For many kids today, living a Christian life is a difficult climb. But tucked deep in the woods of northern Smith county is a place many have discovered that at least for one week every year things can be different.
"Every week, every year I am re-energized," says Camper Landy Naylor. "I have the courage and the strength and the faith to go on throughout the year. I mean just thinking about it throughout the year sometimes re-energizes me."
Sky Ranch is one of several first class Christian summer camps located in East Texas. Sky Ranch is not all that different from any secular summer camp. All the typical activities are here...but the kids come for more than just a week away from home. "Its just neat to come and see people who don't look at the outside and you don't have to worry about what you wear...you just come and they see your heart and its just amazing, I love it so much...that's exactly why I come here," says Camper Kay Behrends.
Relationships are a key here. Counselors are recruited from across the country to help work with these kids who face so many challenges the other 51 weeks of the year.
"I actually accepted Christ here," recalls Camper Emily Brown, "I was born and raised in a Christian family but I was kind of living on my parents faith until I was 12 and I just came here and they showed me a new way of living and the joy of it all and its just really an amazing place."
"I think summer camp is a place were naturally hearts are more vulnerable to know God and want to know Him...and its a place where you kinda feel safe in craving that knowledge and wanting that understanding," says Camper Charis Boylan
"Last year was a life changing experience, I met my best friend here last year and its helped me going good. Its just done a lot for me," says Camper Brandon Alexander.
"You tend to grow away from God and its just awful," says Behrends. "Like being in a school were certain things happen that shouldn't and you just don't like it so when you come back here you really know the point like why your living and you just want to grow with God and its just definitely recharging your battery over and over and I pray constantly just to keep that going through they year and don't let it go away I just want to keep it..."
[18:41-Chris Whitt] "We take away plausible deniability," says Director of Sky Ranch Ministries Chris Whitt. "We take away the idea that living the Christian life, being virtuous, staying pure...all those things can't be done. We bring in someone who says your not alone someone else is out there trying to do it."
And for kids trying to live a life style not so popular outside this camp...it is a week that, they pray, that gives them strength to continue, at least until the next summer comes. "I mean Sky Ranch is a big bubble," says Naylor, "its just an amazing place, with amazing people to bring you closer to Christ and as soon as you get out there its kind of scary but as you grow older people will tell you to prepare yourself for the outside world because it is definitely not like this."
"Like each time it really makes you think about your life," says Behrends, "about the person you want to be then going back to school and being someone your really not..its definitely made you grow make you be a better person...a woman of God and that's what I really think about a lot..."
"You feel more comfortable knowing Christ," says Boylan, "and the thing is, the only thing you bring with you is Jesus and the only thing you walk away with is Jesus and its kind of the increase of that love for Him and the knowledge of Him"