If you are know any International Students who attended CrossCulture Melbourne, and who is on Facebook (who aren’t these days?), chances are you have seen their pictures taken at the recent Easter Camp (#eastercamp14cccoc), and chances are you have seen the word PECS (#pecs). It’s not in dictionary, but I think it should be in Wikipedia very soon. PECS is short for Post Easter Camp Syndrome. What is that? Well, in one sentence, people suffer from PECS because they went to Easter Camp that was so good and so blissful that coming home from the camp causes an imbalance in their emotion. It’s a bit like going back to instant coffee after tasting freshly brewed perfectly-roasted coffee beans with deliciously-frothed full-body milk for one whole year. It’s a bit like going back to 14″ CRT TV after experiencing watching a 3D movie on a 100″ LED HD TV. It’s a bit like going back to earth after tasting heaven. It’s a bit like …
“Wow… wow… hang on there, Sandy. The coffee thing, the TV thing, OK, I get it. But heaven and earth… seriously?”
“Seriously. Well, let me explain.”
Of course, I am not equating Easter Camp to heaven. We saw rocky and dusty roads, not pavements of gold. Every day ended with dark night. We did not see death, thankfully, but some people actually got sick and injured. We did not see many other saints that had ‘slept’ well before our time (which might be quite a freaky experience). And we ate lots of Indonesian food. Well, that one is close to heavenly, I would think. 🙂 But the point is, Easter Camp is not heaven in those ways.
However, these are things that we do experience. We saw people enjoying their time with one another, not for other purposes, simply because they want to enjoy time with each another. We observed people serving one another joyfully without expecting anything in return. We witnessed people putting others first before themselves. We watched people not tired singing to God in worship. We saw people getting to know each other and getting to know God. In those regards, yeah, the camp was really heavenly.
We witnessed five baptism, which means we got to listen to five testimonials. One of the baptism candidates recalled that his heart started to soften toward God in another Easter Camp four years ago. It was not because of the preaching, the discussion, nor the answers to his questions, although undoubtedly he must hear them and understand the message of Christianity in order to make his decision. It was, however, largely because of the love and care of the people. In particular, he mentioned that he had not seen people whose love for God and for each other was so great that they did not mind investing and sacrificing their time and talent in order to organise such a massive camp.
Toward the end of the camp, I did go around and ask the campers, especially the newcomers, what was the highlight of the camp for them. Not one… not even one failed to mention ‘people.’ “The people are so caring.” “The people are so loving.” “The people.” It’s the people. So, I believe that the camp was heavenly because the people’s hearts are really heavenward. In other words, using New Living Translation of Colossians 3:1-3,
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.“
Again, we are not in heaven, yet. However, as believers, the reality of heaven must dawn on us. In Christ’ death, we have died to this life. We no longer have to claim or demand what this life has to offer. Why? Because our reality is in heaven. This earth is passing away. Our real life is now hidden with Christ. We are secure in Christ. I know, I know, a sudden burst of heavy Christian jargons. But that’s the reality, or at least, that must be the reality. As believers, we should not care so much what we get in this life. Because of Christ selfless death on the cross, we are free to be selfless too. And in the camp, I witnessed many believers living out their identity in Christ by loving and caring for others. Thanks also to the conducive environment, they had many opportunities to do so.
Furthermore – and I think this is somewhat the most powerful – because of our secure identity in Christ, we are not afraid to be vulnerable. We are not afraid to say that we are weak in certain, if not all, areas of life, and that we are in dire need of a saviour. When we confess those openly without being condemned – neither by God nor by others – that is a powerful community experience. Others are invited to do so. No, not invited. Others cannot help but be compelled to do so. Why? Because inwardly, as human beings, we want to be in such environment. We thrive in such community. Many people live this life exhausted because day by day they have to pretend to be what they are not. So, when we find such place, our hearts just burst out and melt down. Finally, we don’t have to cover up. Finally, we don’t have to put on masks. Finally, we can relax and experience grace. Finally, we can bask, not in our glory, but in Jesus’ glory triumphant over our sins.
So, I think the camp is heavenly because of all the above. Therefore, wouldn’t it be a shame if those experience only last as long as the camp does? Again, if you are on Facebook, many posts are now revolving around ‘combating PECS.’ Why? Because they don’t want the experience to end. However, what if I tell you that we can continue to have that heavenly experience even after the camp? What if I tell you that we are free to care and love others the same way too all year round? What if I tell you that we don’t have to wait for another Easter Camp to experience heaven again? What if I tell you that you can be that kind of community for many people around you?
So, let’s combat PECS together. Not simply by having fun, food, and laughter. But by being a community whose identity is so secure in Christ all year round that we are not afraid to be vulnerable with one another. By being a community whose identity is so wrapped up in Christ’ perfect life that we are free to love and care for others. By being a community whose identity is purchased by Christ’ death that we are not afraid to self-sacrifice for others. By being a community whose hope is fastened to Christ’ resurrection that our joy is contagious to others. If you plug yourself in such community, or even better, be such community together, then you can have the ‘Easter Camp’ experience all year long, and … say goodbye to PECS forever.