Kristen: It’s Not About Me

Image

Drip…Drip…the sweat beads are falling. The sun is beating down, and the heat is cranked up. We are running, laughing, competing, and building relationships. God is moving in this place. I have no doubt He is surrounding this ministry. At times we are exhausted, and it is unbelievably hot. But it doesn’t matter….this is NOT about us! We are doing our Father’s work. A week at Summer Bible Camp is hard. I have to remember to die to myself over and over again. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. The only thing that truly matters is that I am shining the light and love of Christ.

In a conversation, someone shared with me that those of us here at Light of the Village are the first genuine people she has known, that when we say we love her, we mean it, and that our love is a testament to God’s own love. The statement caught me like a punch to the gut. It was a sobering reminder that the world does not display true love. In reality we have made a mockery of the word. Christ and Christ alone is our true source of understanding the context and meaning of pure love.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  1 John 4:7-8

“We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

I have fallen in love with the kids at camp. The boys in my group are complicated, unique, loving, full of energy, and most of all, full of potential. I am lucky to get the opportunity to work with the 12-15 year old boys.  And, yes it has its challenges, and the guys can be a little rough. I feel as if these boys have the most to lose. They, like the rest of us, know all too well the reality and challenges of being a young man in this community. They are surrounded by noise, negative influences, and a world that is telling them that money and power are the ultimate goals of this life. These guys even with this rough facade have hearts that I believe are seeking. I pray that they find the peace and grace that only salvation through Christ can bring. So my hope and prayer for each of these young men is that they develop a personal relationship with Christ.

I am always struck in wonder and completely at a loss for words when trying to explain the sheer magnitude and grace of the free gift of salvation that God chose to make available to us. He did more than any of us could ever ask for or repay.

“Jesus more than humbled himself when he came to earth. He emptied himself.”- Beautiful Outlaw

So, if I recognize that Christ is willing to sacrifice and humble himself to pay for the debt of a simple sinner like myself, it should be my joy to empty myself for Him. I pray that this remains in the forefront of my mind, not only each day of summer camp, but in all my future days.

God is showing me so much about His character through this ministry. The character and love of Christ is staring right back at me in the faces of these kids. He is teaching me that He will use us if we are willing to sacrifice ourselves to His will. I am astonished each day how God shows me a new insight to His personality. I just need to make sure I leave my own agenda at home, and remember that it is not about me but Christ. He is the one who lights the way.

Julisa: The Dance Teacher

999542_10100215506585383_1555897362_n

I love Summer Bible Camp! This is my fourth summer as an intern. The first two years I led the girl groups (7-11 and 12+), and last year I taught dance to every group. This year, I get to teach dance at both camps! I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect or how working both camps was going to work out, but God helped to ease the nerves a bit.

I don’t think I ever really realized how dancing helps make people feel better. I remember one little girl at Camp Faith walking in very shy with her group. She stood towards the middle of the room next to an M-Fuger (a volunteer). I turned on a song, and we began to dance. She moved a little even though she didn’t get the dance steps right away. The song went off and another came on. We were dancing when I glanced her way, and there was this huge smile on her face. I could tell her shyness had gone away in the middle of that second song. I sometimes wish I could take snapshots of those exact moments. I love seeing the kids’ faces light up when they accomplish a dance move. I feel like they take a piece of what God has blessed me with back to wherever they live and come back wanting more.

I don’t call myself a dancer. I’ve never been trained to dance. I just love to do it. The kids crack me up. Every other day when kids from either camp see me, they all say, “There’s the dance teacher,” or they’ll come up to me and ask “Are we dancing today?” It warms my heart that they are so excited to dance. Dancing makes me happy, and being with others that are dancing too makes me even happier. I love 2 Samuel 6:14, because I am sharing what God has enabled me to do, and that’s to dance before the Lord with all my might! It is my prayer that the kids see that and know that it’s okay to dance and have fun in Jesus’ name! That’s what I love about Summer Bible Camp! It’s a chance to be who you are while enjoying the presence of the Lord and having fun!

Psalm 150:4 ~ praise Him with the timbrel and dance.

Janie: Love is the Answer

Cino, Jermisha, Janie SBC 13

I have been with Light of the Village for exactly a year now. I first found out about LOV about two and a half years ago when I came out with my dance team S.t.o.m.p.  Little did I know that day all God had in store for me. What I thought was just going to be another dance opportunity turned into a life-changing moment.

Growing up in Mobile, I can remember always being told to never go to Prichard because it was a very bad and dangerous place, especially for a young girl like me. So when I found out that we were going to Prichard to dance, you can imagine that I was a little apprehensive at first. But I remember right before we arrived on campus, God gave me such an overwhelming peace for what was about to unravel before me. As soon as I got out of my car I noticed a young boy running full speed towards me, and as he got close he leapt into my arms and embraced me with a hug as if I were a long lost friend. From that moment on, my life was forever changed. I was no longer there to just dance a couple of songs; I was there for a much bigger purpose.

After being with the ministry as a volunteer at first and now as a staff member, as the reading coach with the GED program, and Summer Bible Camp intern with the teenage girls I have come to know two things. One: the statistics about Prichard are very real. And two: the people are even more real! They are the most beautiful and real people you will ever meet.

I always get a kick out of most people’s first reaction when they hear that I work in Alabama Village. They usually look like a deer in headlights, and then they tend to ask the same question. Why?

Why? Why do we do what we do? Because its about the individual! Luke 15:4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” Jesus said it best. It’s not about numbers; it’s about the one! He rejoices when He sees His children come to the realization of how much He loves them and cares about each one of their lives, dreams, fears, what they like and what they don’t. When I come to work each day, I never know what the day will hold. Each new day has its own struggles and its own victories.

There are many days where I have asked the Lord what do I really have to offer? Can I really make a difference in these kids’ lives? Am I doing enough? What else can we do? The answer is always the same: love!! When I feel helpless or unsure what to do, I choose to love which is something that is scarce and uncommon in the lives of many of our kids.

At the end of this week during the Bible study with our teenage girls I asked them a question. What is love? One said being kind to one another. Others said walking away from a fight when you really just want to punch the other person. But one girl said it best. “Love is loving someone even after they’ve hurt you, and choosing to treat them with kindness even when you don’t feel like it!” Love isn’t a feeling; love is an action! Some days that action is in a hug, letting the kids play with your hair, or taking the time to listen to a student’s heart and where he or she comes from.  It’s so easy to focus on the negative of the environment that we are in. But if you take the time, you will always find God speaking, and you’ll see his beauty surrounds us at every corner. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it!” John 1:5

Anna: Learning How to Use Words

Image

Words—they are an essential part of our day and something we could not easily live without. Over the past few years I have been contemplating this fact and applying it to every situation I face. As a senior English major I deal with words night and day. I read words. I add words and take away words. And I search for the right words. Little did I know, words play a huge role in my day as an intern at Camp Faith.

Last week I saw that another intern had hung up little envelopes in her classroom for her campers to write to each other. I hung up purple yarn in the hallway and pinned paper lunch bags on it, one for each girl. Throughout the week girls begged to go “check their mail” and reminded me over and over to check my mail for a note they had given me. 

The mail bags have become a great tool to love my campers. Through them I can reach out to the girls who feel loved by encouraging words. I can make sure I give attention to those who might be quieter and don’t get as much attention. I can also send notes back and forth, building conversation with them. These notes have forged a path to get to know the girls in my group beyond our music, art, and Bible study rotations. This has been just one way the power of words has emerged this week at camp. It amazes me how God has used such a simple idea. Even when I get notes from my campers I am encouraged. The mail bags have influenced both my campers and me.

Another incident with words happened while I was talking to a family about their child’s problematic behavior during the day. The parent was disappointed but apathetically added that they already knew their child was “bad.” This made me sad. What kind of future will this proclamation bring to this child as she grows older? Will she continue to misbehave because that’s all she thinks she can do? I want to reverse that kind of thinking. A lot of influence in these situations rests on the power of words. I want to be someone who walks beside kids in a progressive journey, saying, “Maybe this will be the summer that you change.” Instead of quickly chiding a child, perhaps I can encourage her to think before she acts. I can remind her that she has the ability to choose to do better.  

Language was an important part of Jesus’ ministry. One of our Bible studies this week was about when Jesus was just a child. He was found in the temple among the teachers “listening to them and asking questions” (Luke 3: 46). Jesus seemed to have a grasp on how to properly use the exchange of language. If you follow His life you will notice the way He engaged language. He often asked questions and used stories and examples to illuminate a point. He also knew when to listen. Upon studying His time on earth you will notice how He used language brilliantly to bring light and life to those He was with.

Perhaps words are more important than we realize. It’s terrifying and humbling to recognize how powerful words are. The way I engage language can move or immobilize.  Questions can open up the doors of hearts. Words have sway in every sector of life– in my witness, in college essays, and even at camp. 

Morgan B.: Beautiful Blessings

Image

If someone asks me what an average day at Light of the Village looks like, I would first respond with: There is nothing average about LOV’s Summer Bible Camp. Of course, we have our groups and our stations, but when I get up in the morning, I am never quite sure what my day may hold. Maybe, I will spend my morning defying death on the jungle gym in an attempt to catch a kid that is much faster than I am. Maybe, I will fight through algebra problems with one of our GED students. Or even more adventurously, I may help one of our teenage girls suit up in her spectacularly devised weight-loss solution of saran wrap.

There are two promises that I can make to our visitors though. First, there is never a dull moment. Secondly, I can promise that you will have an opportunity to see the face of God.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1Kings. In this particular story, Elijah is hiding in a cave in order to escape Jezebel’s wrath. While he is sleeping, an angel comes to him and tells him to go and stand atop a mountain because God will be passing by. Elijah stands on the mountain and a great wind comes through, but God was not in it. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but God was not in the fire. Then after these radical displays came a whisper. The voice of God spoke to Elijah in a whisper.

In my unorthodox mornings, I can hear God’s whispers. His messages did not come in a fantastically designed Cathedral or in a seminary classroom or during an organized Summer revival. They came when I was out of breath from chasing Speed Racer around the yard. He spoke when we finally figured out how many more miles Teresa had run than Dan. And, even when I shared laughs and jokes over the crazy, unexpected things my girls ask me to help them with.

I have learned that in the middle of the messiness of life and community, God whispers his beautiful blessings. Every day that I wake up, I may not know what the day will hold, but I do know that God will share something beautiful with me. People spend their entire lives chasing God and His beauty, but He can be found in the smile of a child being pushed on a swing or in the laughter and cheers of our assembly every morning. Every face, every smile holds the truth of the Light. 

Erik: Choosing Love

Image

My name is Erik Hicks, and I am currently a sophomore majoring in nursing at the University of South Alabama. Back tracking a little bit I would like to talk about an experience that has affected my personal growth greatly. In 2007, at the age of twelve, I lost my father in a car accident. Instead of choosing famous people or fictional characters as heroes, I looked to my dad for guidance and acceptance. His death shook me to my core, and only one other experience in my life has come close to affecting me as deeply as his death did. Because of my loss, for the longest time I had difficulty opening up to people due to the fear I had of losing more loved ones. Only recently in the past two years have I truly began to make headway in overcoming this fear.

While I did have to mature quickly after my father’s death, I am glad to say there has been a positive side. I have discovered myself as a person and learned to accept my positive and negative quirks. That’s not to say I don’t do things that I occasionally regret, make mistakes, or learn new things about myself. It is the fact that I can accept these things, learn from them, and then move forward that makes me believe I know who I am.

I believe the biggest positive of my father’s death has been my slow but necessary growth in Christ. After living through that nightmare in 2007, a lot went through my mind. For the longest time I hated and blamed God; after a while I just stopped believing in him altogether. I mean after all, how could God exist if my father, an innocent and righteous man, was taken from me. Then as time passed, my childhood ignorance turned into Christ-filled understanding. God does exist, and He didn’t kill my father. I now know the man driving the other vehicle was the one who took him away from me. Some would say, “Well duh Erik, it took you this long to figure that out?” I would gladly tell them yes, because for the longest time I viewed God in an ignorant fashion. To me God was an almighty creator who could do anything and everything he wanted. This is of course true, but I forget one important detail: choice. I now understand that I have free will and that with this freedom comes responsibility. I can no longer make excuses for my actions, for they are my own. God does not want to force us to be obedient. He loves you, me, and everyone else so much that he allows us to choose our path.  Death is certain; it is the choices we make that are not set in stone. I used to fear death, but no longer for I know I am a child of the one true King, and I seek to be obedient to Him. Why? I love him, and after all, isn’t obedience one of the greatest ways to show love for another? To be selfish is easy; to deny one’s own sinful nature and live for a higher purpose is not.

It is for this end that I am at Light of the Village for Summer Bible Camp: to show sacrificial love. I love children and their innocence, eagerness, and energy: characteristics we should all exhibit in our walks with Christ. I view this internship as not just a way to earn money or to reach out to the kids, but as a learning experience for myself. I could find a job elsewhere for the summer, but I do not find this idea very exciting. I have had jobs before that have been nothing to me except a means to an end, money for my own selfish wants and desires. I am at LOV for Christ and His children. This week has been challenging but worth it. Bring on another week! 

J.T.: Becoming Qualified

Image

Working with boys aged 7 to 11 has been a challenge. I have the distinction of being the oldest intern, and that means a lot in the strenuous environment of Alabama Village. I thought of asking John and Dolores if I could have another title, something like Senior Resident, but I really am only an intern. It is fitting! Keeping up with more than twenty boys in ninety-something degree heat can be a challenge in the best of conditions, much less for a forty-something year-old guy. Thankfully, I am part of a wonderful team, and I serve a great God who has blessed me with the strength to keep up thus far.

I feared that Dolores’ excitement about my being at LOV might be a little misplaced. When she told me about the opportunity, I thought, “You really don’t want me. Who you want is my wife, who is terribly gifted, or someone like her. I am probably the last person you want filling this position.” Yet here I was, doing a job that really intimidated me. What is a guy like me doing in an environment like this? What could I really contribute to the lives of the kids in the Village? I had heard John talk often about the statistics, the danger, the challenges, and the ever-near specter of loss. What was I doing here? After meeting the interns, the TeenLeaders, the M-Fugers, and most importantly the boys, I understood that my presence was really less about what I had to offer, and more about what God wanted to do in me.

That is the paradox we face as we serve the Lord. We look at opportunities more through the lens of what we have to offer rather than what God has to offer us. You’ve heard the old saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” It seems He has some qualifying in store for me. I think God has some unique leadership challenges for me this summer. I think He wants me to be more reliant on Him. I think He wants me to know the love He has for everyone, even the smallest ones of us. I think He wants my obedience.

As I walked across campus this past Thursday, I was fretting a bit. As usual, I was rethinking what I had shared in our staff meeting about the lesson, critical of what I said and what I could have said. I began to remember the mistakes I had made, and how I could be more supportive, wiser, and firmer in the grip of leadership. How was I going to impact this many kids? How could I be more personally interactive with them? I was lost in deep thought when I was confronted by a little girl. She was about six. She stopped directly in front of me, as if to dare me to move. I stopped and looked down at her. She threw out her arms and said, “Can I have a hug?” I bent down and hugged her, just like I would have hugged my own child. “Thank you!” she said as she walked away. A simple interaction that pulled me out of my pensive shell is all it was. She needed a hug, and as it turns out, I needed a hug. We both needed a reminder that we are not alone, and we serve a God who wants us to experience His Love.

Lindsey: A Light in a Dark Place

Image

I have been volunteering at Light of the Village during the after-school program for about two and half years now. I first found out about the ministry my freshman year at South Alabama through the Baptist Campus Ministries. Over the years, I have grown to love and cherish this ministry, and I believe in what they are doing. I have seen firsthand how Light of the Village has truly become a light in a dark place. This is a place where the children can come and feel safe and loved even with all of the negative things going on around them. This ministry has truly impacted the community as a whole in a huge way. God’s light is always shining brightly in Alabama Village.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5

 I have been looking forward to Summer Bible Camp for many months now and was so excited to have the opportunity to be an intern. I was very nervous about camp, though, and leading a group of campers. Then a few days before camp began, I really caught myself struggling personally. One of my dear friends from college had passed away, and needless to say, I was feeling pretty down and discouraged. I prayed the night before camp for the Lord to renew my heart and prepare me for the week to come. The first day I woke up, and I felt better and refocused. I know that God was a part of that and He was preparing my way. There were a few minor bumps in the road, which is always to be expected, but in all, the first week was successful. God has given Gabrielle and me a great group of girls, and I am excited about pouring His love into their lives. I feel that the Lord has taught me so much this week about being focused on why we were put on this earth and why he has placed me at Light of the Village this summer. Our purpose is to share Christ’s love and to spread the gospel to all people. The kids at Light of the Village are so loving and have impacted me in such a tremendous way. I am so blessed to be a part of what God is doing through this ministry. I pray that this summer Light of the Village will continue to be a blessing to the community and that God will use Summer Bible Camp as a part of that.

 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Kathryn: How to be Light

Image

Going through the life of Christ every day this week in Bible study for Summer Bible Camp reminds me that Jesus was truly a human! He experienced life and the craziness of dealing with imperfect flawed sinners! He experienced the need for connecting with God to be recharged and ready to continue to pour out into people. The cool thing is scripture continuously provides examples of times Christ set aside time for just Him and God! Even Jesus demonstrated that without God it is impossible! WE CANNOT DO IT! It reminds me of Hebrews 11:6 where Scripture reminds us we need HIM! 

Hebrews 11:6(ESV)

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

The cool thing I see is that “hunger for God” started young in Jesus! We studied Jesus’ childhood this week! We dug into the story of Jesus going to the temple this week.  We experienced the obvious plot of Jesus being separated from His family and how He and His parents handled the situation.  Then we also saw another part that could easily be overlooked! Jesus was hungry for God’s word, truth, community, and presence! Jesus was so consumed with God that he didn’t realize it had been a whole day of studying God’s word! That hits me hard! So often I struggle to study God’s word for a few minutes in the morning! But, Jesus was so consumed that he went all day! It is my deepest prayer that I would develop a true thirst for truth that I could never grow weary of God’s word and seeking Him independently. Jesus needed that time to let his roots grow deep and anchor himself firmly for the trials ahead! This reminds of how, in Psalms, David describes that when we let our roots be filled from the streams we do not grow dry! When we delight in seeking God’s word we are quenched and able to produce fruit! 

Psalm1:1-3(ESV)

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Even during his ministry he continued to make time to pursue God! If Jesus had to take time to pursue God and prepare to be poured out (over and over and over again), then so do we! In order to radiate the light of Christ we must take time to pursue God and be refreshed and ready to continue pouring into people! Seeking God first is the only way that we will not grow weary! 

Summer Bible Camp is just beginning! We have 6 more weeks to go! Taking time to seek and be refreshed is the only way any of us will make it through camp this summer! I am praying strongly that every single staff member and volunteer that steps foot on our grounds will remember to take time to be refreshed this summer! I am praying that Light of the Village will be filled with individuals that remember to draw from the true source! That God will strengthen us and equip us to run the race and finish it with the same energy and enthusiasm we started with! Alone that is impossible! BUT WITH GOD IT IS POSSIBLE! 

Hebrews 12:1b(ESV) “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” 

So that… The LIGHT shines in the darkness, and the darkness has NOT overcome it. John 1:5 (ESV)

 

Gabrielle: Reflections on Week 1 of Summer Bible Camp

Image

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5). This is our verse, and essentially our theme, for this year’s Summer Bible Camp. Over the last few days, during this first week, I have really come to realize how dark of a place Alabama Village is. I have volunteered with the University of South Alabama Baptist Campus Ministries at the after school program for two years, and though I knew life was hard there, learning the little details has really astounded and shocked me. I’m seeing more clearly how many kids have never had running water, or how some have had to go without electricity for a point of time. I am one of the interns for the 7-11 girls group, and one of my girls, A., quietly pulled me aside the other day to show me her uncle’s picture on the wall of the ones who have been killed. These are not issues that most people in the United States have to deal with. And it has just been all the more obvious to me how essential Light of the Village is in showing Alabama Village the true light of Jesus Christ. 

The first week really flew by, and it went by with only a few minor issues. The night before it started, I was very nervous. How on earth was I going to lead a group of 20 something girls, teach them Bible study every day, make sure they do what they are supposed to, etc. But the Lord has helped me, and it has been a great week. I love my group of girls! Of course, it hasn’t been perfect; it’s a little disheartening when a girl wants to point out the wildlife to the whole group instead of listening to the Bible study, but overall the week ran much smoother than I anticipated. It has been tiring for sure; it’s extremely hot outside, and it gets kind of chaotic. But I honestly don’t know of anywhere else I’d rather be this summer. I feel like God placed me here for a reason, and I know He will guide me and Lindsey, the other intern, as we lead our group of girls. I’m excited to see what the rest of the summer holds!

LOV on Twitter