Over the past five weeks I have been realizing more and more that our kids at Camp Hope don’t need me as much as I need them. I am a very easy replacement. God could have chosen to bring someone else into their lives to speak the same exact truth to them. They don’t need me to understand the Gospel. If God wants them to understand, they will understand. He will lift the veil off of their eyes to see his beauty. I can’t do that. These kids need someone to love them when no one else will, but that could very easily be someone else too. I am willing to do all of these things, but it didn’t have to be me.
So just a little background information on me leading up to camp: I had no intentions of working here. I got invited to join in, and I turned it down. Sure, I thought it’d be cool, and I had no problem doing it. But I was engaged at the time and working. And I was supposed to be working three jobs during the summer to save up some money. One full-time job and two part-time. I didn’t have time for another job. Towards the beginning of the summer, everything fell apart. All of a sudden, I had no fiance and no reason to work so much. So I quit everything. I had spent too much time doing what I had to do than on time for myself. I had spent too much time investing everything I had in a relationship and had no time for other people. Then I remembered about the offer to work with LOV and that the job would be to build relationships with people. I just wanted to be around people. It had been too long since I’d had that opportunity. So I called last minute, and they made room for me to start training the next day.
My first week at camp was a pretty crazy one. The boys in my group were rude and rebelled against everything I said. This is kind of funny because at training we were talking about kids being rude, and I was completely honest and said “anytime someone is rude to me, I tend to think of that person as an enemy.“ I knew that this was an area I was going to struggle in. There were three fights within the first fifteen minutes of them walking through the doors. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. One kid in particular (we’ll just call him “Chad”) gave me the biggest problem. I couldn’t even look at him at some points because of everything he was doing. I didn’t know how to handle him or any of the kids. They were all pretty badly behaved. I started to pray about it that night after the first day and God broke me. My love for these kids was conditional. They had to show me love in order to earn it back. My thoughts throughout the day did not reflect the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God used these kids to show me how wrong I am.
I need kids like these so I can look them in the eyes when I am getting onto them for busting their chocolate milk boxes on each other or making fun of the girls and see a reflection of who I am. Apart from the grace of God, I am no different from who they are. Apart from His grace I am rebellious, a hater of people, and a hater of God. “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter2:10). I was in need of love just as they are. I need kids like these to teach me to love unconditionally just as God has done and is doing for me. His Gospel is my motivation to love.
That was my first two days of camp. Since then I have seen more of why they act the way they do. “Chad” has several medical conditions and his parents have taught him to fight when other people look at him differently. He and many of the other kids don’t have a good father figure in their lives. These kids are in need of God, our Father, who loves them more than their earthly fathers ever will. Seeing all of that has allowed me to have so much more grace towards them. As I have been able to show love and grace to them over the past few weeks, their walls are coming down, and they are able to love back.
Also since the beginning of camp, I’ve had to learn through these kids to speak. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I hate speaking in group settings. I hate attention. But part of the job is leading Bible studies for our group. I know that the Bible commands us to preach (Mark 16:15, Acts 10:42, Romans 10:14-15, 1Peter 2:9), but I would always come up with an excuse to get myself out of speaking up when there were “too many people around”. As I’ve been working with these kids, I’ve become pretty aware of this problem in my heart. It is because I have been taken from my darkness and put into light that I proclaim the excellencies of our God (1Peter 2:9). It is because of this Gospel that I give my body as a living sacrifice to preach of it and to worship (Romans 12:1). I shouldn’t have to be pleaded with to do it as Paul does in that verse. It should be an automatic response. But God has been patient with me and has been building up my confidence in who he is. God has a way of using our words in the lives of other people as a part of the salvation process. 1 Peter 1:23-25 says, “ You have been born again… through the living and abiding word of God… This word is the good news that was preached to you.” Also in Romans 10:17, “ Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” I have reason to be confident. I can be confident in preaching the gospel because none of the words are of my own, but from the God who used those same words to awaken my soul.
God has been doing all of this in me through our kids. That is why I need our kids more than they need me. I highly doubt that I’d be able to learn these things from anyone else. The kids can hear the Gospel and learn from any Christian that is willing to be obedient. God has been gracious enough to allow me to be that person and join in on what LOV is doing in Prichard. Praise God for changing my plans in life and forcing me to take the road that allowed me to have more of Him! He has been good through it all.