“Welcome to the mission field”.
These are the words that are posted just outside of camp Riverbend in Glen Rose, Texas.
This past week I had the priviledge and the responsibility of leading a group of middle school guys between the ages of 13-14 in prayer, Bible study, pranking (read on), and devotions. At this camp we had over 700 people in attendance from almost a dozen different Churches; some even went so far as to have traveled here from England. This was a special event, but not in the ways that you might expect from a Youth camp. The setup took two days, and much of what we did was tough, it was exhausting, but it was all for a purpose: to glorify God with our hands, our feet, our words, and our lives.
I’m the kind of person who likes balance: I don’t put Bible reading against prayer, or the mind against the heart; lets face it, you need both. An Evangelist by the name of Jay Lauder came and spoke to these kids about Evangelism, about being a genuine believer; detailing exactly what that means and what are its challenges. Its not an easy road because it requires denying everything, and not everyone desires to give up their lives because not everyone realizes what their sin is in the eyes of God, and consequently, they miss the purifying power of God’s grace and mercy and love. You need to intimately know your sin to be intimately transformed by the grace of God. Its both, not either or. And that’s exactly what this youth camp was: it was tough and uplifting; heartfelt and thought provoking; prayer-minded and Bible-centered, rigorous and weightless.
Before each chapel service, a group by the name of Addison Road led us in worship in song and spirit; surprisingly, the woman who is the lead singer gave us much more than song, but depth to our worship. At one point she mentioned Psalm 139, about how the very darkness is as light to God; how God fashioned us, clothed us, made us, gave us life. Needless to say, that itself was a blessing that kept on giving.
This camp wasn’t supposed to be like the others; you can’t go up to the altar for repentance if you truly haven’t repented in your heart, otherwise you start your repentance with your works instead of God’s power. The theme of this camp was “Encounter”, having experienced such a saving power by the hand of God that it radically turns the gears of your life and moves it to looking closer like Jesus. This “Encounter” was meant to last, as a pulling away of the old and wasted and washed and clothed in the light of Christ.
That being said, camp also was fun, and the pranks the guys pulled were about as mindless as you could get.
Last night, as we were getting ready to leave in the morning and head home, the Youth Pastor of FBCFW (the Church I attend) who was also the camp organizer came into our cabin to check up on us, which led to the greatest prank I’ve ever seen:
At 2am, he comes walking in. Everyone is getting in their cotts and beds and ready to sleep, when he walks in he see’s that Matt, a short, young, middle schooler, is dead asleep. He didn’t wake up when the guys were making noise earlier, and he just slept on through without a care in the world.
Jon (the Youth Pastor) gets an idea: put him in the woods. Of course, after thinking it over, he didn’t. So they move his cott to the other side of the room so that he’ll wake up wondering how he got there to begin with. But it doesn’t stop there: Ryan Roberts, one of the leaders in the Cabin besides myself, starts stacking cotts and clothes and blankets on top of Matt, literally making a fortress. I come out of my room glasses-off and trip over Matt, what ensues is quiet but insanely crazy laughter.
It doesn’t stop there: We call the guys over from Ridgelife Church who were staying with us to bang on the walls and start shouting, “TORNADO! TORNADO! AHHHH!”. After all that hard work, Matt still doesn’t wake up. We then start hitting a giant drum and banging the noise against his ear, “TORNADO! TORNADO!” He opens his eyes, thinks he’s dreaming, and goes back to sleep.
That’s how it is though, isn’t it? Pranks are most fun when the result is immediate, and “decisions for Christ” seem the most satisfying when the emotions are high and the emotional satisfaction seems immediate. What many Christians don’t learn along the way is that it takes discipline: baby steps. Each day walking with God, patiently working out your salvation, loving God and enjoying Him in the quiet times and the hard times. Ironically enough, the greatest spiritual discipline probably happens at camp once a year, and the least discipline happens when you leave camp to come back another year and do it again.
“Welcome to the mission field”, you’ve been assigned your task, now walk it out. Don’t put the fire out because the fuel disappeared, get new fuel, create your own fuel, start living in the word of God this week. For all you guys who came to camp: thank you. We appreciate you, we love you, and we want you to grow because that is when God seems bigger, and life seems more eternally focused.
Whether your pranking or setting up cotts that are the spawns of the devil with fellow leaders, you only go so far as you move from where you are, God gives you the strength, now be the example He’s called you to be.
In Jesus name, Amen.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.