Have you ever been so overwhelmed by something you face that all you can do is keep praying to be obedient? “Dear God, I don’t want to do this. Change my heart. Give me Your strength, Your love. Please help me to do this, for You. For the children.”
North Country Chapel in Post Falls partnered with the Union Gospel Mission this past week to bring a group of children to the UGM Camp on the Spokane River. This was no ordinary crowd of Sunday school kids. These were kiddos invited from everywhere and anywhere with one stipulation: they otherwise would not be able to go to a summer camp because of the prohibitive financial cost. Our church, as well as generous community members who support our local Union Gospel Mission, paid for them to attend. Several kiddos from the Coeur d’Alene UGM Women’s and Children’s Center came along, as well – what a blessing!
This was our first time doing something like this as a church. We had a basic idea of what to expect. And then, really, when the rubber met the road, we were clueless and relying upon something so much bigger than ourselves. Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing our God cannot do!!
Some of the kiddos were emotionally broken. Others were hoarding food or afraid of adults, especially men. There were behavioral issues. Tears. Temper tantrums. Meltdowns. One thing they had in common? All of them needed camp. All of them needed to hear that Jesus loves them.
Camp. Wow. I think most of us would agree it was one of the hardest things we have ever done. And one of the best things we have ever done.
My husband was a counselor in a cabin overflowing with 8-11 year old boys (literally – he slept on the floor). He, along with two other younger counselors, had the monumental task of keeping tabs on ten squirrelly, energy-packed boys. There was little sleep and a whole lot of giggling. (A quote from my husband: “When you hear a real fart – not a fart “noise” – and no giggling, then you know everyone is truly, finally, asleep.”) Teaching them to “Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it,” (Proverbs 8:33) was a major challenge!
The second and third days, we were hearing stories of exhausted counselors reaching the true ends of themselves and of their patience, overwhelmed by the behaviors and needs of their little charges. That was when the rest of us, the work crew, knew to pray even harder for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the children attending camp. Oh, how we prayed!
The fourth day, there were subtle changes. Oh, we were all beyond tired. I served alongside the staff cooks in the kitchen, so my days began at 5 a.m., and I think most of my fellow workers rose at a similar hour, after falling asleep late the night before. We were RUNNING all the live-long day, in 90-100 degree heat. We were exhausted. And none of us were looking our best. But that fourth day, something had changed. The campers were becoming more teachable. They had relaxed their fears a bit and were trusting their leaders, and one another. There was a team spirit amongst the cabins. And the counselors’ hearts were truly bursting with love, God’s love, for their kiddos.
Camp. Wow. Close to eleven hundred meals served. Countless second helpings (those were hungry kiddos!). Floors swept, toilets cleaned, dishes washed, over and over and over again. Our wonderful work crew pitched in heartily, and they also came alongside the cabins, assisting the weary counselors with their boys and girls, and encouraging one another (a big thank you to our daughter – she was amazing!).
Camp. Wow. Challenge course. Slip’n’slide. Fishing. Tubing. Swimming. Foosball. Frisbee. Crafts. Snacks. Giggles. Friendships. Fart noises.
Camp. Wow. Chapel times. Cabin devotions. God-inspired teaching. Hearts that were softened and received the seed in good soil. Boys and girls who heard the Gospel – the good news that Jesus loves them and died for their sins so that their hearts, stained with sin, could be washed clean by His blood. Lives forever changed when they chose to open the door of their hearts to Jesus.
Camp. Wow. I am thankful God moved our hearts and gave us His strength to serve. And I am SO thankful God changed the lives of those kiddos for eternity!
We will recover from the exhaustion, from the sore muscles and bee stings and sprained ankles and dehydration. (Even from the oops of pancake batter being set out alongside the salad dressings – sorry Spencer, it wasn’t labeled…)
What comes to mind is a quote from C.T. Studd ~ “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” And that, dear friends, is what a week at camp’s all about.