“I don’ t want to go to camp for the summer,” I told God as I wrote those words down in my Moleskine.
I took a sip of my coffee, watched the other students as they walked by, and hummed along with the catchy tune that was emanating from the speakers in Moody’s coffee shop. “I dont want to go to a place where I need to cater to rich white kids who ball their eyes out that they did not get their third kit-kat for the day. I want to be used, to learn something, to contend for the Gospel. God please allow my Seattle plans to work out. I see it as the best way to use my summer. Please work and move to make it happen.”
I placed my pen on the table, took another sip of my black coffee, and thought about what I had just written. I did not want to go back to camp. It was not that my last summer was bad but I simply felt that I was not used by God a whole ton. I wanted to do something with my summer that would be worth my time. I wanted to be used by God to transform lives. I was frustrated that He was sending me back to Covenant Harbor Bible Camp in Lake Geneva Wisconsin.
Despite what I prayed God told me no, I wont send you where your heart is telling to you go. I will send you here.
And To be honest, I was bitter. I was bitter that God ignored my plans.
Have you ever had someone say something that you know is the right thing so it plagues your mind? How about when you think you are totally justified in your feelings or actions and then someone asks you a pointed question that you wish you could get out of your head? As soon as the question leaves their lips, you know that you were in the wrong. You know that truth is being spoken to you. Well, that happened to me.
Before school ended for the summer, my first year at Moody, my mentor Steve Ringelspaugh asked me one of those pointed questions. While we were talking about my anger at not being placed where I desired he asked me, “why do you think that God is sending you back to a place where you feel that you do not have much of an impact?”
And there it was. That question haunted my mind all summer long. It consumed much of my thoughts and revealed much in me that I did not feel like eradicating. It showed me the true nature of my heart.
Regardless of how I felt, I was obedient. I mean, I had read the story of Jonah before. I did not want to entertain the possibility of being swallowed up by a big fish only to be spit up back on land to do what God originally called me to do. I followed and stepped foot back on Covenant Harbor property as camp counselor for the summer of 2010.
The first couple weeks of the summer was tough. I was still battling the bitterness that I had at God. It took me well into week 1 to realize that the bitterness I was feeling at God was stupid and ignorant. God, many times, kept reminding me that the time I was calling “my time” and the desire to have an impact which I held on to so tightly, God actually calls His. He reminded me that my life was purchased. My life is not my own. And that means that my time is not my own, nor is my impact. God, through sleepless nights, tough campers, my own sin, and mirrors in other staff showed me that God owns it all. He owns and orchestrated the summer to show me how much I was fooling myself. I was fooling myself into thinking that it was I that needed to have an impact; it was I that needed to make my time matter; it was I that would lead well.
So I got on my knees and begged God to do something in me. I begged Him to remove the bitterness, self reliance, anger, jealousy, pride, self exaltation, and the glory I was trying to thieve from the one who created me.
And let me tell you…this summer was unlike any other. It was a beautiful, Gospel centered, messy, redemptive summer.
I just got back yesterday. I had spent all night hanging out with the staff for one last hurrah before we parted ways to return back to our schools, homes, and the real world. This staff, became a team this summer. I originally didn’t feel like joining the team. Remember that bitterness I mentioned earlier? One of the ways it reared its ugly head was in alienation. But God pursued me. In many ways He forced me to be real with some other men on staff. I voiced my concerns and my harboring sins that He was working on. The men I talked with prayed with me and then kept me accountable. I had walked into a true community. I don’t think any of us were prepared for it but I feel God knit many of us together in ways that are unexplainable.
You could see the power of the community show itself when trouble hit. Like when someone was having a rough day. Or when someone was discouraged. Or when someone was insecure in their giftings or had an impossible camper. The community of believers knew the hope that they had been called to and with the love of Christ ministered to itself and then onto the kids. It was a powerful thing to see. I mean where do you hear about a bunch of college students getting together to do hard work for the Gospel?
Not even mentioning the kids whose lives were changed as a result of the staff’s devotion to service, the staff itself was a beautiful mosaic. There were people on staff who I became best friends with who, normally because of our circle of friends, I wouldn’t probably have even known.
I got to see day camp counselors mature and embrace the authority needed to counsel rambunctious 12 year olds. I got to see Godly women show us guys what a real woman is made of: the heart of Christ and the mind set on the Spirit. I saw one guy switch schools because He felt such a strong call by God to enter the ministry. One woman is also thinking about switching her major because she also feels God calling her to vocational ministry. Guys who were passive leeches in the church came alive and boldly proclaimed the Gospel. One dude, whom I greatly admire, stepped in faith into a position where He knew God was calling him but was reticent to respond in kind. On and on the stories go. Each story testifies to the glory of God using obedient, broken people and transforming them into messy, God glorifying, Gospel centered individuals. Examining the lives of staffers showed me that sometimes, I think summer camp is more for staff than for kids.
So God, thank you. Thank you for changing me this summer. Are the changes something that people will see all the time? No. But they’re there. They are incisions that God made on my heart to remove something deadly. Thank you for showing me the power of community. Thank you for placing me there this summer even when I dragged my heels. Thank you for answering the prayers and uniting this staff so that you could give us all a glimpse of what happens when people unite around the Gospel. Thank you for revealing to us the majesty and worthiness of your name as you took a ‘motley crew’ and turned us into a living breathing community. And, Father, we beg you to do it again.
So I know this is ridiculously long. The word count keeps going up. I am sorry for that. This is not the summer update I intended to write, I suppose that will have to come later. But for all 6 of you that are still reading, thank you. Thank you for praying for me and for the team. Thank you for being a part of my story. Thank you for begging God on my behalf that He would move in me, change me, teach me, humble me.
Overall, I am elated that I went back to camp. It was painful to say those goodbyes yesterday. But behind each goodbye I said, I also said a silent thank you. I thanked God for pushing me into this. His grace is overwhelming. While I was a self serving prick, Christ bought me and continually taught me. He showed me, firsthand, more of His Gospel and its power to change lives.