Saturday, June 28, 2008

Emptied and Filled

We are a small church - a little country church with about 30 people average in Sunday morning worship. We have an amazing children/youth program, though, and on Wednesday nights it's nothing for us to have over 50 kids in the place.

This last week we took 32 kids to Youth Camp. 32!! Four of those kids were mine (Abby, Sam, TotOne and TotTwo, minus Kady - she stayed with Grammy and Pops for the week) and the rest were actual youth in 7th grade and up. The girls side of the cabin was so full that TotOne and I slept on a bunk out in the commons area of the cabin, directly across from the refrigerator and adjacent to the sink. That meant that at any given time there was usually 10 kids in my "bedroom" either washing their hair, foraging in the fridge for popsicles or something to eat, at the table making a sandwich, sitting on my bed going through my makeup or just sitting in the floor talking.

God did a miraculous work in me, people, because for years I have been scared of youth. I mean, really really scared of dealing with youth. For so many years I only worked with kids, little kids and left the youth to heartier, more patient people who were equipped with patience and possibly mace. It didn't appeal to me to deal with hormones and drama and emotions - I was content with cottons balls, Elmer's glue and songs about wee little men climbing in sycamore trees. Teens aren't the same as they used to be - there's more attitude, more challenges, more broken homes, broken hearts and issues I didn't feel I was capable of tackling for/with them.

When I volunteered to help with one week of camp I was deep down hoping they'd use me for Children's camp. Weeks went by ..... and two sponsors were secured for the kids which meant that I was going to Youth camp. Strangely, though, I waited for the panic to hit and it didn't. What hit me instead was this overwhelming sense of excitement and joy and I could not WAIT for camp!!! Remember how, as a kid, you could hardly sleep on Christmas Eve because you were so excited about waking up to find your presents? That's the feeling I had continually for weeks before camp.

I know that the kids in our cabin were blessed, but I know I was blessed beyond belief as well. I gave my testmony on Tuesday night during cabin devotions and admitted that I wasn't sure why I was there, other than that God wanted me there and I wanted to be there and I wasn't scared of them anymore. The kids chuckled, but it was like when I admitted that I'd been unsure, it broke down a door and God was able to work. I had girls coming to me at various times, talking about their parents, their problems, their lives. More than once I hugged them, smiled and walked off to cry by myself as I prayed for them.

One particular girl had me wake her up when I got done showering in the mornings (at 5am, which was the only time I could get in there without a line forming outside the door). She took her shower while I put on my makeup, then we met on the porch to enjoy the quiet sunrise and to talk. I don't think we made any enormous breakthroughs or anything, but I listened to her. For the first time in a long time, I listened. It wasn't about me last week, it was about God and it was about those kids. Two other girls sat across from me at lunch one day toward the end of the week and one started talking to me about her home life. I listened and offered suggestions, but inside I was crying. I can't imagine living the way she lives. I could tell she wanted nothing more than someone to pay attention to her, someone to listen and someone to care. I hope she truly felt loved as she talked to me. God put her in my path for a reason, whatever that may be. She went back home yesterday with my phone numbers in her pocket and strict orders to call me whenever. I hope she does.

Do I feel called into the youth ministry? Not right now. I'm open to it, definitely. If God wants to use me to help in any way in the lives of those kids, I am there and I am there with no fear. But if God sent me to that camp last week to do nothing more than empty me out and fill me back, to bring me back close to Him, then I am happy I listened to the call. I feel excited about my relationship with God for the first time in a long time.

Thursday afternoon I made a Wal*Mart run during morning devotions. I made each person in the cabin an envelope and taped it to the wall, then everyone got a stack of cards, one for each of the other campers and sponsors. They had to write something positive or encouraging to everyone. If they didn't know someone well I asked them to write a scripture or at the very least "God Bless You." As I handed them out I was met with with some groans and pouts, but as they started writing I over overjoyed to see them really getting into it and putting serious thought into what they were saying to their peers. As we read through them yesterday morning I was again brought to tears as I read:
"You are awesome!"
"Thanks for listening."
"You are encouraging and give me confidence."
"Thanks for letting me wash my hair in your sink."
"You almost gave me money, but I had some, so you're cool."

And from my daughter: "Mom, I am glad you came with me to camp."

It was worth the sunburn and sweat to read those cards and know that something as simple as letting a teenager wash her hair in my sink or offering one some spending money, simple acts of almost non-mentionable kindness, were appreciated and touched them in some way.

Abby and Sam went forward for rededication and TotTwo went forward for salvation. All together, in our cabin there were two salvations and probably ten rededications. And this sponsor got her socks blessed right off.

God is awesome.

2 comments:

Shannon said...

Glad you had a good time at camp! I went to youth Church camp this year too. I only went for 3 days though w/25 middle school age girls and 2 other churches in our cabin. It was awesome. I had such a great time. I have never really been around a bunch of girls before---only boys and also have not been to camp since I was 14yrs. old so ya, that has been a long, long time ago. A lot of the girls were Brady's friends from school. I felt God put me there for a reason too. I told Jerad (our youth minister) I just may have to come back again next year!! LOL

Nadine Hightower said...

That maybe the door that you should walk thru!!
You may be cut out to do the youth ministry!!