Last summer, I spent 2 and a half months traveling between states, doing youth and kids camps with Student Life. It was hard. It was hot. It was long. It was the best experience of my life. I could go into all the details, but I feel like last summer is over now, and to write all the details as if it just happened would distract me from prayer and preparation for the summer to come. However, I will tell you this:
We woke up early and worked hard. We stood in the sun for hours, playing, running, chasing, all in hopes of one kid getting it. At-least one kid who didn't get it before to understand now why we run and chase and wake up early during our summers to be with them- because of love. Because as servants for the Lord, it was our job to help them understand what someone had once shown us. After running and chasing for a while, we got the chance to sit all of them down and share our hearts. We told them about love and worry and temptation. We told them about freedom in Christ and the power of prayer, and we told them all of this as messengers, in hopes that His message would be received in their hearts.
We entertained and signed t-shirts. We did silly dances and pretended to remember every single kid who said, "Hey! do you remember me?!" We spent our free time playing frisbee and volleyball and basketball and painting and teaching them about Kenya. We ate dinner with them and watched them worship, all while thanking God for the opportunity and worshiping with them. We did a lot of things, too, behind the scenes...
We lifted heavy equipment and spent hours setting up the lights and stage and set. We spent whole days in >100 degree weather. We spent our free time in vans, driving to the next location, and lived off of cafeteria food and Sonic. We left our families, our jobs, our dogs, and our normal way of life to live as this nomad, this radical traveler for God. It would be so easy to call what we did that summer a sacrifice. To tell you about the nights we laid and bed and cried because we wanted to be at home with our dads, or because our sister was going through a loss and we wanted to be there with them. I could tell you that we battled sickness and fatigue and wariness, that our faith was stretched thin and some nights we would have rather slept that worshiped. I could tell you about the times when the office girls had to go back to work when they should have been going to bed, or about the time a grown man broke down and cried with us. I could tell you about the stress of having to find somewhere to live when you got home while spending every day doing so much work, or about not having a plan that stretched past August. I could tell you about the "wall" that everyone hits at some point. The wall is when you can't do it anymore; in fact, you are done. You're no longer thriving on adrenaline and excitement. You're barely getting through the day and thinking of nothing more than being home. Everyone hits the wall, and because of nothing more than God, we climb over it. I could tell you all that and tell you it was a sacrifice. And at some points, we probably felt like it was a sacrifice. So yes, I could tell you all of that, but to just tell you this would be only a small part of the story.
I will tell you that there is no better feeling than a teenage girl, a girl who most people would think was shallow and self-absorbed, coming up to you and saying, "Tell me more. I need to hear it, I want to know more. Tell me how I can get through this thing in my life, and tell me what I need to do to be where the men in those verses were at." There is no better feeling than standing in the back of a full house and watching as a thousand plus teenagers raise their hands in surrender and cry out to the same God you've been telling them about. There is no better feeling than when a youth minister comes up to you and thanks you a million times for what you're doing in his group. And I will never forget the one camp...
It was a kids camp (3rd through 6th grade) at the end of the summer, and our whole staff team was tired. We were at our breaking point, our wall, and it was getting hard to be excited and energetic. I was standing in the back of the worship room listening to Matt Papa sing "With open arms", but that was really all I was doing- listening. I wasn't worshiping. I was caught up in my own feelings, in my own fatigue, and I was not letting God break me down and fill me up. I was looking around the room, and I saw a young boy, probably a 3rd grader, standing on his chair. (this was not aloud by the way!) He was standing on his chair on his tip-toes with his arms stretched as far up as he could get them. His hands were open, and it was like he thought if he just reached a little higher he might be able to touch God himself. I was shocked to say the least. I was embarrassed and humbled. This little boy, this 9 year old got it. Why don't we reach like that? Why don't we stretch so high and stand on our tip-toes? Why are we hindered by height, by reputation, by the world? Why can we not stretch out so far and let God take it from there? Why can we not have faith like a child?
"Lift my hands open wide, let the whole world see, how You loved, how You died, how You've set me free..."
God taught me a lot more this summer than I taught any of those kids. It was not a sacrifice at all. It was a blessing to say the least.