Tuesday’s during summer camp is what we call “Sin Day”. It’s the day we help our campers understand the brokenness of the world and the sin found in their lives. We believe we have to share the “bad news” about our relationship with God before we share the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.
In an attempt to help their campers grasp this difficult concept, two of our staff from Storybrook (our 1rst through 3rd grade camp) shared with me this story from this past week. On Tuesday night during campfire they talked about sin and illustrated it by Gina, the area director, wearing a backpack full of heavy rocks. Gina explained that sin in our lives is like the rocks in this backpack, it weighs you down, hurts your back, gets in the way of truly living, and the worst part – there’s nothing you can do about it.
Then she went onto say that Jesus came into the world to take our sins away, to take our backpack of rocks off our backs. (On Wednesday, Jesus Day, the girls heard the Good News of exactly how Jesus does this incredible work).
The next morning, as the girls got their backpacks on and started walking towards their next activity, a camper with special needs started to walk behind one of her cabin mates and began holding up the cabin mate’s backpack. When someone asked “what are you doing?” she answered with complete sincerity “I’m helping her carry her sins”.
A tangible lesson about a difficult subject stuck with this young camper, making such a strong impression that she felt compelled to do what she could to help her friend carry her burden. It’s also an example of why I believe so strongly in the life-transforming power of camp in the lives of kids.43.928283-85.286682Advertisements
Yesterday marked the end of week 1 of summer camp and I spent closing day with campers, families, and staff at our SpringHill Indiana camp. There were a number of moving testimonies by campers and staff during the closing rally, but there was one in particular I want to share with you.
Ariel is a returning SpringHill camper and this year she was a part of our Inpursuit middle school camp. According to her area director Sara, Ariel came to camp with anticipation, because she believed that God was going to do something tremendous in her life. In the past she had committed her life to Christ but felt that somehow God was going to take her deeper this summer.
So this week, before her counselor and her cabin group, then before an amphitheater full of campers, staff, and families, she announced that she was going to go deeper in her relationship with Christ by reading the entire Bible through in a year. This young woman, who, like all junior highers, has a thousand things competing for her time and trying to steal her life away, has decided to go “against the current” and to do something that will forever positively transform her life – read all of God’s Word.
So, as I listened to Ariel tell us of her commitment, all I could do was sit back and thank God for her courage, and for the good work of her counselors and her area director Sara in challenging Ariel to a new level of faith.
And like Ariel, after hearing so many incredible stories yesterday, I’m full of anticipation at what Christ is going to do in the lives of our campers and staff this summer.43.928283-85.286682
Over the last couple of months I did something that literally gave me nightmares. I read Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas while listening to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer.
If you’re not familiar with Bonhoeffer, it’s an award-winning book about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It tells the story of this courageous resistance leader in Nazi Germany, who also happen to be a brilliant theologian, compassionate pastor, and committed follower of Jesus Christ. The story is inspiring and challenging.
On the other hand, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich‘s considered one of the best histories of Hitler and Nazi Germany. It’s a fascinating story, filled with details, about one of the darkest times in the history of the world. Even after listening to the book, it’s still impossible for me to grasp the true evil perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis.
But it’s where these two books intersect that I had my nightmares. I would dream on the nights after a day of listening to and reading both books. And my dreams were always the same – I stood by while people were mercilessly being killed and, by doing so, I shared the guilt of the murderers.
So I’ve become convinced that the source of these nightmares lay in the challenge of Bonhoeffer’s life, and in my doubts about my own convictions and courage – would I see evil around me and stand up to it, even it meant death? It’s a question that’s haunted my dreams, and my waking hours, over the past few months. And every morning I found myself praying “Lord, if I ever need it, please give me just an ounce of Bonhoeffer’s courage, so I too can stand against evil in this world.”43.928283-85.286682
After a four-day business trip to Indianapolis Denise and I took advantage of the spring like weather in northern Michigan and walked around camp (last weekend we snowshoed around camp). As we walked around Copper Country I reflected on the incredible support SpringHill has received over the decades.
Incredible support comes from incredible people who believe in what God has done and is doing in and through SpringHill. They align with the answers to the 6 key questions I’ve been writing about over the last couple of weeks. There’s a mutual commitment to making the answers to the 6 key questions a reality.
It’s important to understand that at SpringHill we include in our definition of supporters – volunteers, prayer partners, ambassadors, and donors. Every person who falls into one or more of these categories is absolutely critical to our effectiveness. We’ve been blessed over the years to have many people in all four groups.
While in Indianapolis I, along-side Craig Soderdahl our Regional Vice President and Kate Wilson our Regional Development Representative, met with friends of SpringHill who included corporate donors, long time supporters , former and current board members and staff, and over dinner, a group of future camper families, prayer partners, ambassadors, volunteers and donors.
Each meeting in Indianapolis was a powerful reminder of the essential role our supporters play in SpringHill today and into the future. The walk around Copper Country reminded me of the critical role our supporters have played over the years. So whether it’s past, present or future, on this early spring day, I’m deeply thankful for our supporters and what they’ve done and do for SpringHill, kids and Jesus.43.928283-85.286682
“Past performance is the best predictor of future performance.” I learned this fundamental truth about people back in my days as a corporate recruiter. It was drilled into me through the interview training I received and built into the selection processes we used, the same selection processes used in many organizations today.
Yet, I have to admit, there’s been many times when I didn’t want to accept it as true. I wanted to believe people can change. That their past behavior doesn’t mean that’s how they will act in the future.
I’ve, at times, ignored this truth, because I wanted to trust people when they said they’ve changed. But, almost every time I’ve turned my back on this truth, I’ve regretted it.
Why? Because the truth is the truth – past performance is the best predictor of future performance – because most people don’t change.
But can this be the only truth about people? Is this the last word about what we can expect from others, from ourselves?
The answer is no, it’s not the only possibility. People can and do change. It’s rare, but it’s possible. But the second truth is this – people do not change by themselves. It requires something significant to happen to a person for true change to take place and cause a break from their past.
That “something significant” needs to go deep and rattle a person down to the core of their being, and in that place, true transformation happens. And always, at the center of this “something significant” is Jesus Christ, because it’s God who ultimately transforms lives, who grants people a lasting break from their past.
This is why I’ve committed my vocational life to Christian camping. Because Christian camps create those “something significant” experiences, where God steps in, goes down deep, rattles the core of a person, and leads them to a place of true transformation where the past is no longer a predictor of the future.43.928283-85.286682
Have you ever had the opportunity to talk with someone who has just experienced a true life saving miracle?
Denise and I did this past Sunday when we met with Heather and Jeff Perry in a Starbucks in Carmel, IN. In October Heather was in a coma lying in a hospital ICU as medical staff worked to figure out why her body was shutting down.
The Perry’s literally stood toe to toe with death but God rescued Heather through miracle upon miracle (I won’t share Heather’s story, it’ll be her privilege to do so one day). As Jeff and Heather shared their story and their incredible faith in Christ as well as the faith of family, friends and acquaintances, for a moment, that table in Starbucks became holy ground.
As we talked we began to discuss two questions which I’m continuing to wrestle with.
The first question’s simply “how do people come toe to toe with death, staring it right in the face, without believing in or having a relationship with God?” Maybe I’m just weak but I can’t fathom it. Not because I’m particularly afraid of death but because without God neither death or life has any meaning. As Francis Schaeffer once said, “without God we’re just time + chance + matter.”
The follow-up question is “how does a person come toe to toe with death and then walk away doing so without believing in God?” Trying to answer the existential and metaphysical questions that would naturally arise from having a near death experience would drive me crazy without the foundational knowledge of God.
Yet the overriding feelings Denise and I had as we left the Perry’s was simply a deep gratitude for God’s graciousness and awe of His mighty power in Heather and Jeff’s life. We accepted it as an early and beautiful Christmas gift.43.928283-85.286682