Sunday, July 14, 2013

What I Learned at Camp

Honestly, it is hard to call spending a week at a Young Life camp "serving." My husband & I each share a rich history with this ministry, beginning when we were on the receiving end as high school students.

The camp doctor program is a fantastic way for us to get away as a family, support a mission that we adore and have a blast watching God at work. It is a happy homecoming of sorts to be surrounded by gorgeous creation, enjoying laughter and high adventure with like-minded believers whose hearts' desire is to love kids really well.

Because it is a service trip, I spend a good deal of time explaining to our children ahead of time what our role is/is not. While we do get to enjoy many of the amenities, we are not campers. The experience is designed for them not us. It is a beautiful (albeit challenging) thing to be reminded at 9 years old that it is not about you and to learn to set aside your own desires and defer to others. (Let's be honest, that's hard at 38 too.)

Despite the pre-talks and our best intentions, once we arrived at camp it was a whole different adventure loving children wanted to do it all: whiffle ball, ping pong, octaball, ropes course, ridge runner (go karts), horses, a pool, gym, climbing wall, volley ball...and who could blame them? Camp is incredible!

For the first 24 hours I was frustrated as I shushed and redirected constantly. I couldn't balance letting the kiddos enjoy their time and reminding them that the camp was for the 400 teenagers with whom we were sharing space. I also realized that I was feeling pulled regarding watching the kids while my husband doctored, getting to know high school kids and spending time encouraging and supporting the leaders. It is not a stretch to say I was trying to determine how to 'work around' the fact that I had children in order to connect and minister. My mindset was that only my husband had a clear role--we were just along for the ride. (Didn't I just write about finding peace in my position? Ugh!)

In retrospect the message I inadvertently communicated to my kids was this: while Daddy is serving, our job is to just stay out of the way. Thank goodness they didn't really do that. While I was mentally wrestling with my 'role,' K, P & R were simply themselves. They played and laughed and loved their new friends with no agenda.

On day two, at my husband's urging, I lightened up on the kids a little. They were given 2-3 places in camp where they were allowed to roam and play as long as they always deferred to the teenaged campers and/or waited to be invited to play group games. Before long they became the mascots of both the whiffle ball field and the Octaball ring. I struggled with how much freedom to give them in those areas--but a couple of hours a day were spent playing with the teenaged campers--the majority of whom we had never met. Before long they were fast friends and I couldn't help but giggle at how many teenagers I didn't know would stop and greet my children by name.

And a beautiful thing happened. My children started introducing me to high school kids. As I watched the tenderness of kids from Texas, Illinois, Louisiana & Missouri like AJ, Marcus, Lorenzo, Jade, Sara, Jimmy, Lauren and Brandon towards my children, I was moved to get to know them. I loved them for being a part of my kiddos' lives. We laughed and shared high fives together. Each night before bed the kids and I would pray for our new friends by name.

Ironically, instead of 'working around' my children in ministry, God showed me this week that we really can serve together. This week when it came to loving on teenagers, my children often led me. It's such a simple revelation I feel silly to have not gotten it before: God put us in our places, with our cast of characters, strengths, passions and challenges in this point in history. SURELY He can use us--as we are, where we are, when we are trusting Him to write the story.

Friday night there was a "fancy" dinner and time for photo ops. It was precious to see how many of these teenagers sought out one or more of my kiddos for a photo.

Last night before the campers boarded their busses for home there was a camp wide time called "Say So" where high school students are invited to stand up and proclaim what the Lord had done in their lives through the week. Over 150 teens stood up and as they said their names and my kids lit up with a grin and a whispered variation of "that's my friend," I sobbed. How sweet of the Lord to let us see this transformation up close.

We didn't directly participate in the preaching of the Gospel to these kids--but we did grow to care about them and were able to celebrate their decisions.

It was so precious to have a front row seat with (not in spite of) my crew.

On the way to the busses there were final hugs and photo ops with kids who were now not just camp friends, but brothers and sisters in Christ. When our new friend Alonzo got back off his bus twice for "just one more hug" I felt the same way.

I am exceedingly grateful for beautiful lessons God taught me this week:
1) Ministry is simply life upon life, no matter your age.
2) His plan is always far more joyful than my control freak agenda.
2) God is big enough to use us each right where we are!

1 comment:

The McBrayer family said...

Oh I have tears running down my cheeks! Precious post.