By Margarete Nasir
Photos by Robert Smith, N. John Keller and Victoria White

It’s the size of a small town. More than 1,200 Zona Camp participants wake up early, and friends walk together to have breakfast with their youth groups. Afterward, students prep for morning worship and cram themselves as near as possible to the gymnasium’s double doors waiting for them to open.

Finally, morning worship is ready to begin. The collegiate Zona crew ushers in students. This year’s camp band, The New Divide, leads in musical worship before Jeff Moors, camp speaker, gives a short message — something to get students ready for the day and to prepare them for the longer sermon at evening worship.

At last, students are released to their track experiences. A little over 100 students serve the community surrounding Biola University on the Mission Life track, a few dozen dive deep into what ministry leadership looks like with the Impact track, more still spend time learning the ins-and-outs of leading worship with Worship Catalyst, and the remainder of the 930 students participate in master classes, Bible studies, optional classes and other fun camp activities throughout the day.

Community is what makes Zona what it is.

“[Students] are interacting and engaging with other Christians from all over Arizona, as well as students who may not be followers of Christ but are beginning to connect to the body of Christ by being invited by a friend, being curious about Christianity and attending camp, and learning about how to follow Christ,” Camp Director Chad Murrell said.

Bonds are formed between new and returning students, youth pastors and their students, and ministry leaders across the state. Churches enjoy creating community within their youth groups and diving deep through the teaching, Bible studies and church time.

Evening worship arrives, and students are once again as close to the gymnasium’s doors as possible. Zona crew open the doors and students flood in. The New Divide leads the filled gymnasium in song, and Jeff Moors is back again to speak.

This year, Zona Camp focused on “Genuine Faith,” outlined in James 2:1-4. Students convicted by the message have the opportunity to respond every evening on the soccer field. Trained Zona crew, professional counselors and youth leaders are there to meet and counsel them.

Overall, 344 decisions were made for Christ throughout the week, including 63 students who accepted Christ for the first time and 52 additional spiritual recommitments.

The final night of Zona brings a new message: how can these students take what they’ve heard at camp to their community at home?

The North American Mission Board’s “Who’s Your One?” campaign encourages that, while we may not be able individually to reach every person, we can all reach our “One.” This actionable discipleship call is given to students to live and share their faith after camp.

In the meantime, students leave camp looking forward to next year’s Zona Camp, “Apologia,” focusing on defending the faith and equipping the saints. Zona 2020 will be held at Biola University, June 21-26.