Summer is, by far, my favorite time of the whole year for several reasons. My birthday is in summer, I get to spend more time with my kids during the summer, it stays lighter longer, we go on family vacation, and Vacation Bible School is in the summer – I always call that week “the best week of the summer!”. This year for VBS, I got to hang out with 11 kids and experience VBS as a group leader, which was so much fun (especially as someone who has directed VBS for years). I thoroughly enjoyed building relationships and investing in the lives of those 4th graders.
Also this summer, at our church, we also put on our first youth camp. We had 38 campers, middle school and high school.
My own kids were there and my husband and I got to go and be a support in a variety of ways – he set up and ran the sound for the services, and pulled kids on tubes for hours.
I got to encourage the lady cabin leaders and be available for any issues they needed help with. We also got to love on kids.
In fact, I made it my goal to have a personal conversation with each and every camper, and I did it! I learned all kinds of things about these kids. For example, one girl had a little kitty that was very sick, another girl’s favorite candy bar was cow tales – but they’re hard to find, another guy’s family was in the process of moving, and yet another young man’s favorite music was either Celtic or Traditional hymns. Probably my favorite conversation was with a 6th grade girl who had just started attending youth group. She was telling me that the past year in 5th grade she was beginning to doubt if God was real or not. Then during the singing part of one of our services, she heard someone call her name and when she looked behind her to see who it was, she heard the voice say “I love you” and she recognized it as God speaking to her. Needless to say, she doesn’t doubt Him any longer.
It was a great week corporately; however, there were also some great things that happened for me personally. On the first night, as we were listening to the speaker, I had a strong remembrance of being a high schooler at camp. It was almost as if I was transported back 25 years in time. I remembered the youth camps I attended with my sisters and friends. I remembered the summer I felt God’s Spirit tug on my heart, calling me to serve Him in ministry and noticing that at that very moment, God was placing that same call on my friend Mark as well. Fast forward 25 years, I am now married to Mark and God has indeed called us to serve Him as pastors of a little flock called Cheney Faith Center.
As I sat in that service reminiscing about His goodness and faithfulness, I couldn’t help but wonder about the future of the young people in front of me. Would any of them grow up and get married to each other? Who would God call into the ministry? What types of exploits, whether big or small, would these kids do for Jesus?
Another great thing that happened for me at camp was God gave me a deep personal assurance about my own kids and their relationship with Jesus. As a parent, I often don’t see how God is working in my children’s lives and can be tempted to panic and try to grasp for control. Yet, God again reminded me that just like Mark and I had our personal faith journey, my children do as well. Their faith journey will look different than mine. God, in His goodness, assured me that He is working in my children’s lives and that He can be trusted.
The final thing that was a real blessing to me was a brief interaction I had with a young woman who was a middle school cabin leader. It was the last day of camp and we were packing up and cleaning up in the rain. It had also rained most of the night before and everything was muddy. One of the things that I don’t like is being dirty. Yet, as I was wrapping up the power cord that gave electricity to our tent trailer, my hands got covered in wet dirt. I was dirty and I didn’t like it. After I was done, I walked by this cabin leader and I showed her my hands and I said, “I got dirty”. I’m sure I had a pitiful look on my face too. Without even hesitating, she took my dirty hands in her clean hands and began wiping the dirt away. She said some soothing words and let go of my hands and we both went about our business.
Even now as I write this, I am moved to tears by her act of kindness and love. She was willing to get her hands dirty to remove the dirt from mine.
Isn’t that just like what Jesus did? He, who knew no sin, took my sin, and yours, upon Himself.
And now He calls us to take others “dirty hands” and be Jesus with skin on by loving, forgiving and accepting those He places in our path. Just like I came across this cabin leaders’ path, Jesus puts others in our path who need us. When they do, what choice will you make – ignore them, change the course of your path so you can avoid them, briefly interact with them or fully engage them right where they’re at. This proved to be a profound illustration in such a small interaction.
As I sit here writing this, there are three and a half weeks left before school starts and the summer season comes to an end. Since summer is my favorite season, it’s hard to let it go. Yet, just like in life, there is good in each and every season.
Thank you, Jesus, for the fruit of this summer season, may it be lasting and good.
Your Friend in Ministry,