Our Camp Director at CPBC shares a message about what he has learned about living into our value Reflect and Cultivate Diversity. This is the third in a series where we will be sharing how we at CPM live into our six core values.
Reflect And Cultivate Diversity
For many of us, there are songs that speak to us, songs that go deeper than the lyrics or notes should be able to on their own. They are more impactful than just the sum of their respective parts. I don’t remember the first time I heard the song, “I need you to survive” by Hezekiah Walker, but this song is one of those songs for me. Here are a few of the lyrics.
I need you.
You need me.
We’re all a part of God’s body.
You are important to me.
I need you to survive.
As I was reflecting on our core value of reflecting and cultivating diversity I couldn’t get this song out of my head. Usually when a song is stuck in my head it’s not a pleasant or particularly enjoyable experience, but on this occasion each time the song took up residence, it brought a smile to my face. It fed me and produced a deep level of joy in my heart. On one level this song is about humanity’s interconnectedness, our need for one another. For me it brings to mind 1 Corinthians 12 and Paul’s image of the body being made up of many parts each contributing to the whole. If one part suffers, all parts of the body suffer with it and if one part is honored all rejoice. Still, the title implies something even deeper; our very survival depends on one another.
Unfortunately we don’t always experience things this way and we certainly don’t always live this way. In our culture self-reliance is championed and dependence is something we are taught to grow out of. Children are dependent at birth by necessity, but our culture tells us this dependence eventually becomes a sign of weakness. On the few occasions when dependence on one another and on God is modeled, we usually stick to relying on the familiar voices that look like us, talk like us, and often tell us what we want to hear.
Sadly, our world is segmented and separated. It is filled with homogenous groups that fail to recognize their blinders or their deficiencies because they don’t have diverse voices to tell them otherwise. Maybe in their mind they are surviving, but I don’t believe they are flourishing or living into all that God has called them to be.
I’m thankful for Covenant Pines and our commitment to be a place where all are welcomed, where youth and families from different walks of life come together at the foot of the cross and experience God and learn from one another. Whether sitting in the dining hall at a meal or around a campfire at night, camp exists to tear down the walls that all too often separate us in the outside world. It’s a place where kids can arrive on Monday not knowing each other and leave a short week later with deep and meaningful connections with people they may not have spent time with at home. The same thing happens throughout the year when families gather and break bread and worship together, they leave with a deeper understanding and connection with those around them, even those who are different.
Diversity isn’t an extra. It isn’t just a good idea. It is necessary for survival. I need you. You need me. We need you all to survive. Singular and plural, as individuals, we need each other and we need the larger community. You need us and us need you. Forgiving the poor grammar in that sentence, what I’m trying to say is that communities need other diverse communities in order to survive. We, (whomever the we is), need you (whatever community that you represents) and vice versa. This is how God created us and this is who we aspire to be.
One of the lines of the song states, “I won’t harm you with words from my mouth, I love you, I need you to survive.” Can you imagine what the world would be like if we lived like this, if people didn’t injure others with the words they spoke and if words were a tool to build others up instead of tearing them down? While we certainly aren’t perfect, this is who Covenant Pines aspires to be, a safe place where all are welcome. A place where people know their value given to them by God and where diverse people can care for each other and experience the love of Christ; everyone, no exceptions. I need you. You need me. We need each other to survive. Thanks be to God for that.
To read our previous value highlights, click below:
It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a unique year. It seems like forever ago that Covenant Pines Bible Camp made the difficult decision to cancel our summer youth camps. Although we continue to mourn the fact that we were unable to welcome hundreds of kids to camp this summer, we rejoice in the impact that our summer getaways have had. It has been wonderful to welcome first time families to camp and watch them find rest and joy in the midst of a difficult year. It has been equally as wonderful to watch summer youth campers invite their families to experience camp for the first time and invite them into a place that has had a significant impact on their own lives. It is as if the roles are reversed and the kids are inviting their parents into an experience that has shaped and formed them and now they are so excited to share it with them. I have enjoyed walking our grounds on a quiet evening and watching families interact at their own personal campfires, just enjoying one another’s presence, or leading them on a sunset pontoon cruise around the lake to once again soak up the beauty of God’s creation. It has been encouraging to hear the testimonies of families who have experienced Christ at camp this summer, many have even decided to sign up for an additional week and do to the popularity we have decided to extend our summer getaway schedule so that more families could experience Christ here at camp.
Camp is different this summer, but our mission hasn’t changed, God hasn’t changed. The pace is slower, the dining hall is quieter, but the same God who has invited people into relationship with him is still here, inviting people to experience him in the beauty of a sunset, the quietness and still of a sunrise and even the kind listening ear of a family or staff member. I will confess that as we looked at the prospect of not having youth camp this summer at Covenant Pines, I didn’t know what our summer would hold, but I have been wonderfully surprised. God has remained faithful, shame on me for thinking it would be any other way. In the midst of a global pandemic, God continues to invite people into communion with Him, he continues to use these sacred grounds for his purpose of drawing people to Himself and we are grateful to be a small part of it.
Camp is fun. Camp stretches kids. Camp is about experiences with God in community. Camp takes kids out of their ordinary normal routines and introduces them to Jesus in creative ways. Camp asks each camper to consider what their current life looks like and to take a next step toward following Jesus more fully.
Each summer as we begin our staff training I make sure to tell our summer staff these things. My goal and camp’s mission is that each person here would take a next step in following God. I tell our summer staff that I can’t promise that they will have a fun summer, but I can promise if they are willing to step out in faith and trust God, they will have a summer filled with growth and they might just see God move in ways they never imagined.
“Every time I think I know what our summer ministry will look like, God has a funny way of reminding me that despite my best plans and intentions, He alone is in control.”
I tell this to our staff and I believe it, but sometimes it feel like God goes out of his way to remind me as well. Every time I think I know what our summer ministry will look like, God has a funny way of reminding me that despite my best plans and intentions, He alone is in control.
As we planned and prayed for the summer I knew it would be busy. I knew it would include the birth of our third child. I knew it would include searching for a new program director as we would be saying farewell to Holly Abramson after five wonderful years. I knew there would be times of great joy and there would be times when I’d need to have a hard conversation with a camper or staff member. After 20 summers, I thought I knew what to expect.
But, I didn’t know that we would start the summer with a few less staff than we anticipated. I didn’t know that in a 48 hour period during our first week of camp two of our full-time staff members would leave. I didn’t know that I would get a phone call during our last week of senior high about the tragedy at Minnehaha Academy.
The danger in ministry and in life in general is to think that we have it all figured out, because it subtly allows us to leave God out and assume that we can do things on our own. Though each of those situations was unexpected, God continued to show up through each one throughout each one and remind me of His provision and care. My mindset was one of scarcity, but God was going to show me just how abundant His resources were. To meet our staffing needs he provided gifted volunteers and people from outside our community to fill empty roles. He also provided people from within to fill the void from those who left and as we look toward the fall I’m excited and grateful for these staff who with continue to shape our ministry into the future.
As we mourned with the campers and staff members from Minnehaha who were here at camp, God was faithful. It was incredible to see the ways that campers and staff supported one another. It was a testament to the wonderful Minnehaha community and also to the powerful work that God can do despite tragedy when people are open and seek His face. God has been present with me and our larger community through each of these circumstances. He has continued to show his faithfulness and his love. He has done it in big ways to groups of people and in smaller ways to individuals as well.
“He talked about camp being a safe place to experience God’s love. It’s become a safe place for him to grow in his faith.”
One particular story is Levi’s. Levi had been coming to camp for a number of years. He enjoyed all of the activities, but he said that he had never completely given himself over to God. Levi shared his story going all the way back to the very beginning of his life. With a mom on birth control and a father in and out of prison, Levi claims he should have never been born. Despite the deck being stacked against him, God brought him into this world. Growing up he would come to camp and have a ton of fun playing on the playground, participating in games, or whatever else the kids were doing. He shared about camp being a safe place for him to experience God. Throughout his life, his dad was rarely present, he would enter his life, but inevitably he would leave, often ending up back in prison. As Levi shared his story he talked about finding God, finding a loving Father despite the example set by his earthly one. Ultimately he talked about camp being a safe place to experience God’s love. It’s become a safe place for him to grow in his faith. He went on to talk about his desire after this past summer to continue to read his Bible more and to share more about the God who has forever changed his life. Shortly before this summer at camp he met up with his Dad for the first time in a while. Because of the grace God has shown him, Levi told our staff that he wants to show that same grace to his father and work to rebuild their relationship.
I love hearing Levi’s story of faith and reconciliation. It’s wonderful to hear him describe just the sheer joy that camp gave him and how it was where he first said yes to Jesus. In some ways I’m surprised by Levi’s journey. It really does seem like the odds have been stacked against him. At the same time I need to stop being surprised when I see God at work, whether in my own life or someone else’s. That is simply who God is and what He does. As I sit here at the end of the summer, I’m thankful that that is exactly who God is. God is the one who surprises us with his matchless grace and love. He is sufficient for all of our needs; mine, yours and Levi’s.