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.