Ahhh, church camp...the pinnacle of teenage summer spirituality! (And a possible love connection.) I'm about to head off to Nebraska Youth Camp for two weeks. Anybody who has gone to NYC will attest that it is NOT the most beautiful place on earth! Old, dusty cabins with no air conditioning. A nasty pond with fluorescent green gunk floating in it. Sand, sand and more sand. Close location to the interstate (which makes for interesting campfire background sounds!) A kitchen that even the rat from Ratatouille would not touch. And yet...to a couple hundred young people...it IS the most beautiful place on earth. Some of them are from tiny churches where there are NO other teens to hang out with. Some come from broken homes. Some come from homes that aren't really involved in a church. Camp is the place they can let loose and really worship. It is the place they don't have to be afraid of being themselves. They see God in nature every day and night, with little to no technological interruptions. Growing up, Camp Blue Haven was that to me. What awesome memories. The beautiful mountains. Perfect weather (we actually enjoyed wearing jeans to camp!) The hikes. Getting up courage to ask a girl to the banquet towards the end of the week. Singing class. Bible class and art. What are your favorite camp memories? How did it help shape your faith?
Thanks again for all the prayers on behalf of Sam's family. I think they are doing well, starting to get back in the swing of things as best they can.
A few of our youth were camping at SoulQuest a few weeks ago. It was just days after Sam's funeral. We had cried and cried early on, but sort of avoided some other questions we needed to ask. So I talked about "life-change" moments in one of our devotionals. You know, the times in life where you reflect on life's meaning and purpose and actually have a chance to change something.
To live life and not reflect on such things is foolish. "Live and learn" is a very wise saying.
So I posed the question: "After going through all this, what will change in your life?"
"I'm not going to be so hard on myself," piped up one of our young men.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, Sam always told me that I was too hard on myself when I failed. I've always prided myself on following the letter of the law, but Sam said I needed more grace for myself."
Another young guy said, "I want to come to youth group more. I know I've been real uninvolved, and I'm going to start coming." (Update: He's been to church twice and one youth group activity! AND, he brought his absent older brother, too!)
Soon, it came my turn to share:
"I don't always do the best job of letting you guys know how much I care about you. Usually, I stand at the front of class on Sundays, waiting for everyone to come in so I can get started. Now, I'm going to stand in the hallway and hug you as you come in...whether you like it or not! I'm going to treat each day as if...maybe it's our last day together. I'll be more loving, but also more courageous. I love you all."
Don't forget the lessons you learn from "life-change moments."
My wife recommended (several years ago) that I read this book by Dave Pelzer. Now I know why she recommended it...
I started the book around 1:00 this afternoon and was done by 5:00. This tale caused my stomach to churn, and literally made me wince as I read it. It is the story of one of the worst cases of child abuse in California. The author (now a grown man) is the one who was abused by an emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother. He tells the first part of his story in this book, capturing his thoughts of hope, fear, anger, rebellion, and ultimately, his own survival. This book tells of his early years, from a young age when he had a loving relationship with is mother and father, until fifth grade, when...well, I'll let you find out.
The story is almost so graphic that it seems unreal. As you read and realize that it is real, your heart will drop as beating after beating takes place, and Dave's mother invents new ways to torture him.
The biggest observations for me, though, have to do with the secret nature of abuse. How many adults put on a good face, only to go home and beat their kid or sexually abuse them? How many yell at their kids and demean them at home, making them feel like an "it?" How many kids do I know that are being abused, but are too scared to say anything? Or maybe they are afraid they have done something wrong?
This is a MUST-READ for anyone working with young people.