Saturday, July 25, 2009

With or Without You

Week 7:  July 12-18

Senior High Camp was last week. To be completely honest, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. I don’t know if God chose that week to humble me by making me realize that the “camp experience” didn’t revolve around my sweet counseling skills or what, but I felt like my mind and heart just weren’t in it like they should have been. Once again, I had ten girls this week: nine 16-year-olds and one 17-year-old. Overall, I felt like they were the girls I was intimidated by in high school. Not that they were stuck up or rude, they were just loud, outgoing, funny, and seemingly popular. As much as I knew in my head that I shouldn’t compare myself to my campers, being around them brought up all those feelings of inferiority and shyness with which I have always struggled. It made me realize how much I had enjoyed having a position of authority and importance – how maybe I had started to let it get to my head. Needless to say, I was humbled by not being in the middle of everything.

Despite the nearly overwhelming awkwardness of the week, however, I did have fun with my girls. I also learned that you’re not really supposed to sleep at night during that week; instead, you prank other cabins. On Tuesday night, I woke from the “twilight zone” to an air horn being blown into our cabin. After yelling at whoever it was to get out, I got up and saw “HA HA” written in shaving cream outside on the ground. (I learned later that one or two of the guys had urinated into bottles and poured them all over our porch.) The next night, we decided it was our turn to prank a guy cabin. Our vision was to wrap toilet paper all around a cabin, tie a rope to both door knobs to keep them from getting out, and tape black trash bags over all the windows so they couldn’t see daylight. We left our cabin around 1:30am with our supplies and hid out near the boys’ cabins, waiting for them to fall asleep. Unfortunately, our plan failed. A group of guys found us hiding and chased us down the beach, spraying us with shaving cream along the way. We then returned to our cabin, grabbed some balloons, and headed to the bath house to fill them up with water. Soon after the water balloon battle began, we were all instructed to go to bed by another one of the counselors (who had learned that two other water balloon battling cabins had woken up some of the staff workers). Thankfully, we were not bothered for the rest of the week.

These girls were competitive in the games as well. They had been talking smack against the boys all week, so we decided to compete against a specific boys cabin for Mission Impossible (a night game in which you sneak around to different locations and try not to get caught by guards). We dressed in all black, painted our faces with camouflage colors, ran fast, crawled through horse poop, and beat the boys! For their punishment, they had to eat breakfast without hands or utensils the next day. We were pretty proud of ourselves.

In all the chaos and madness of the fun and games, I really wasn’t sure how to incorporate spirituality into the group. I had shared my testimony with them during our first evening devotion, but they weren’t as responsive as I had hoped. But once again, God showed me up. He really hit (most of) those girls at the very core during chapel as Jon-Michael was speaking. We did our evening devotions in the gym on Wednesday night. At that point, I had thought that the girls hadn’t been listening at all in chapel or devotions and couldn’t care less about God. To my shock, however, every girl expressed what God had been revealing to them during the messages. One of them broke down and surrendered her life to God again after the Lifehouse skit the next night. As I talked to a few of them later on in the week to learn their testimonies (an event that, in itself, was a major answer to prayer), they expressed how they wanted to keep each other accountable for their actions and spiritual lives once they got back home. It was so awesome to see Him work – without my (intentional) help.

Another element of the spiritual growth in these girls was the death of one of their close friends before camp ( Cameron Clark died on July 1st at the age of 16. He was hiking up Mt. McGinniss with some friends and then dropped his backpack off a cliff. He suffered a fatal fall while trying to retrieve it. This event deeply impacted many of the Juneau teens. While it undoubtedly made many of them angry at God, it drew some of them closer. It got them thinking about God again. It raised discussion. It helped them realize how important it is to remember that you’re not invincible, follow God, and share the Good News with those who haven’t accepted it.

At the counselors’ praise and prayer session on Saturday night, I expressed how I felt that I had failed at my task that week because my heart and mind just weren’t in the game. I felt drained in every area, but God had worked in my girls’ lives nonetheless. I was approached the next day by one of the staff workers while I was helping to clean up the dining hall.

“Reagan, you know what you said was a lie, right?”

“What did I say?”

“When you said that you failed in your cabin. God did work through you, just by you being there for those girls… You did exactly what He wanted you to do.” (paraphrase)

I tried my best to keep down the tears but failed miserably. Maybe He gave me those girls because I was just meant to listen and encourage rather than be actively involved in their spiritual lives. Or maybe He just wanted to show me how His power is made perfect in my weakness. Maybe it was both. I may never know the reason that aspect of the week went the way it did, but I do know that His ways are certainly higher than mine.

I left quite a bit of detail out, like how my girls dropped me after my “trust fall”, that I finally learned how to play ultimate Frisbee (and loved it!), that we spent most of our “rotations” time napping… Just ask me about it later if you care to know the extended version. For now, though, pray that God would give us all renewed strength in Him, passion for His truth, and love for the kids. We’re all tired, but the work isn’t done yet.

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