The Northern Frontier Experience (The Final Frontier)


In the last three blogs, I shared a fictional story of a father and his son.  The son wanted to discover new and exciting things.  The father started off skeptical but ended up discovering there was more to life than work.  In this last blog, of this series, I will share with you what Northern Frontier Camp means to me.

In 1974, my mom and dad answered the call of Christ and became disciples of the King.  They found a local church through a radio station my mom was listening to.  The name of the church is Bellerose Baptist Church in New York City.

While my parents started to attend this church and my dad was asked to help out in Christian Service Brigade.  He enjoyed working with the boys.  Sharing bible stories, making things out of wood and going camping.

I wanted to spend time with my dad, so from as far back as I can remember, I asked my dad if I could go with him.  On occasion, he would allow me to do the overnight camp out with them, but wouldn’t allow me to attend until the appropriate age of eight.

When I turned eight, I enjoyed spending time with other boys doing the things I had seen the other boys do.  Week after week, during the bible story time, I heard the message of Jesus.  I heard that Jesus loves me, that He died and rose again for me, but no matter how many times I heard this, my heart was just not into that “bible stuff”.  When an invitation to accept Christ came, I would raise my hand time after time.

My dad, being a wise man, told me that accepting Christ as Savior is a one time event.  So if I accepted Christ once, then that was all that was needed.  Being a hard-headed kid from  NYC, I  didn’t get it.

In the summer of 1979, my mom and dad asked me if I wanted to go to camp.  It sounded like a lot of fun so I agreed.  They paid for me to go to this camp called Northern Frontier Camp.  It was an all boys camp that had been started through the founder of Christian Service Brigade.

My parents dropped me off at a location, where a charter bus would take us to camp.  After six hours of traveling north, we arrived at the entrance.  Then after getting off the charter bus, an old diesel school bus would then take us the rest of the way.  The best part of the bus rides was the 3 mile off-road trip through the woods.  We would bounce around and laugh because this was no where like the city.

Year after year, I would go there for a week, have fun and enjoy every activity they provided.  From air rifle and archery to hiking and swimming, I enjoyed every summer there.

At night, we would have a camp fire where we would sing fun songs, do crazy acting out, see skits and finally listen to a message.  For the first couple of years, I would once again raise my hand to accept Christ.  (I told you I didn’t get it.)  I would then return home just for my parents to explain once again, that if I was a Christian, I didn’t need to do this year after year.

In one of those years, it had rained and we were listening to a special camp fire skit.  I remember it distinctly.  There was a few large sheets hung up that were separated by a pole.  A young man would come up and make believe he was knocking on the door.  The first young man said that he was good enough to enter because he didn’t lie or steal.  The voice on the other side said, “Walk through the left door”.  Almost immediately, he would enter through the left door and then scream in fear.

The second young man said, “I am good enough because I helped an old lady across the street, attended church and even went to Christian Service Brigade”.  The voice on the other side said, “Walk through the left door”.  Again, he walked through and screamed.

Finally, a different young man came forward, knocked and said, “I am not good enough, but I know Jesus.”  He was allowed to enter the right door, where there was praise and worship.  I was scared beyond what I knew possible.  I feared hell.  I feared being lost forever.  I was just plain scared of life.  That night, when the opportunity came, I yet again asked Jesus into my heart.  However, I did it out of fear rather than need.

Over the next year, my sister had a dream and was terrified.  She told me that she dreamed I was in a dark place, hurting and screaming.  As young as we were, she begged me to accept Christ as my Savior.  I brushed her off, forgetting what I had just experienced months prior.

That summer, I went back to Northern Frontier Camp.  One night there was a campfire and someone gave the message of hope through Christ.  (Sound familiar?)  However, this night was different.  It wasn’t the weather or the lake.  It wasn’t the campfire.  It was me.  I knew something was wrong.  Something made me feel uncomfortable.

When the speaker finished his message, he asked anyone who wanted to know more, to stay back.  I decided to stay and asked some questions.  The counselor asked me if I wanted to accept Christ and I acknowledged that I needed Christ.  He led me in prayer, but this time there was no fear.  There was no normal night.  My emotions overwhelmed me.  I couldn’t hold back.  I wept and wept.  I asked Jesus to take over my life and He did with a vengeance.  It was at this moment in time that I knew I no longer needed to ask, because Jesus was there.

When I got home, I told my parents about my experience, but they didn’t believe me.  It wasn’t until they saw me witnessing to my friends that they understood that the experience I had that summer was different, very different.

Northern Frontier Camp has a special place in my heart.  I went there for almost a decade, have spent time with my father and sons there.  Every time I go, I learn more and more.  This camp allows me to go out of my comfort zone and experience the love of God in a different way every time.

If you are a dad or want your son to experience God in a whole new way, I encourage you to check out http://www.northernfrontier.org.  Make time to spend a few days with your son in the wilderness where there are no distractions, only you, your son and God.  Because boys won’t just be boys.  Because boys will become men someday.

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The Northern Frontier Experience (Part 3)


After the dad and son settled in, they approached the cafeteria.  The steps were made of wood but were sturdy.  They opened the screen doors and noticed a congregation of men and sons looking over papers and talking with two people at a table.

The dad and son started to walk toward the table.  As they approached, the woman sitting there smiled and asked, “What are your names?”  The dad said, “Paul and Troy Smith”.  The nurse thumbed through her paperwork and found the applications that the dad had previously sent in.  She then briefly looked them over and said, “Okay.  You have no medications, so please take your son and go over to the various activity tables and decide what you want to do over the next few days.”

Paul and Troy looked over every piece of paper there.  The dad noticed the assortment of activities and was dumbfounded on how much there was to do. He turned to his son and asked, “Troy, what would you like to do?”

Paul and Troy chose six activities that they could do.  Over the course of the next few days, they had loads of fun.  Troy was able to shoot a bow and arrow for the first time.  Paul was able to teach his son how to fish and sail.  Both of them had so much fun.  From swimming in the lake to the campfires at night.  Each evening, after the campfire they would carefully walk to the cabin.  Paul would tuck Troy in while the counselors decided it was time for a quick game before bed.

Paul then was told that the dads were going back to the cafeteria for coffee and snacks.  Little did Paul know what was going to change his life forever.  As he sat and listened to the stories, he noted how each dad had come from a situation or experience that was similar to his.  One dad said he as a former alcoholic but when Jesus found Him, he no longer needed to have a drink.  Another story that caught his attention was a dad who became so busy with his job that his wife left him with the kids and the struggles he had fighting to see his son again.

Paul remembered where he came from.  The busy world of work.  The inundated world of working from home and trying to work out at the gym.  What time did he actually have to himself?  All Paul knew was work, work and some more work.  But in this atmosphere of dads, he noticed one thing.  None of them had cell phones or iPads.  Each and every dad had a smile from ear to ear.  Every dad had a story that they wanted to share.  They wanted to show other dads they weren’t alone in their struggle.  Paul desired to have more of this type of experience, but he didn’t have the courage to ask about how to be so happy.

On the last evening of the campfire, a young man came up to speak and said, “My dad and I used to fish and sail.  He taught me everything, both good and bad.  Unfortunately, my dad passed away from a heart attack because he worked so much.  All he could think about was how to make more money.  He also taught me that there was one relationship that was necessary to have a happy life.”  At this, Paul’s ears became more attentive and wanted to understand the secret to happiness.

The young man continued, “Living a happy life is not dependent on how much money you make or how you love to fish or sail.  Living a life of true happiness comes from within.  Within each person is a desire to be something bigger and better than he knows he can achieve.  Each father desires to do better for his wife and son.  Each father knows that there is something out there bigger than he is.  I am here to tell you that no matter your status in life, work or socially, the only way to true happiness is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Paul then said to himself, “Is that it?  It doesn’t sound extravagant like the other dads made it seem.”  As he sat and listened to the rest of the story, Paul heard something he had never heard before.  It was as if his conscience was calling out to him.  Immediately, there was a sense of hopelessness yet hopefulness.  Then came the doubting, but the truth started to ring even louder.  The next thing he heard was the young man say, “If you want to meet Jesus tonight, stay back and talk with one of us.”  That was it!  Paul knew he needed to stay back and talk with the young man.

Paul and Troy stayed behind as others left for the night.  The young man who spoke approached, he could see the desire to learn on Paul’s face.  They spoke for a few minutes and then prayed.  After the prayer, Paul no longer heard the tension he had before.  There was an inner peace he had never felt before.  A sense of joy, happiness and contentment overwhelmed his soul.  This was something he never felt before, but he liked it, a lot.

Paul had been found by Jesus.  Jesus had healed his entire being.  His guilt was gone.  His fear subsided.  His life was different and he knew this was the first day of the rest of his life.  He then promised himself that nothing would ever get between him and his Savior.  He also made sure that his son and wife came before other things he enjoyed.  In the end, Paul knew that if God had not led them to Northern Frontier Camp, his life would have just continued down the slippery slope he was headed.  It was Northern Frontier Camp that showed him a new way of living and he wasn’t going to let it go.

The Northern Frontier Experience (Part 2)


As they followed the caravan of vehicles, the road was not as the dad had hoped it would be.  In the back, his son was laughing, laughing more than he ever imagined.  He hadn’t heard this kind of laughter in such a long time.  Although he enjoyed the laughter, he realized that the road was more important.

Up and down they drove.  Driving at no more than 10 mph, the car was tossed back and forth like a ship on rough seas.  Had he been wrong?  Had the brochure let him down?  This was not what he imagined.  He imagined a resort like complex that had the hint of wilderness.  Concentrating as hard as he could, he focused on the car ahead of him as it also weaved and bobbed.

After about a half hour, he thought to himself, “Where in the world are we?  What have we gotten into?”  It was then that he realized he and the rest of the caravan were on the right track.  He slowly passed a sign that read, “You’re not lost.  You’re almost there.”  That put him at ease for a moment.

Suddenly, the road seemed to get better.  The car was no longer doing the oceanic style rocking it had done before.  As they turned the corner, there seemed to be an opening.  To his right were boys playing.  To his right, trees.  However, straight ahead was another young man with a clipboard.  As he approached, the dad opened the car window and asked, “Is this Northern Frontier?”

The young man smiled and said, “Yes it is.  What is your name please?”

The dad told the young man his name.  The young man responded, “Sir, you and your son are in Cabin 1.  Please drop off your belongings at the mat to your right and park your car at the other end of the camp.  If you don’t know where that is, just make a left and keep on going.”

“Oh no”, the dad thought, “Another road trip.”  Systematically, the dad and his son, placed all their belongings on the blue mat in the small open field.  The dad had remembered the last time this occurred.  It was on an overseas business trip.  When he had arrived, he had asked for the next bus.  The person told him to place his belongings to the right and go with them.  When he returned, his belongings were gone.  Was this going to happen again and in the middle of the woods?

The dad and son complied and headed down to park the car.  After parking the car in the small lot at the other end of the camp, the dad and son walked back to where their belongings were.  The son smiled, and tried to talk with his dad, but his dad was enamored with the belongings they left on the blue mat.

Up and down small hills they walked.  The son was taken back by the beauty of the place, while the dad concentrated on the task at hand.  As they walked passed the big building in the center of the camp, the dad noticed one thing.  All of their belongings were exactly where they left them.  No tampering.  Nothing stolen.  This place was obviously different than what he had experienced before.

They took all of what they unloaded and proceeded to bring it to Cabin 1.  To the dad’s amazement, a tall, slim young man offered to help carry the sleeping bags or luggage.  Reluctantly, the dad said, yes and the young man lifted a couple of items and showed them to Cabin 1.

When they entered Cabin 1, the young man said, “Welcome to Northern Frontier.  My name is Jeff.  After you settle in, go to the office next to the cafeteria.  The office is next to the big building in the center of camp.”  With that, the young man turned and just walked away.  No desire for a tip.  Just a genuine young man that had a heart of gold.

As the dad and son unpacked their stuff, the dad was confounded by the images in his head.  Young men who showed genuine interest.  Young men who didn’t steal or lie.  Young men who showed that they cared about him and his son.  Curious, the dad and son decided this may be the best place they could have chosen.

However, what else did the camp have in store for them?  That will be tomorrow’s tale….

The Northern Frontier Experience (Part 1)


One winter day, a young boy looks out his window.  He sees freshly laid snow on the pavement.  The snow appears to be piling up by the second.  The wind blows with a howl that is creepy and cold.  He dreams of a place where there is no snow.  A place where he can swim and have fun.  He suddenly realizes that he wants to go to camp next summer.

He envisions times of making friends, having fun, playing games and swimming in a lake.  In one of his dreams, he is on a short hike and notices every aspect of nature’s beauty.  The trees covering the ground, water running down a stream, birds making nests in the rocks next to a waterfall.

He asks his parents to go to “sleep away” camp in the woods.  Due to his excitement and glowing enthusiasm, his parents agree to start the search for a reputable camp.  Over the course of the next few weeks, his parents come across many different camps.  All say they have fun and games.  All say that they have swimming.  All say that he will make friends.  Suddenly, a saying of one of those camps hits him with a force that he cannot get his eyes off of it.  The saying said:

“Because boys will be boys”.

However, the young boy notices that the last word “boys” is crossed out and the word “men” is directly above it.  “What does that mean?, the boy asks his father.  His father says, “Because boys will be men.”  The name of the camp says, “Northern Frontier Camp”.  Curious about the saying, the father turns to the website http://www.northernfrontier.org.

There he finds out that this camp is a Christian camp that purposefully goes out of the way to teach boys to become men.  Not the men that society thinks of, but a man who is respectful, loving and seeks out God in their lives.  The father discovers that they do this with personal relationships with the counselors.  Each cabin has two (2) counselors that take a genuine interest in each boys life.  They want to help them with their problems and share with them the experience of a lifetime.

The father then reads about a Father and Son weekend.  “Dad, can we do that?  Can we go to the father’s and son’s weekend?”  Reluctantly, the father agrees.  They fill out and send in the necessary paperwork and fees.  Both of them await anxiously for the departure day and the first day of camp.

Months go by, when without warning, the dad tells his son, “Tomorrow we are going to camp!”  The boy filled with excitement, sleeps in short naps and turning sleep.  Without telling his son, the father also cannot sleep.  Partially for excitement, partially for concern.  Is this a camp for both of them?  Is this the place they were to choose?  Will the advertising of the camp let them down?

Early the next morning, they leave and travel for what feels like a day or two.  The ultimate kid question, “Are we there yet?” comes from the son’s mouth over and over again.  Suddenly, the GPS says, “Destination on the right”.  Could this be right?  Where is the entrance to the camp?

Almost immediately, the son cries out, “Dad, there is the sign!”  The father sees the sign and wonders where the entrance really is.  A young man with a clipboard comes over to the car and says, “Welcome to Northern Frontier.”  He instructs you to follow the other cars and trucks and says that it is about 3 miles into the woods.

The adventure begins.  Part 2 is tomorrow.  Stay tuned.