Colton: There’s Something Happening Here That I Just Can’t Explain

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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

Elisabeth (Ebiz): The One is Worth It

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It has been an amazing beginning for this first time Summer Bible Camp Intern at Light of the Village! During the week of training and days leading up to the first day of camp, I was starting to get a little bit anxious. I wasn’t sure if the kids would think I was weird, or if they would even talk/interact with me. However, as usual, God had a plan and helped me ease right in through the first day of camp. Right when free time (the time before assembly where the kids can play on their own) started on the first day of camp, I had a girl race up to me asking “Can I do your hair?” As soon as she started braiding my hair, I had two more girls join us. So far every morning at camp the same girl and her sister have found me during free time to “do my hair!” This interaction showed me that the kids really just want someone to notice them and show that they care enough to interact with them daily. Like everyone else in the world, they just want some type of consistency.

The age group that I get to work with this summer is the 8-10 year old boys. They are full of energy that varies from normal everyday excitement to barely controlled (if controlled at all) chaos! Even though it is like trying to keep up with twenty small whirlwinds, I am really enjoying myself. My favorite part of the day so far is when we go to Dance or any other activity with music. The boys instantly start dancing! Their love to dance is contagious, and I can’t help but join along and feel like a kid myself again.

Every day after the kids have rotated through three activities, we end the day with Bible Study. At first I thought it was going to be very hard to have even one of the boys sit still and pay attention during Bible Study. Again, I was happily proved wrong. It shocked me at how many of the boys actually listened and interacted with the lesson. Of course with 8-10 year old boys there is always going to be some extra energy floating around, but for the most part the majority of them sat in their chairs and listened until the very end. When asked at the end what they had learned, some were even able to say the exact point of the lesson back to me, which really encouraged me. That is what really motivates me day to day. If God allows me to connect with or help just one kid become closer to Jesus, then any hardship or setback to get there is worth it. Camp has only just started and God has already done so much! I can’t wait to see what else HE has in store and where HIS plan will take all of us.

 

Tammy: A Love Beyond Our Own

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My name is Tammy, and this is my first summer working at Summer Bible Camp with Light of the Village! I have been working with the kids for one week now. I have already learned so much. Our kids are in desperate need of love and attention. I have learned that in order to reach them, one must be willing to go all in. And in order for them to reach out to me, I must earn their trust. The kids want to know that I will love them just because of who they are, and not because of what they have done or do. The truth is, they are already pulling on my heart strings after one week. They look at me with eyes that scream out the words “will you see me?”

As I begin this summer I am already challenged. I am challenged to give a love that lasts every day and every minute of that day, even when I am frustrated and tired. Honestly, the love our kids need could never physically come from me. In fact, the love they need is the love only Jesus Christ can give. However, I have the great opportunity to show that love through the strength that Christ gives to me. NOT that I am special in any way. I could not and would not be strong in giving out love without first being loved myself. 1 John 4:8-9 says, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was revealed the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” I have been given the greatest gift, the gift of love, and I must return it and pass it on.

Our kids are challenging me every day to give a love that is beyond myself. They say love me even though you are just getting to know me. They say love me as an individual, as someone who can do great things. See and love me not with your eyes, but through God’s eyes. The truth is, they have challenged me to stop being so selfish. It is so easy to get caught up with my own life and my own problems. Being at camp has reminded me that life is so much greater than where will I work, how will I pay student loans, or fill my tank with gas. Life is about sharing Jesus! Life is about showing the love that I have been given. John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  

The love the kids at camp need is way more than I can offer. However, it is very humbling to offer the love of Jesus Christ!! My hope for this summer is to continue to grow and show the love that I have been given. To see kids smile and know true love, not a love humans give, but a love beyond our own!

Anna: Thy Kingdom Come

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“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Lately these words have been following me. I taught them at Summer Bible Camp. They follow me in my thoughts. I hear them in the words of my mentors. They follow me to Church, and they unveil themselves in my favorite songs.

I distinctly remember them from my past. I learned the Lord’s Prayer as a young child sitting in the pews. The pastor would pray, and at the end of his prayer, the congregation would recite the prayer. For a split second I would raise my head and look around. My six year old eyes would steal a glance and scan the congregation as they prayed. The monotone voices seemed to rise out of the air itself. As quickly as the words began, they would end.

What could “Thy Kingdom Come” mean? I pictured crowns, white horses, castles and princesses.

Then as a young adult I hear the words again in Church, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. My pastor asks, “How is God’s will done in heaven?” “Swiftly and obediently,” he answers.

The fact is we’re quite incapable of executing His will on our own. Still, while we live on earth Jesus gave us this prayer to pray.

The words echo in my mind when I sing, “Build your Kingdom here” (Rend Collective). One of my favorite songs Tracing Scars by The People of Mars Hill reminds me of those words,

The Kingdom is coming, it’s falling from heaven to earth.

Responding to cries from the broken, the shattered, the burned…

You call us to touch You and trace out the scars in Your side,

and believe.”

I’m learning it’s less a question of what is the kingdom, and more like who is the kingdom. The people redeemed by the scars in Christ’s hands are the ones who bring a glimmering of the kingdom down to earth. When they extend their hands they respond out of thankfulness to Christ.

God’s Kingdom falls to earth when his servants are transformed and find Jesus worthy to follow. Yes, because Jesus is worthy, may His will be done as swiftly and clearly as it is done in heaven.

Suddenly I see His kingdom “falling from heaven to earth”. I see it among my peers in college and at Church; I see it at Light of the Village and Camp Faith.  It’s in every person who holds the hand of one who has lost a loved one. It’s in people who are stubbornly determined to follow Jesus—whatever changes or new seasons it may bring them. It happens when a child in need of shoes is given them. It shows when Christ’s followers extend grace to the criminal, the confused or those who don’t fit in.

Jesus is the Light of the world. Hope stirs gently on earth because Jesus works through the hands of those who follow him, bringing light from his Kingdom that cannot be extinguished. 

Codi: Let God be God

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My name is Codi Feltman, and I am senior Sociology major at the University of Mobile. To understand the point of this blog I have to start from the beginning of my internship at LOV. Basically I was given a list of internships by the internship coordinator at the University of Mobile and was told that I had two weeks to choose one. I was grateful for the experience I gained from my previous internship, but I knew that kind of work was not for me. What I learned from that internship was that I wanted help people who couldn’t help themselves. I had heard about LOV from some of my friends who frequently volunteered but never really knew the whole story. In July, I met with Morgan Carnley over coffee to discuss what was expected of me and to get more information on the internship. The meeting went well, but I immediately knew that this internship was going to be completely different from anything that I had experienced before. The reason I say this is because Morgan did something that I will never forget; she prayed with me and over my internship, specifically that I would find my calling whether it be inner-city ministry or something else.

Fast forward to late September, everything about my internship was going great. I LOVE the kids who come to LOV and Camp Faith and the people who work with them. But as many people do in life, I was becoming bogged down not only physically and mentally but spiritually as well. I knew I wasn’t giving it my all in any area of my life because everything became routine. I went to school because I had to. I went to my internship because I had to. To say the least, I was going through the motions. I found a new church that I loved, but I found myself not completely giving it my all. Most of this was because of stress, wondering what I would do next in my life once this year is over. So the first week of October rolls around, and I had the opportunity to attend Catalyst, a Christian leadership conference in Atlanta.

My friends and I headed out for Atlanta Tuesday night. Wednesday we had our first session. I chose to go and hear Jason Russell. Jason Russell is the cofounder of the Invisible Children Organization, this organization tries to remove children from the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), a rebel army in Uganda who is under the leadership of Joseph Kony and has abducted 50-80 thousand children. To sum up Jason’s story he basically prayed that God would send him a powerful story that would change the world. Well when you ask, you shall receive. God provided him the opportunity to get involved in a big way. After hearing Jason speak about his story, I was in awe. All I could think about the rest of the day was, “I hope someday God can use me like that.”

The next night while worshiping after a long day of sessions, the lead singer of the band prayed that God would speak clearly to us about whatever was on our hearts. Like I said before, I have really been struggling with what I want to do after college, so of course I prayed for God to speak to me about it. I prayed that God would give me the windows of opportunity to be a world changer like Jason Russell and lead me to the place where I could do that. God revealed to me that I already have those opportunities. He has placed me where I need to be. My internship is my opportunity. “Wow” is all I could think in that moment, God was so dead on. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do but never even realized it. It wasn’t on a global scale, but it was a start. After that moment with God, all my stress and worries went away, and for the first time in a long time, I gave it ALL over to God and worshiped my heart out. Everything felt right for the first time in a long time. God gave me a vision for my life; I am called to be a servant not only of Christ, but a servant of people especially those who can’t help themselves. God placed me at LOV to use me, to help me to grow and learn as well.

The theme of Catalyst was about self-identity, legacy, and leadership. One of the main qualities of a leader is vision; you have to see what is beyond what is right now and be able to take the baby steps to get there. I now have vision for my future and my life. If I can leave a legacy half as great as Jason Russell or John and Dolores Eads, then I will have accomplished God’s vision for my life. To close, I will leave you with the verse Jason Russell shared with us Wednesday night, Psalms 46:10. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Sometimes we just have to be still and let God be God. 

Right In the Thick of It

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Last week I had a visit from an old friend at the ministry. A gentleman that I met in February of 2012 stopped by to see us. This visit was much different than our first. I recall meeting this particular gentleman at a time in his life when he was frustrated with his job search, disappointed with where he was in life, and desperate for help. After beating the bushes a bit, he was able to find a job with a local construction crew. And yet, even after working for a while, he knew he still wasn’t living the life God wanted for him. We discussed the options, particularly Victory Gospel Chapel in San Antonio, one of our partner ministries (side note: LOV Founders John and Dolores received much of their training in ministry here). October 2 will mark one year since this gentleman made the decision to enroll in this residential addiction recovery and spiritual growth center and boarded a Greyhound bus to Texas.

Now, almost a year later, here he was at Light of the Village. But this time was different. He wore a great big smile and seemed burden-free and peaceful. He told me about completing the program, moving to Huntsville to be with family, and his new job prospects. We reminisced about the people who have crossed our paths and remembered those we have lost in the past year. And he expressed his gratitude to LOV and God for intervening in his life and helping him when he needed it most. But something he said particularly stood out to me.

The gentleman expressed that at Light of the Village, we are “right in the thick of it.” And I was reminded what a blessing it is to be “right in the thick of it” allowing Christ to intertwine my life and my story with the lives of those we encounter for the sole purpose of displaying the Gospel. What a beautiful thing, though rarely easy or convenient! But how much more beautiful is it that Christ has done the same for us. God, in all His splendor, has intricately intertwined Himself to us, constantly loving, guiding, healing, and encouraging.

Please pray for eyes continually open to see those around us in need of love, guidance, healing, and encouragement and the strength to give all of these things in abundance. And pray that through our interaction more individuals will see the One who has been with them all along and will always be “right in the thick of it” with them.

-Morgan C.

Julisa: Unexpected Blessings

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Last week, I was dancing with the 5 to 6 year olds group, when a little girl looked at me and said, “You’re sweating.” I told her “I know,” wiped the sweat on my shirt, and kept dancing. She kept looking at me though. Finally, she went over to my stuff, grabbed my sweat rag, and tried to hand it to me. I had a kid on both arms, so I couldn’t really grab it. She saw that and proceeded to wipe the sweat off of me. I was going to tell her that she didn’t have to do that, but then I remembered that someone once told me when you decline someone’s help you are declining the opportunity for that person to bless you.

At the end of the day, everyone, campers and workers alike, get cool-pops. They are so refreshing and the kids love them. But I can’t tell you how many times I have declined a cool pop being offered to me from both the helpers and the campers. I regret not taking those opportunities to let our kids and volunteers bless me in that way. 

I get blessed daily when the kids see me and ask, “Are we’re dancing today” or “What are we dancing to today,” or when they make song suggestions. I love their anticipation and excitement! I also love it when volunteers ask me, “How do you have so much energy?” I respond by giving God the glory because honestly, without Him, I would not be able to teach dance for two hours straight. Just to keep it real. God gives me energy to share with the kids, and they give that energy right back to me. I am hoping for a day when one of the kids will ask me how I stay so energized, so that I can give God the glory and share the Gospel with that kid. Keep me in your prayers on that request.

From being offered a cool-pop to a kid wiping sweat off of my brow, working at Summer Bible Camp is an opportunity to be blessed and allow others to bless me. I’m so grateful for John, D-lo, all of the interns, TeenLeaders, and volunteers at each camp that help make SBC so great!

 “I thank my God for you every time I think of you; and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5  

Janie: Trials or Blessings?

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I have had the privilege of working with the teenage girls this summer. I have been so blessed to get to know them with all their unique personalities and their stories. Although our group can be the most difficult to get to know, I’ve come to know something that outweighs all the attitude and the drama: their hearts. The more I’ve gotten to know where some of them have come from, the more I am amazed by them. 

This past year for me personally has been one of those, what I like to call, “faith don’t fail me now” kind of years. At the end of last year I remember praying that this year God would fill my life with His blessings and favor. In my mind at the time what I thought blessings and favor meant was that everything would go right, without any hardships, and would be full of happiness. And let me tell you, that has not exactly been the case, but rather it has had its fair share of trials, heartbreak, and hardships. So you can imagine I was left with the question, why?  

Romans 5:3-5 answers that question so clearly, “More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because Gods love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I have come to know that when trials come that they are actually blessings. Though they may cause pain and hurt for a season, that season will eventually pass. God promises that when tests and trials come he will be with us and our faith will be stronger, but most importantly, He will be glorified (1 Peter 1:6-7). 

We always tell the kids that salvation is a gift freely given, but it’s our choice to receive it. We always have a choice. We have the choice to hate or to love, to let bitterness take root or forgive, to be prideful or humble ourselves, or to stay in the dark or enter into the light. 

One thing that always brings me joy when I am at Light of the Village is that you never see people not smiling. Although trials come, and darkness surrounds, there is always something to smile or laugh about. I’ve never been in a place that there is such an abundance of joy. When I see my girls laughing and joking with each other it doesn’t just bring joy to my heart, I know that it brings joy to the Father’s heart. I prayed that this summer God would make an impact on these girls through me, but really, they’ve left an impact on me. I have never met a more beautiful, hilarious, strong, and courageous group of young ladies than these girls, and I am forever blessed by them. I pray that through this summer Bible camp they will know deep in their hearts that they are unconditionally loved by God, that they will have the eyes to see God moving in their lives, the ears to hear Him speaking, and the hearts to receive His love and grace for each one of them. 

Pilar: Learning to Lean

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Working with LOV’s new camp, Camp Faith, is beautifully enlightening. I know it sounds cliche but these kids have taught me more than I could ever imagine me teaching them. The 4,5&6 year olds are amazing. Me and Jellybean (my teen leader) re-named them the Baby Beans; it fits them perfectly. They are tiny, sweet, and fun to play with. 🙂 I told Morgan I feel like I’m getting paid to be a mom. Sometimes I feel like the kids are actually mine. They have taught me how to show unconditional love. The kids have moved me to a place where I can let go and trust God more. Every morning we register kids, which means every morning there is a possibility for a new set of kids. On an average day there are about 32 kids…that’s a lot of 4,5&6 years olds!!!! At first I was scared that the numbers would effect my effectiveness; then God whispered, “Lean on Me,” and I listened. As the numbers fluctuate, my heart remains steady, and the Baby Beans continue to show me the love of Christ. I truly thank John, D-lo and Morgan for giving me this opportunity. I love this job with all my heart.

Rebekah: Home is Where the Heart Is

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This past year was my last year in high school and therefore held a lot of changes and chaos. But as I went through hardships and successes, one thing remained constant in my mind: Light of the Village. I was absolutely determined to come back. 

You see, last summer I went on my youth group’s annual mission trip and expected it to be like every other one I had been on. I would go, help people, worship, bond with my youth group, and then come home and enjoy the rest of my summer with my family, rarely ever thinking about the trip again. It’s sad, but true. But that didn’t happen this time. This time, when I had signed up to work with kids, I was thrown a curve ball. I was told that I was needed to work with the 12-17 year old girls because I was one of the older ones in the group, a small let down from the cute and tiny kids I was used to working with. But nonetheless, I quickly got over it. That is, untiI I was told that this particular group of girls gets in, not only verbal fights, but physical fights too. At that point in time, I started having feelings of worry and doubt. I was told these girls were full of attitude and probably wouldn’t want anything to do with me. This just made getting every girl to break out of her shell and be my best friend, a personal challenge for me. 

Despite all of the statistics we received about Prichard, AL, I felt an overwhelming feeling of safety and comfort as our van full of m-fugers (mission fugers) pulled up. I was greeted with tight hugs and never ending piggy back rides as I first stepped onto the grounds of the place that would forever change my life. That week, I went out of my way to climb over the walls of stubbornness and distrust the girls had built between us as I made a fool out of myself in dance class and refused be the only one smiling out of the group. At the end of the week, I had befriended and bonded with the girls, getting to as many of them as I could. I was so filled with this need to make every one of them know they are beautiful, special, and loved. But it was my last day that I will never forget. “A”, a six year old girl whom I spent every free time available with, sat with some of the girls in my group and me before we were supposed to leave. She was so upset that I was leaving that she wouldn’t even look at me. Holding back tears, I told her that she shouldn’t worry and that I would come back. I turned to all of the girls, telling them I would be back to see them because I loved them all so much. I guess they were all so used to m-fugers coming for a week and never coming back that only when “A” finally looked up at me, held her tiny pinkie finger up and said “Promise?”, did the other girls meet my gaze again. Locking pinkie fingers with that little girl lit a flame in me. I knew the Lord was calling me to be here, and I would come back to Light of the Village no matter what.

All year, “A’s” name, along with three other girls names’, stayed on my mirror as a reminder to pray for them and all the other kids and helpers at Light of the Village. And when the time came for me to go back this summer as an intern, I was bursting with excitement. This time, I had REQUESTED the older girls! Stepping back on those grounds felt like coming home. That craving to be so close to God that He consumed me, was fulfilled. I had never felt so comfortable in my own skin and so genuinely happy.

This summer couldn’t have gone better, unless I were able to stay longer than three weeks. I have learned more about my Savior and more about myself than I ever expected. I came wanting to teach these wonderful girls, and they ended up teaching me! I have made a family at this wonderful, God-filled place I now call home, and I feel almost home sick without it. But I know my time at Light of the Village isn’t over. I will be back to spread the love of Christ and be with my LOV family. God’s light is truly shining in this place, and I am honored to be a part of the work being done here.

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