Saturday, July 11, 2009

Young Life Camp

The room is quiet, as I quiet as I could imagine 700 high schoolers could be, as I stand behind the stage curtains with a piece of cardboard in my hand and the smell of permanent marker lingering in the air. After five days of zip lines, blobbing, and shaving cream, I’m about to participate in Cardboard Testimonies – a simple event that allows people to sum up in a few words the transformative power Christ has had in their lives. Thirty other leaders are with me backstage and we check out each other’s boards. Even before the session begins, I’m misty-eyed at the awesome power and love that Christ offers us, a power that breaks addictions and emboldens the fearful, a love that fathers orphans and calls wayward children home.

As I step to the blue tape mark on the stage, I scan the room and lock eyes with my girls: six Davis High School students whom I have known all year. They know a lot of my story, but they do not know this part: “Bipolar Dad, Unwanted, Unlovely.” That was my reality before I truly encountered the power and love of God. Then I smile and flip the board: “Eternal Father, Chosen, Beautiful.”

Moments like these are what camp is about – giving kids opportunities to interface with the life-changing Truth of God and what He can do in and through lives that are devoted to Him. What we first-time leaders experience so exquisitely is how the Holy Spirit can use any element of camp to draw kids to Himself. For Juanita, the Cardboard Testimonies demonstrated so clearly how powerfully God could change her life. For Colby, it was the ropes course – a terrifying experience that created a metaphor for her about the challenges of trusting Christ, a challenge that she accepted. For Jael, cabin time moved her to ask questions and receive Christ. For Silvia, Club provided a clear presentation of the Gospel and what it means to follow Jesus that reaffirmed her faith and helped her recognize how God’s hand had already been guiding her life.

As a leader, I got to experience each of these pieces of camp with my gals. Together with my campers, I got to laugh and play and sing at Club time, clip into the ropes course and climb Communication Hill, fly down the zip line and plummet on the swing. These experiences strengthened the relational foundation with these kids, and that happened because of the service of the Assignment Team, Summer Staff, and Work Crew. The sheer volume of volunteers who gave tirelessly of their time and energy for weeks at a time amazed me.

On a personal level, camp served as a reminder that this life I live as a follower of Christ simply is not about me. It seems like an elementary idea, something I should have mastered years ago when I was first getting to know Jesus. But the longer I follow Christ, the more He peels back the layers of my heart and reveals how deeply that vein of self-reliance runs and how that keeps me from experiencing His divine provision and grace. Praise God for that very grace that reveals our weaknesses and covers them, convicts us of our sin and cleanses us. I left camp refocused on the larger picture of God’s amazing story and honored to play a small part in that ongoing epic tale.

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