Andrew was a junior in high school when his dad Jeff signed the two of them up to attend Christ in the Smokies Passage to Manhood Camp. The father and son were growing into a new season in their relationship, so when one of Jeff’s friends told him about the camp, he signed them up.
But there was a lot of apprehension as their camp date approached. “Our relationship had been getting pretty tense,” Jeff admits. “He was always a good kid, but had recently been being a smart aleck towards my wife and me. Something seemed to have been changing in him since he got a driver’s license and a girlfriend. I didn’t know where the source of the problem was, but I could see there was something going on. I wasn’t even sure either of us wanted to be in the car together on the drive to Christ in the Smokies, let alone spend the week together.”
Jeff had high hopes for the week at camp, especially when it came to the way he and Andrew communicated about important topics. “Anytime I tried to talk about important things prior to the camp, he would act like I was preaching and had no clue about ‘real life.’ I was hoping he’d drop his guard and that I could communicate without preaching.”
Jeff’s hopes for the week were in fact realized, as the two left the camp feeling like they had a new start and a better understanding of how important a father-son relationship is. “I was saying things that I had been wanting to share for years,” Jeff reflects, “but either I came across as a clueless dad, or the light bulb came on and my son realized I loved him, as well as the importance of listening to your father’s stories and advice about life.”
Since returning home, Jeff shares the that communication between Andrew and him has greatly improved. “I view him and treat him more like a man than a boy, and he seems to behave more like a young man than a boy most of the time,” Jeff explains. “He’s sought me out for guidance on things that are important, and the level of trust that we had when he was young seems to have been restored.”
Jeff is still Andrew’s dad, but he says that the two now behave more like brothers in Christ. “It feels weird watching my only son become more and more like a man, but I guess all dads get that feeling at some point,” Jeff says. “I am very proud of the young man my son is becoming and am grateful to CITS for providing the catalyst that got us where we are.”
The week that Jeff and Andrew spent at CITS changed not just the two of the them individually, but also their family. “Before we went to CITS, we were not headed in the right direction,” Jeff says. “The week we spent in the Smokies with the men from CITS changed the direction of our family. Even my relationship with my wife has improved, and she wasn’t there to share in what my son and I learned.”
Jeff would encourage anyone on the fence about going to Christ in the Smokies to take a step of faith and go. He admits that he was initially a little concerned about the “high adventure” aspect of CITS, even working out for a few months before the trip to make sure he was in good shape and wasn’t getting in over his head. But he found that despite the active nature of the trip, “it wasn’t bad at all for a guy my age.” And the challenges were indeed worth it, as Jeff describes. “We both had more fun than we’ve had in a long time and learned a lot in the process. Our family, our relationships, and the influence we have in our community are all so much stronger because of the step of faith I took as a dad when I signed up for CITS.”