Summer Debrief

Just like last year, I find myself sitting outside a coffee shop in quaint Pentwater, Michigan with all the time in the world to think, write, and read, when last week every second of my day was dominated by questions like “Is the pophouse open now?’ (at 7am mind you) and “Can I go see if my hermit crab has moved?” Not gonna lie, its a bit of a welcomed change.

My second summer as a counselor just ended two days ago. Now it’s time to make the transition from being in charge of and counseling eight to eighteen year olds and get into the mindset of leading and discipling college guys every day of the semester. In under two weeks I’m leaving to begin RA training at Cedarville for this fall.

A couple of thoughts/observations from my summer:

(1) Comparing this summer with last summer, I really struggled at the beginning of the summer season to want to be back at camp doing what I had to do. Coming off of last summer, I really thought that there was no way that my experience last year could be topped. God did more in my life personally as a counselor than in any of my camper’s lives to reorient my life toward Him. Coming in to this summer, I thought there wasn’t as much renovating that God would have to do, so He wouldn’t need to change me as much as He did last year. Isn’t that a silly thought? But mostly I was concerned that the people I was closest to last summer weren’t returning, and I would miss out on those relationships that had meant so much to me last year. I tend to gravitate toward those I know well before I consider opening up to them, so the thought of meeting and growing close to new staff wasn’t that great in my mind. Later that first week I realized how selfish and self-centered I was being worrying about how the new staff would like me and get to know me, instead of focusing on being Christ to them and pouring myself out for them and the campers that would come in. Only after that did the friendships begin, once I finally got over myself enough to be real with people.

(2) God and the program at camp this summer really drilled two thoughts into my often-thick skull. The supremacy and sufficiency of Christ for my salvation, sanctification, and anything else continually confronted my tendency to elevate myself in counseling and all the silliness of camp. Christ is sufficient, the only reason I have any life at all, and if I preach or show or talk of anything of myself without first being and breathing Christ to the kids I was charged with for the week, I am preaching a false gospel, the weakest of all, that of myself and my merits. Only Christ. The theme for the summer was “Unveiled” and dealt with a lot of rather deep theology for a camp season, but it continually drove me to Scripture to figure out for myself, not just for campers, what it all meant. It was good to be forced to figure this stuff out for myself while at the same time learning how to teach campers about this. Camp devotionals and themes have a tendency to be surfacy, but I found myself having to wrestle with covenants and sacrifices and the purpose of salvation and resurrection, the law and Christ’s sacrifice. It simplifies down to this point: Christ is and was the plan all along, and His demonstration of the Father’s love and grace toward us is God’s highest revelation of Himself to His people.

(3) I struggled with the tendency to appeal to numbers and results to weigh my effectiveness at counseling and evangelizing this summer. Last summer it seemed as if every week I was able to lead a camper to Christ some way or another. This summer I found myself often with cabins full of church kids, at times apathetic ones, who were covered from hell by a prayer they prayed a few years ago but other than that nothing changed. Those kind of kids are the hardest to get through to I think. I was one of those kids once. But again, I was confronted with the sufficiency of Christ for salvation, and the fact that it has nothing to do with how clearly or cleverly I preach the gospel. Salvation is only through God drawing individuals to Himself, and He uses whatever means He chooses. It’s far too easy to judge the success or failure of a summer or a gospel presentation on how many hands are raised at the end. I’ve seen evangelists fudging numbers on how many hands they see in an audience to look good or convince themselves and others that they did a good job. My job was to preach God’s gospel to the kids who found their way into my cabin, not to bring them to conversion. I’m still only beginning to understand that.

(4) I got to drive a 40 foot sailboat this past weekend. Of all the events that happened this summer, this was definitely the most memorable. Ever since I learned how to sail tiny sunfish at camp a few years ago, it’s always been a dream of mine to sail one of those big sailboats with the huge sails across a large body of water. My dream came true this weekend as I was able to crew one with a few other staffers from camp. We took a 2 1/2 hour trip from Cedar Point around the south side of Kelley’s ending up at Patmos for staff appreciation. I love the feeling of being on the open water with the wind in your sails. Donald Miller wrote in A Million Miles that heaven would be like an airport; I think it will be like a sailboat. Your eyes will shut with death only to open the next moment to the sun flickering through two large sails, your eyes pointed looking upward at a 60-foot mast and blue cloud-spotted skies. You blink in confusion for a second and sit up off the deck. Turning around, you notice a man at the helm, confidently looking forward at an unseen destination on the horizon. In literature, death is always portrayed as a crossing of a body of water. The river Styx, Christian passing through the River of Death on his was to the Celestial City. Only in this picture, Jesus is confidently sailing through the waters of death, carrying us to His Celestial City, allowing us the opportunity to enjoy the passage from death to life, feeling His wind in the sails and getting a few beautiful moments with Him to prepare for the beauty to come.

Just a few of many thoughts from this summer. Ironically I just started reading a book that takes a very critical look at youth-oriented evangelical endeavors, which already I’m finding to be very interesting and thought provoking. Righteous by Lauren Sandler. A self-described secular and liberal, she spent a few years chasing Evangelical youth movements, pointing out the inconsistencies and absurdities of much of what goes on, as well as some positive things she says secularists can learn. I think its good to understand what those outside our Christian circles think of the odd things we do to get people into church at times. More thoughts on that to come for sure. But I’ll leave you with this verse that struck me across the face every Thursday morning as I’d lead campers through a discussion of Christ’s role in salvation. By Thursday I’d be pretty confident in my ability to lead whatever kids were thrown my way. This verse reminded me I need to get over myself.

“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:5-6

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