Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Notes from 2013 Kids' Camp

Our weekend Children's Camp is now history--and a life changing history for some of the kids and adults that were there.

Every year that I've been blessed to be a part of Hopedale's camp, there have been kids that have made professions of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. This year was no different. I frequently tell people the main reason for our success in this endeavor is that we arrive at camp fully expecting God to be with us, to work through us, and to accomplish great things.

This year's camp was a little bit different in a couple of ways.
For one thing, we were at an unfamiliar camp ground. A new location carries its own challenges as we scope out the areas for our activities and try to work with an unfamiliar staff. In the end, it was the camp logistics and staff that brought the greatest challenge to our having a successful weekend.
Another thing was that it was our first time at doing camp with another church. While we were very familiar with the camp director from the other church, the kids and other adult workers were all new. And it was their first time doing camp the "Hopedale" way. In the end, this brought some of the greatest blessings of the weekend.

While many camps are professional camps that host dozens of groups at a time and thousands of kids throughout the summer, ours is just us. Professional camps have their own activities staff, musicians, speakers/preachers, curriculum, cooking and cleaning staff, the whole range of people necessary for the week or weekend. We have us.
At a professional camp, the adult leaders of a church are mostly responsible for getting kids to and from activities and then leading through the small group curriculum. At our camp, they are responsible for pretty much everything. They plan all of the lessons, the activities, the meals, the worship, even the free time so that each activity is supervised. They pack the trailer with the food (this year's camp did have its own cooks so we didn't do meals), with all of the necessary equipment for our games and everything for lessons and worship. We assemble all of the packages for the kids with their T-shirts, team bandanna, study material and pens and we make all of the teams, cabin assignments and small groups. Our leaders are very much a part of the kids' weekend. It is a working weekend for the adults.

As this was different from most camps, I think it was a little unexpected from some of the adults from the other church. BUT, it was very cool to watch them catch on and begin to really serve the kids. As they became the servant leaders, they began to reap the blessings of interacting with the campers and seeing the experience through their young eyes. One leader was able to talk to a child (friend of his daughter) as she made her profession of faith in Jesus. He was so blessed and so excited to be a part of that. I didn't think that anything could have topped his true joy until he came to tell me that he had another experience with one of their boys making that life changing declaration of trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior!

Sometimes, knowing ourselves and our ways can be a downer. He shared that his fear was that he was going to get home and go back to his old ways and forget the joy of sharing Jesus with others. "I don't want to do that," he told me. I gave him my card and told him to stay in touch so that we could encourage one another. I hope that he does.

We had one of our youngest campers raise her hand during worship, indicating that she wanted to talk to somebody  about professing Jesus as savior. I asked one of our ladies to talk to her and received back a great testimony of a tender heart inside of the tough exterior of this little girl. The woman told me that the little girl understood very well and made a genuine acceptance of Jesus.

I found out that the guy that was doing all of the video (from the other church) was a professional videographer that had a ministry of doing videos for missionary organizations around the world. I don't know what that would normally cost for a weekend, but he gave of his time and professional skill to provide that to our churches for free. I'm really looking forward to seeing the end product.

In spite of the great blessings of the weekend, this was really the first time that I began to think that I'm getting too old for this. I often fear that one of the reasons that I get asked to pastor children's camp is that somebody is afraid that my feelings will be hurt if they ask somebody else. I know that there is a different John that stands before the kids during the message time. I know that God has given me an ability to speak to children in a way that they can really grasp the concept of how much He loves them. I don't know why He chose me. (As I've said before, "I don't even like being around kids that much.") And I know that I will continue to serve as I am called to serve. I just hope that when the time comes to call another person as camp pastor, we can all recognize that it is that time.

For today--I'm rejoicing! There are new members in the family of God! There are new workers in the kingdom! God continues to shower this servant with blessings that I do not deserve, could never earn and can never repay.

John <><

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

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