The Return of Service
Another couple of weeks of camp have passed, and what a busy time it's been! First, there was a teen retreat in which I took on the role of cabin leader for a couple of days. Then we had family camp, which extended into the weekend. I taught crafts for that. Then, we had another shorter camp week with kids ages seven to nine, where I again taught crafts.
Wow. When I type it out like that, it seems like not much happened! But oh, what God has done. Let me just tell ya.
Last week I sat in on "cabin time" for one of the girl cabins. Cabin time is a designated time for the campers to get a chance to ask questions to their cabin leaders, and for the cabin leaders to clarify what the camp speaker talked about. They can also expound on ideas that the Spirit of God leads them to address to their campers.
The children were young: ages seven to nine. Thus, they were filled with wonderful questions and vibrant curiosity. "How did the person who illustrated my Bible know what heaven looks like?" "Why did one of the criminals on the crosses next to Jesus accept him, and one reject him?" "How did the people who wrote the Bible know what to write?" "Why did Jesus bleed when he was on the cross?" "If Satan died on a cross, would everyone have to follow Satan instead of Jesus?"
What a gift children are! Their curiosity provides such a wonderful opportunity for us to remember what the gospel is. They force us to express the inexpressible things that have happened in our own hearts through the power of Jesus. They don't think, "this is a dumb question. I don't want to embarrass myself." They really want to know! And they make me want to know, too. I am reminded that camp is not merely my gift to the children. It is not only my service to the camp. It is God's work in all of us, to bring glory to His name.
Camp benefits: Not only for the kids
Before camp started, I was feeling very anxious and overwhelmed because of the amount of things I took on this year. "What have I done?" was a phrase that often ran through my head. I felt terrified that I wouldn't get all my tasks done on time! I still have a lot to do and some ominously looming deadlines. Before camp, my resting aspect was one of worry.
But God has done a work in my heart using camp, and my anxiety has diminished dramatically. This is strange, because camp did not reduce my tasks or distract me from my responsibilities. If anything, camp added to my tasks and made me focus harder on my responsibilities. Let me tell you how God has worked in my life through serving at camp.
As I mentioned in the previous blog post, God called me to camp after I asked him to send me to do ministry. I was nervous to do camp ministry again, and I was anxious about my camp speaking responsibilities. In addition to this, I had taken on a lot of commission work beforehand that I really hoped I could get done before camp started. I felt like I had no spare time, and I worked almost constantly, trying to finish up my commission work. But I had week of speaking to prepare for, and my speaking week - my first week of camp - was fast approaching. The week before I spoke, I did what I could to finish up my commissions, but failed to get the final painting stage done. I had to start prepping for my speaking sessions. So I put aside my art work and took up my laptop to plan out ten sessions. With great frustration of spirit, I typed out several drafts to my presentations. Every time, I stared at what I had wrote and thought, "No. This won't work. This won't do." and I would start again. I spent a whole day re-writing my speaking plan, getting more and more anxious as I went along. Eventually I felt physically sick. Time was running out. What if I couldn't do it? God showed me in that day that I had neglected to go to his well of living water.
How did he show this? As I prepared, I was drawing from what I had in my heart. And what I had was nothing. For the past couple of months I had been working constantly, but neglecting to invest in my spiritual life. I would skim over a passage of scripture in the morning, which was barely enough to sustain me for the day. So when it came to outputting a week's worth of camp content, I was left woefully unprepared.
I was so, so scared that I would not accomplish the task I had put my hand to. I felt so anxious that I even considered calling the camp up and confessing that I had nothing to give them. I cried and fretted, and suddenly it occurred to me that one key problem was that I was speaking from this verse: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self control," but I was FILLED with fear. How could I effectively speak about a verse that I essentially knew nothing about? I was weak, I hadn't even thought to love the kids at camp, and I was giving up so easily. I was not serving out of God's spirit. I was striving out of my own fearful, weak, selfish, undisciplined spirit.
Finally I laid down in my bed and cried out to God. "I can't fix this, God! I have nothing!" I said. "Please just... fix this. Take my problem and fix it. Please. Please." And I went to sleep.
The strange economy of God's Kingdom
God is so kind to his children. The next morning I woke up with no fear in my heart. Two months of accumulated anxiety was removed from my heart, and replaced with ideas, motivation, and joy! Now, I did not finish preparing for the week of camp speaking before camp started. But I finished preparing for the first day, and with a day's buffer I began with joy. During the week I continued to prepare, and God provided every day. I know that I "could have done better." But God reminded me that I was not alone. The cabin leaders got to speak to their campers in small groups, and I even heard that four girls gave their lives to Christ!
Since that experience of giving up my fear to God, I have been given such a deposit of peace that I want to tell you all about it. I gave my anxiety to him, and my weakness and my selfishness and my feebleness. And in return, He gave me a return of peace and companionship with him.
Don't you want this return, too?
As I've continued through the summer, God has done even more than that. Through ministry he has revealed things in my own heart that I need to relinquish to his divine work. He's helped me exercise "spiritual muscles" that had atrophied in my day-to-day routine. And he's reminded me of the power and love that is found in the good news of Jesus Christ. So, camp has not been about what I can offer to the kids. It's been all about what God has offered to me. Do you think you have nothing to offer? Give that nothing to God, and see what he gives you in return.
Now, camp is not over. In fact, there are still some pretty big needs, and IMMEDIATE needs. Check out this message from Valley View:
Our Leadership Development Program starts this Sunday, and we desperately need another female cabin leader for the program. Jay and Kaylee Foster are the leaders of the program, with Devin Hildebrand and Brittney Wiebe being the cabin leaders. Due to the large number of girls in the program, we need to find another female cabin leader. We would prefer someone a little older, due to the mentoring component involved. It is a three week program that starts this Sunday, August 7 and runs till Thursday, August 25 with weekends off in between. I know a lot of you are already signed on to serve at camp those weeks, but if you aren't and would be interested in it, please reach out to myself or Henry. If you know of someone who would be interested in it, feel free to let us know and we can reach out to them, or reach out to them yourselves. Please pray about this need specifically, as it's a very important role, and one that plays a big part in pouring into the future mission team members at Valley View, as well as discipling young people for service in the church.
So. Please pray for this need to be met. Remember how I prayed? I simply said, "I give this to you, God. Please help. Please take this." I am trying to pray in the same way again. Please take this lack, and return with abundance, Lord. If you know you are not called to fill this role (like if you're a man, or if you're busy with a different calling on your life) please pray with us, and see if you can think of anyone to ask. I know I wouldn't have thought to go to Valley View this year if I hadn't been asked! So you never know who God has been preparing for this role. Ask around, and ask soon. The starting date is this very weekend!
I am trusting God to show his power again. If you join me in this trust, you'll get to see the awesome return of Christ. What do you say?