nicknames). 

Even when it poured rain, we found things to do — Uno Attack, four square, muddy, muddy rounds of gaga ball. The boys read Bible verses and prayed at one of our morning devotionals. They did a skit for the camp. (They were ninjas.) Camp director Karla Taylor and teachers including Lance Towers and David North taught them how God reveals himself to us through nature.

A bunch of the kids were first-time campers since we didn’t have camp at all in 2020. It feels like we lost a year of their young lives. 

Campers and counselors gather around a fire on the last night of Inside Out.

Campers and counselors gather around a fire on the last night of Inside Out.

We lost so many lives, some to COVID-19 and some for other reasons. We lost both of David North’s parents — the legendary Stafford and JoAnn, stalwarts of the faith. We lost our closeness, our connections, our sense of peace. And I lost the lyrics to “Days of Elijah.”

“I never thought I’d forget that song,” I told the campers, my voice starting to crack. “It seems like so much has been taken from us. You’ve probably noticed your moms and dads acting a little crazy.”

(I got a lot of head nods on that one, maybe even an “Amen!” or two.)

“But God hasn’t forgotten us,” I said. “He’s still here, watching over us. We see him in the leaves, the trees and everything we’ve talked about this week. And we know he will see us through days of great trials.”

OK, that’s what I think I said. It was a bizarre sensation. The words just kind of came out — incoherently, for all I know. I wasn’t really in control. 

Maybe that was the point.

When I finished, it was just crickets, cicadas and silence. I composed myself enough to take another song request: “Shout Hallelujah.”

Somehow, I remembered all the words.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @eriktryggestad.

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