Sunday, July 18, 2010
First with 5th grade boys, then with middle and high school students. I got to do all of this with my wife and a handful of close friends.
The first week was challenging. It confronted most of my assumptions about 11-year-olds. Part of the ministry is bringing together suburban and inner city churches. For the past 10 years this has been great, everyone plays, sings and gets along. For the first time in both groups, socioeconomic barriers are broken down and all that remains are Jesus and kids.
Last week I met kids like I never imagined. Tough. Angry. Hard-hearted. Kids who would not let anyone in and sometimes would literally try and stab you if you got too close. 3 of them made homemade shanks on Tuesday. This was a weeklong camp for 3rd - 6th graders; despite my best attempts at conversation, I never got a clear answer about why these few kids felt they needed protection. It was a tough week, needless to say.
When I had a conversation with the childrens' minister, she reminded me of the saying, " We plant trees that we will never sit under"- some times we never know the impact we have on the people we minister to.
In the middle of the week I looked around at who I was working with and realized-
I was in a forest.
One-third of our children's camp counselors were there at camp for the first time- all students who I worked with as campers at this same camp 6 or 7 years ago. Not only are they trees that I got to nurture, but now they are planting seeds of their own. I got to transition my relationship with them from campers and kids to teachers, counselors, and peers.
I realized this fully on Thursady night at camp when I sat down to eat dinner with the other counselors and realized I was the oldest one at the table, and everyone else was a former 5th grader I had worked with. They are now taking care of their own seeds, teaching them, praying for them and building lasting friendships with each other.
I was beat, completely worn out, emotionally exhausted, but my spirits jumped knowing I was one of a whole long line of people who poured into these young people so that they would be the kind of people who would give up a week of their college summers to invest in kids.