Beds.

Camp ended yesterday closing yet another chapter in my relative nomadic life. It was an amazing summer as I will relate shortly but it also continued my rather consistent pattern of going someplace temporarily, meeting awesome people and then leaving for an extended period. South Africa, Czech Republic and Camp have been some of the best and fulfilling parts of my life. But when they have ended I have realized how fleeting the time really is and how important the people I have met in those places are.

Summing up this summer is hard. In many ways it defies explanation. But as I was thinking about it one thing popped up in my head repeatedly and surprisingly enough that was the word “Beds.” Let me explain.

I arrived at Camp the day before Memorial day about two weeks before most of the summer staff arrived. My expectation was to do a few odd jobs around camp but mostly plan chapels and cabin bibles in my air conditioned office. My director had other plans. For the first week a few counselors and myself helped complete an entire inventory and massive rearranging of beds in camp. There were new wooden bunks that needed to be screwed together and old metal ones that needed to be (re)moved. We needed to find the optimal arrangement to fit as many as possible in each cabin and to get rid of all the old terrible ones. When we were done we took two huge trailer loads of beds to the scrap yard. It was hard work. In the end we had about 370 beds I never wanted to touch again. Of course that’s not what happened.

Each week I had to place kids in cabins by their age and gender. Doing head and bed counts were a vital part of this puzzle. It was pretty smooth until week six when with nearly 200 kids (and 80 staff),  we realized some creative bed placement needed to happen. Sure enough my fellow unit director and I found ourselves in the minutes before kids arrived scrambling to move bunks into cabins where singles did not suffice. It was a sweaty afternoon.

And finally today with only 20 people in camp a few fellow counselors and I moved some final bunks around to get to the original number we had reached in June. I really don’t want to carry a bed again in my life.  Beds can seem like a random theme to grab onto after a crazy, fast-paced summer but I think my experience with beds really exemplified my postion.

For the first time I was in a position of leadership at  camp. All roles require some ability and result in growth in leadership of course but this was really a step in a new direction for me. The biggest difference here was how often I was totally behind the scenes. And few things are more behind the scenes than beds. When you go some place do you think about the bed? Maybe you are worried about how it will feel but if you paid for a hotel room you’re not going to worry about there being a bed in the room. Of course there will be one. And that is the attitude that 1,100 campers had this summer. They were excited or worried about a million things about camp, but having a bed to sleep on probably didn’t cross their mind.

This summer I planned games, activities, chapels and cabin bibles. I dealt with homesick and problem campers one on one. I drove sick campers to the doctor and various staff to pick up or drop off points. And I made sure that every kid had a bed to sleep on. All behind the scenes. It wasn’t always fun or easy. It was certainly different than the camp experiences I had had before. But regardless of the changes, camp was still amazing. Kids and staff lives were changed this summer so much for the better. I wasn’t always directly involved, in fact most of the time I wasn’t. But I played a role in the great picture of the body of Christ that camp was this summer and for that I’m overwhelmingly grateful.

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Not a Strategy, the Cornerstone.

This past Sunday there was a great article about Evangelicals in the paper. Being one myself it caught my eye and I read it with great interest. You can read it here. It gives a balanced portrayal of why evangelicals often get such a bad wrap in many circles while noting that many actually do a significant amount of good in the world. I think it was an article I would write if I was a journalist of a world famous newspaper. But I’m not so I’m happy to read such things for free.

I gravitated towards the comments section not because I care much for this section typically but because I wanted to see what people’s thoughts were on my faith and way of life. Predictably their was a whole grab bag of negative and postive thoughts. Some were interesting and thought-provoking. Many were worthless polemical dreck. One theme that stuck out to me though was the confusion from many about why Evangelicals couldn’t just do nice things apart from Jesus, religion etc. People need help, it feels nice to help, why get all messy with the Bible? Added to this was the generalization that Christians “only” do good works to further proselytizing efforts. I feel like a few short comments are warranted.

Jesus is not my strategy. He is not a gimmick, a selling point or a product that I am trying to purvey. He is the central cornerstone of  my life. His life,  example and existence informs everything that I believe and every action I decide (or don’t decide) to do. Having Jesus exist outside any good works I may do is simply not an option. I don’t tell people about Jesus because it makes me feel good, I do it because it just comes up. I will applaud good works wherever I see them and I will call out bigotry, hatred, homophobia, stupidity, sexism or anything else that is contrary to God’s incredible love for humanity.

I imagine that first sentence in my last paragraph lost a lot of you but if your still reading know this: I’m not asking, forcing, persuading, or trying to manipulate you into a false sense of religious security. I am living my life  for someone, something incredibly bigger then myself. In fact it is bigger than all of us. I have no idea what that will look for you. I do know that if Jesus is not in the picture it will be less than what it can be. We have been created to do good works not to glory in ourselves and our goodness but to exalt and proclaim Jesus.

One more personal example. This summer I have worked at a Christian camp for boys and girls ages 7-15. In my position of leadership I have been the one that my counselors have come to when they have a camper with an issue, serious or otherwise. I have talked to kids dealing with homesickness, bullying, and trouble in their home life. Just last week I spent 45 minutes consoling a boy who was literally cowering in the darkness because he was exhausted and scared of his cabin mates and any potential judgement they might dole out to him. It took every ounce of my patience and energy to console this camper enough for him to go to bed.

It should be noted that I would console a camper, child, person, human being regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, appearance, religion, political leaning or sexual orientation. I have no idea if this kid was a christian or if and when he will ever become one. But the important question is really “Does God love them?” Then I better do my best to mimic that the best I can. God is the cornerstone of my life and I hope it will be evident to whoever I come across.