Monday, August 11, 2008

My Camp Experience.

I had the privilege of serving as camp staff for my churches youth summer camp over the last week. This was probably the most overwhelming experience I have had since my wedding.

First, going into the week I was uneasy. Even though I have been teaching for a year with the High School, I knew only a small portion of the High School group, and many of them graduated this last semester and weren’t going to be at camp. So I knew I would be forced into making some new friendships and trying to connect with students in a new way. I was also worried because I have never been staff at a camp, and I knew there were many things I would have to learn along the way. But more than this, I was concerned that I would not be able to impact students lives spiritually.

But despite all this, God really did some amazing things this week. I never imagined that camp could be more intense and more fun as staff than as a student. The intensity is obvious enough, leading a bunch of young students, keeping track of them, and always engaging them and keeping them interested in what is happening can be very challenging and exhausting. But more than this, it is a blast. As a student, I remember how fun all the activities were, and how exciting it was to be around friends and having the “camp experience”. But as staff, I think not only were the events fun, but being able to connect with several different kids and in many ways be the center of their attention for a week only added to the fun.

I definitely felt that God gave me the strength to set aside some of my inhibitions and introversion in order to engage the students (especially the guys in my tent). I’m sure I made many mistakes as a staff person, but I know God carried me through the week there too. The other staff were so talented and things moved along so smoothly, that there was room for my mistakes so that things kept moving smoothly.

Did I make an impact on their lives spiritually? I really do not know. I had a group of good guys, and I raised several (what I think are) important and deep questions. I can only hope that they will continue to pray over and pursue these, and with God’s help grow in that. I do know that whether or not I individually had an impact, that I was a part of a team that as a group impacted several students. Being a part of that team, and helping out in whatever ways that I did were a blast and totally worth the sacrifice of time and energy.

I’m very excited about youth ministry now, at least much more than I was. I made several new friends, and many of them are just starting high school, so I look forward to getting to know them more over the next few years. I feel very dumb for not having been more intentional in the youth ministry over the last year. I feel convicted for not having taken it more seriously, and set aside more time for events so that I could really connect with the students.

Although the intensity and fun were greater as staff, I think saying goodbye was also harder. I remember that as a student, when camp was over it was sad because the week of fun and friends was over, and I got to return to my home and the boring routine of life. This is certainly true as staff too, but there is an added negative. This was the fact that I got to see kids that I had gotten to know (even if superficially) and love and having to watch them return to broken homes and painful lives. It was sad to see a few of the kids flourish in a loving environment, and knowing that their home is anything but that. Fortunately most of the kids I know I'll still have opportunities to interact with during youth meetings, and many of them are in solid discipleship groups.

The group is made up of solid, mature kids, but there are some that I worry for. All I can do is pray and trust that God will continue to work in their lives and protect them from circumstances outside of their control, and hope that they will continue to pursue God.

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