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.