In July 2023, I found myself in a familiar and challenging role: a Youth Coordinator at our church's annual summer camp. Held at Jacinto P. Elpa National High School in Mindanao, Philippines, the camp promised spiritual growth, community, and, as it turned out, a touch of the mysterious that would test and ultimately strengthen my faith.
As a Youth Leader and Minister's son, my life has been a tapestry woven with faith and community service threads. The venue for our camp was chosen for its spacious classrooms and 24/7 security—ensuring both the safety and comfort of our young campers. The school's large rooms could accommodate up to 20 people, making it ideal for our group activities and sleeping arrangements.
Interestingly, the school has long been the subject of rumors about being haunted, particularly the campus designated for grade 9 students. Most occurrences reportedly happen at night when the school is empty. Despite these unsettling stories, we held our camp in the grade 10 campus, far from the grade 9 area. We had dual motives for this choice: the school would benefit from hosting the event, and we believed that, as followers of God, we should be shielded from such experiences.
And for that reason, we took precautionary spiritual measures. We prayed fervently, asking God to protect us, especially during the vulnerable hours of sleep. Each classroom we intended to use was also blessed by our senior pastor, fortifying them against any unnatural elements or circumstances that might arise.
The camp kicked off seamlessly, with activities that nourished body and soul. We had workshops, prayer sessions, and team-building exercises. The atmosphere was electric, filled with the laughter and chatter of excited young people eager to grow spiritually. But as we often hear, "It's always calm before the storm," our last night at camp proved the adage true in the most unexpected ways.
As the clock struck 11 p.m., most campers were already in a peaceful slumber. My friends Jake, Lujie, and I, however, had decided to stay awake. Our self-appointed mission was to watch over the camp, ensuring the safety of our young charges. We stationed ourselves outside the classrooms, dividing the boys and girls into separate floors for added security. We were armed with flashlights and walkie-talkies, ready to respond to any situation.
Around 2 a.m., a series of eerie occurrences unfolded. We heard unsettling voices, faucets turned on themselves, and footsteps echoed in empty buildings. Despite the volume of these events, no one else seemed to hear them—not even our senior pastor or the on-duty policeman. We even heard a girl's agonizing cries as if she were in immense pain, filling the air with an unsettling aura.
Initially, we thought we were preparing for a spiritual battle. But as we investigated, we found all campers asleep, untouched by the strange happenings. It dawned on me that this was a test of faith, a divine challenge asking us to confront the unknown with courage and conviction.
That night, my faith didn't just endure; it thrived. The mysterious events served as a testament to the resilience of my belief, proving that faith is not just about rituals but also about-facing life's inexplicable moments with courage. I felt a newfound sense of empowerment, realizing my faith was strong enough to withstand even the most baffling circumstances.
That night at the summer youth camp became a defining moment in my faith journey in a world where the spiritual and the supernatural often intersect. It taught me that the path to spiritual growth is not always straightforward; sometimes, it's filled with twists, turns, and a touch of the mysterious.