My journey with Light of the Village began in the fall semester of my junior year at the University of Mobile. I had several friends who went once a week to volunteer at the after school program. After being invited, I decided to go see what it was all about. Confession time: I have no patience and suffer from a need to be in control of all situations; therefore, I am not a kid or animal person because neither can be controlled! So I was not too excited after my first LOV visit. I started going every other week to rest up from the last trip. Then starting in the spring semester, before I knew it, I was going every Thursday. Even though the chaos stressed me out, and I felt very out of place, something kept drawing me back, something I just can’t explain.
During this time Mrs. Dlo (aka Mrs. Dolores) gave me a Summer Bible Camp internship application. Not gonna lie, I practically laughed at the thought of me spending my summer in Prichard with a group of one hundred kids. Every week Mrs. Dlo would ask me if I had my app to turn in. I would respond saying I’m still praying about it (I wasn’t). But yet the application sat on my desk the whole time. One day I started looking at it and filling it out for some reason, again for some reason I can’t explain. And I came to the question “Why do you want to work Summer Bible Camp?” I could not answer this question, because honestly I did not want to. So at first I used that as my excuse to not do it, but then I stopped and looked at Jonah and Gideon and many other people in the Bible and realized God sometimes calls us to do things we do not want to do and even things we do not think we can do. So I turned in my application and of course started praying.
Before starting camp I could not help but wonder how I, a nerdy white guy, was going to relate and connect with a group of 11-14 year old boys from “the third.” The first week was not as bad as I expected, but it was still rough. My group of boys had walls built up and did not really want anything to do with me, not to mention the attitudes. But then by the second week something happened, again something I just can’t explain. Without me trying at all, I saw the walls to my students fall down. They were now joking around with me and for the most part respecting me. And I realized they just wanted to know I would stay there. I started looking around at the camp as a whole and realized something was happening here, something I just could not explain, but I knew I was where I belonged.
Over the years, having answered the call to the ministry and having to completely rely on God, I have learned that it is in the times when I go beyond my ability and in the situations that I just can’t explain, that God moves the most. And when I stop trying to control things and just let Him go, He goes so much farther than I could ever imagine. So even though we have just completed week four, and I am completely worn out, I just give everything to my God, because He is that something I just can’t explain.
So I guess I can explain it. It is my God who brought me to LOV. It is my God who has allowed me to connect with my group of boys as well as all the kids at camp. It is my God who gives me the strength to keep going even though it is hot and chaotic. It is my God who has opened my heart to these kids. And shown me how to love them like He does. Just to play with them and let them be kids. Because as I sit and look around I see especially the boys, they do not just get to be kids and have fun. Their community teaches them that they have to be tough. So they quickly become calloused and as they grow older the Love that Christ has to offer them is almost unimaginable in their minds. As I look at the kids in my group, my heart truly does break to think how some, in just a few years, could easily be drug dealers, in jail, or worse, have taken the life of someone else. I know now is the time of prevention. And I stand amazed at how God would want to use a simple, sinful person like me to go up against such a mighty task. And when I get tired and start questioning if I even need to bother, I see hope, I see Christ working when they answer questions in Bible study, when they ask their own questions in Bible study, when I see them smiling doing what they love (playing basketball), when I see them encouraging and loving each other and the younger kids. This week we have had a few kids give their lives to Christ. I have seen kids intrigued by God’s Word. And I’ve even seen two kids fight over a Bible.
There are still three more weeks to go, and even though I’m out of energy, I have a joy in my heart and am having as much, if not more fun than the kids. There’s something happening here, and I can explain it! John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” Christ is working in the Alabama Village.
*Some inspiration taken from Kristen Jordan’s camp video and the song “I won’t let you go” by Snow Patrol