Monthly Archives: July 2015

Another camp story

So I’m still here being a camp counselor at a church camp in Michigan, having the time of my life…and since I’m thinking about camp, here’s another cool story from my camp experiences:

Being a camp counselor at Camp Dixie in Alabama last summer meant that I had a lot of responsibilities besides simply watching kids. I also was a lifeguard, I helped with maintenance, a couple of times I promoted myself to group facilitator, I had to lead kids through the challenge course, and sometimes act as medic.

One afternoon, all of the campers were in the bay (Perdido Bay, which is right between Alabama and Florida, and connects to the Gulf of Mexico) swimming around, and having a blast.

I was up on the beach, watching from afar, and talking care of 3 different things at once: looking out for the handful of campers who didn’t want to swim (they were having more fun making friendship bracelets), acting as disciplinarian (watching those kids who needed to sit out of the bay for a couple of minutes due to their misbehaving), and being a medic. While talking with the campers who were absorbed in their friendship bracelets, and also watching my camper in time-out, I saw a different camper stumble up the stairs onto the beach. He was holding his stomach, and he didn’t look like he was feeling very good.

Obviously, 90% of campers’ complaints about not feeling good can usually be solved by hydrating them (since they don’t usually do a good job of drinking enough water). When I asked this particular camper (we’ll call him Jeff) the last time that he drank water, and he replied, “yesterday”, I diagnosed him on the spot: extreme dehydration. I pointed toward the cafeteria, while walking with him toward the shelter of the cafeteria, which had AC.

After Jeff had slumped down on a chair, and I had given him a large glass of luke-warm water (which he needed to drink very slooowly), I realized that I had left my backpack out on the beach. Seeing as there’s no better way to not be prepared for another incident if I didn’t have my backpack (or, in other words, the best way to be prepared is to have my backpack), I decided to call out to the band of friendship-bracelet-makers, having them come in with the backpack. Soon, we had a small party in the cafeteria–Jeff sipping his water, friendship-bracelet-makers making friendship bracelets, and me chit-chatting with all of them, while also working on my devotion for that night’s camp fire worship time.

That week had been very difficult and busy, for multiple reasons: the campers seemed to be louder that week, living conditions were a lot more cramped, and my creativity was beginning to run out. So, it was nice to be able to slow down, enjoy building my relationships with my campers, and enjoy the AC. One of the other counselors (whose camp name is Cheez-it) had sent in a camper envoy, asking me if I thought if it would work to let her group leave the bay early to play a couple of round of CTF (Capture The Flag) before dinner. Realizing how complicated that suggestion was, I sent the camper envoy back to Cheez-it, suggesting that we not do that. It turned out to be a really good decision for both of us.

Shortly after that, as I continued to enjoy my small band of campers in the AC, one of the high school junior counselors came by and asked me about a theological question that she had had on her mind: Can members of a certain group of people who commit a certain sin still go to heaven? God used that moment to help me clarify the true Gospel for this junior counselor who was still new to the faith, seeing as she had been baptized just a few days earlier at camp. “All sins are equal in God’s eyes…and all sins can be forgiven because Jesus died for all of our sins…we just need faith.” It was a really cool moment to talk more with her about grace.

Meanwhile, back in the bay, Cheez-it was having her own moment. She had been trying to solve a dispute with some campers who were swimming around, and one of them had gotten emotional. Long-story-short, Cheez-it had churned up some buried emotions in this camper, and Cheez-it realized that the camper had not always received true, unconditional love her whole life. Seeing this, Cheez-it took this opportunity to share her unconditional love with the camper, as well as talk about God’s true, unending, unconditional love.

A few hours later, Cheez-it shared her experience with me, thanking me for not letting her take her group to play CTF. I also shared a little bit of my story, and we could clearly see God at work.

So, moral #1 of the story: Always triple-check to make sure that your camper is properly hydrated. I had told Jeff that day to keep on drinking water in order to stay hydrated. The next day, during the campers’ last meal at camp for the week, Jeff had walked up to me as I was eating and tapped me on the shoulder. He asked, “How long do I have to keep drinking water?” I thought about the question for just a second and then responded, “For the rest of your life…”

Moral #2: even when your campers do get dehydrated, God can use simple moments to help us (his people) share his Gospel.

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Flashback: Favorite Camp Stories

So right now I’m hard at work watching kids at a church camp in Michigan, being eaten alive by mosquitoes and working on getting a really nice farmer’s tan. I was thinking about some of my previous camp experiences and trying to figure out how to tie those in with being missional. So here we go:

Three summers ago I was working at Camp Lutherhaven in Indiana as a camp counselor. Each week, a new set of campers would be dropped off by their parents–campers looking for fun, campers longing for attention, campers full of energy. Some were from great homes, while some were from very broken homes. I could never tell what the week had in store for me and my campers.

^The whole summer at Lutherhaven during one of our less serious moments.

One of those weeks, I was helping to host a couple of youth groups that had come to Lutherhaven to do a week-long mission trip in Fort Wayne, Indiana (about half an hour from the camp). We were going to be working with a mission agency in Fort Wayne–Lutheran Agency for Missions to Burmese (LAMB) while coming back each night to stay at camp. If you didn’t know, there are several thousand immigrants and refugees from Myanmar (Burma) in the Fort Wayne area. LAMB has recognized this people group, seen that most of them aren’t connected to Jesus (a lot of them are Buddhist), and is reaching out to them.

My job that week was to work with a couple other staff from Lutherhaven, the two youth groups, and the people from LAMB to help put on a vacation Bible school in a park in one of the areas where many of the immigrants lived. We would put on a VBS in the morning in the park, have an authentic Burmese lunch cooked by a host family, and then spend the rest of the afternoon doing service and evangelism projects with other cool missionary organizations in Fort Wayne. Many of the kids that we ended up hanging out with spoke English, while many others didn’t, meaning that we sometimes had to deal with not only cultural barriers but also language barriers. Despite those barriers, we still kept on showing up every morning to share the Gospel through songs, skits, crafts, and relationships. We simply showed up, hung out with the kids who came, and shared Jesus.

One of the coolest moments on the trip was on one of the last days of the mission trip, when we were doing some random service and evangelism projects around Fort Wayne to kill time one afternoon. We had decided to put on an impromptu VBS show at a different park some people–people who were definitely “regular Americans”, and not immigrants from Myanmar. We all felt a little funny as we reenacted the skits and songs that we had performed earlier for the Burmese kids now with some grown North Americans who were not from a different culture and did not have a different primary language.

On the drive back to camp that night, some of the people in the van with me were talking about our experience: “We’ve been boldly going to public places and putting on spontaneous vacation Bible schools all week. We’ve had no problem sharing Jesus with complete strangers, both Americans and Burmese.” I smiled as they went on: “So why can’t we do this in our neighborhood? If we can share Jesus with kids from a different culture in a city that we’ve never been to before, then why can’t we do this with kids in our own neighborhood?”

So the real questions is: what can you do? Are there people in your own community that you might have a hard time connecting to? Are there certain groups of people who really need Jesus? Are there people in your own community that are just like you, but who also need Jesus? How could you connect with them?