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Jul 2017

Summer Camp and Me

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Summer Camp and Me

I will never forget the summer of my 18th year of life. I remember graduating from Chisholm Trail Academy in Keene TX, loading up the car, and zooming away to Camp Yorktown Bay in Arkansas. I had no idea what to expect. I had always considered myself an “indoor-boy,” and honestly wasn’t looking forward to 24 hours of sunshine, bugs, sleeping in a cabin with people I had just met, and braving the unknown. They called me to be program’s director. I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant. I knew it was comprised of making some sort of play for campers of all ages, being in charge of people way older than me, and dedicating 11 weeks of my very special summer to grueling work.

Obviously, my first inclination with all of this was to say no. But for some reason, the day after graduation, I found myself heading to CYB.

Little did I know I would meet someone very special there.

His name is Jesus.

Looking back twelve years later, I must say I made the right decision. That first summer as program’s director led to over a decade of work in summer camp ministry. From Camp Yorktown Bay to precious Nameless Valley Ranch to Lake Whitney Ranch, summer camp became infused in my life.

There is something very unique and special about what summer camp can do to you physically, mentally, and socially. Never have I encountered such a “pressure cooking” environment. It takes you from your natural habitat and sticks you outside of your comfort level. It stretches you. It makes you grow. You find out what kind of person you are there. Sometimes it’s not the best look; and other times it allows you to see exactly what you’re made of. The most beautiful thing I would say working at summer camp does for you is it perpetuates your need for Jesus.

Never in my life have I found myself in tougher situations and challenges than in my 11 summers working at camp. I have seen God working methodically and intentionally in the hearts of the hundreds upon hundreds of campers I was lucky enough to encounter year after year. I have seen him change hearts and personalities, move mountains, and shine lights upon the tiniest, darkest crevices. I have seen him change the hearts of leaders I’ve worked with, of ornery staff members, disgruntled parents, and even my own shortcomings.

The beauty of summer camp is that from the day camp begins to the day it ends, a little community of believers exists somewhere out in nature that will never be replicated again. The family of prayerful, dedicated young adults will collaborate in order to establish a place, an incredibly safe place where kids from all ages are allowed to come and be themselves, are allowed to struggle, are allowed to grieve their lives and rejoice in their victories, and are allowed celebrate the love of Jesus. I’ve seen it there. I’ve felt it there. 11 times I have witnessed something different. 11 times I have witnessed something special.

I would say the most precious moments have been found late at night, after the intentionally planned programs are finished, and I’m moving from cabin to cabin. The lights have been turned out. The kids are supposed to be asleep. But this is the time when the Spirit is the hardest at work. It’s in these moments as a young adult counselor you are not prepared for. You don’t have to words to say. At times you feel like the short life you’ve lived has not prepared you to encounter the conversations that are presented to you. Its in these moments the precious hearts of the kids in the cabin pour open and you witness their open pain, hurt, and desire for something better. What do you say to the kid that reveals he lost both parents last year when he was 9 years old? What do you say to the kid who found out his parents were divorcing right before he showed up to camp? To the kid who is terribly addicted to substances or pornography, what words of freedom can you provide to him? To the kid who feels invisible, lonely, and isolated, how can you show him he matters? Every kid has something. And here is the greatest opportunity to showcase Jesus.

You see, it’s more than the words you provide to them. Words can only do so much. When you don’t have the words to say, God provides them. When you don’t have the strength to show love to that one kid who seems so capable of getting under your skin, God’s love permeates your unwilling spirit. When you know your sliver of love for the kid who fills unlovable just isn’t enough, God showers down his everlasting devotion upon them. Then, he will pursue them relentlessly. It’s a beautiful thing. God becomes summer camp director. They leave experiencing something they long for- those close encounters with the Maker of the universe.

Stepping away from summer camp ministry and moving now into my fifth year of teaching, I look back fondly at my time at camp. I still dream about it. I can still smell that old NVR café, I can feel the breeze from the Rim, and I can still hear those little voices singing their praises to the Creator. I believe those songs will never end. And those campers I’ve encountered, I know I will see them again in Heaven. Heaven will just be a big summer camp in the sky, right? Better sign up soon. I know I have.

Devin Anavitarte is one of the founders of Enspire Productions. He is currently a teacher at Burton Adventist Academy. 


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Struck Down, but not Destroyed

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Struck Down, but not Destroyed

So, a couple months ago I did a thing that I’ve never done before. No, it wasn’t something nearly as exciting as sky diving or climbing a mountain, or whatever it is adventurous people do. I broke my wrist. Now, this is a new experience for me, even though I was a clumsy child that grew into an equally clumsy adult. But, the x-rays over the years always showed a sprain, never a break. Until now!

I’m not going to get into the details of what happened. Suffice it to say that it’s not exciting and largely embarrassing, and every time I’ve tried to tell the story with a few embellishments to save face, my husband has delightedly told the real story. Instead, I’m going to tell you the aftermath.

About a week after the “incident,” Jonny and I flew to Texas to help out with Enspire’s production of The Journey: Rise of the Chosen (shameless plug) at the Keene Camp Meeting. At that point, I was pretty sure my wrist was just sprained, so I kept it wrapped and covered in bio freeze. I ended up being a guard with two fight scenes that we got to practice over and over while my wrist continued to loudly protest. I thought, “Meh. I’ve performed with worse,” and continued on with my life.

Fast forward three weeks and the sprain still wasn’t getting better. In fact, I was pretty sure it was getting worse. After elevating, icing, and wrapping constantly, it was still causing more trouble than a sprain should after being babied for so long (minus the singular sword fighting events). I finally ended up going to the doctor and was forced to sheepishly admit that I hadn’t gotten my wrist checked out beforehand because I didn’t think anything was wrong. Now I was all splinted up, my wrist was comfortably immobile, and I was on my way to the healing process.

Maybe you can already see where I’m going with this. The concept seems so obvious on the surface, but sometimes our jaded selves miss the most obvious things. I should have gathered that something was wrong with my wrist long before I did. But, even so, I’m not an expert at that kind of thing, anyway. My dad is an x-ray tech and my mom is a nurse, and they both warned me, “If it’s a fracture, it will get worse instead of better. If you don’t get it taken care of, you may even end up with an infection.”

Wow, looks like things can escalate quickly if you don’t get them fixed by a professional.   

If I had gone to the doctor right away, my wrist would probably have been a lot farther along in the healing process a lot faster. But I thought I had everything under control.

We tend to do that when our spirits are broken, too. We think, “Oh, it’s actually not that bad. I just have to work through the pain, maybe take something to numb it, and sooner or later it will go away.” In my experience, though, that doesn’t seem to work so well. Humans are pretty feeble. We have to take our wounds to the Great Physician because only he really knows what’s going on. He can x-ray our hearts, if you will. He knows just what’s wrong, what’s holding us back, what’s preventing the pain from going away. Presenting our pain to God is the only way to become whole again. The longer we try to take care of things on our own, the worse things will get.

In a way, pain can be viewed as a blessing. It lets you know that something is wrong. But, if you allow it to stick around, the wound will fester and you’ll be in an even worse pickle than when you started. So, don’t wait until the hurt in your heart gets any more out of hand. Go to Jesus right now. Lay your sticky, uncomfortable, embarrassing burdens at His feet. He will heal you. It will probably not be easy, and it will certainly take some time. It might even hurt. But it’s worth it. Trying to fight the battle while wounded is a recipe for disaster. Only Jesus can make you whole.

 

Stephanie Wilczynski has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. She is pursing an MA in English and Religious Education at Andrews University. 


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Let the Children Come

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Let the Children Come

Have you ever laid back at a pool or park or something, with your friends and just heard the conversations little kids have? No not creeper-ish over hearing skills but just in passing, hearing their excitement at how the people are screaming, or running away from the water splashing them. Some of the best kid conversations are their arguments with who has the better dad: 

Kid one: "Well my dad can play soccer"

Kid two: "Well my dad is taller than yours "

Or just seeing their beaming faces when their parents  win first place at something. I was always so proud of my parents. Seeing my dad playing sports, or just listening to how the other kids would gawk at how tall he was. My favorite had to be when people were lost and would ask my dad if he could see such and such person wearing such and such thing. 

I ask myself, what happened when I grew? Where is the pride I felt at others' successes instead of jealousy?  Where is the wonder of how things work, and the curiosity to figure it out? Where is the sheer excitement for simplicity, or the bravery of making a new friend without the shame or fear they may not like me back? Where is the innocence, the purity,  the sheer joy that life is an adventure?

Children can teach us things everyday if we just take the time to listen to them. So here it goes... story time. There is is a quote by C.S. Lewis which says, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."

Before children's story at church, the announcer always reads the same bible verse, "Dejad a los niños venir a mí y no se los impidais porque de ellos es el reino de los cielos" Let the children come... Side note isn't it incredible the amount of times that Jesus invites? He invites us into the Sabbath, He invites us to rest, He invites us to commune with him, He invites us to the dinner table and in this story Jesus invites children. The first point: the same way a kid gets excited for the birthday party invitation, be exited at Jesus' invitations. It is is a  special, personally made envelope that has been made just for you to enjoy.

Imagine with me what those kids were doing before, probably sitting in the dirt listening to Jesus tell parables, and just telling each other how cool it would be to meet Jesus:

Kid one: "I heard he made a blind man see!!"

Kid two:" Well I heard HE BROUGHT SOMEONE BACK TO LIFE!!"

...and continuing to play in dirt or mud pile they were making. Lesson two: tell others. Share your message with someone else! Children are always sharing their thoughts and adults laugh but there is no fear in what others will think of them, they just share. If something cool, wondrous, unexpected, has  happened to you  why hide it? Share it with others. It could cause excitement and hope to pass on to someone else.

The best part of the story comes.  The moms hear these conversations and decide their child needs to meet their hero. And once the child catches a glimpse here come the disciples, "Uhhh nope, the master has more important people to see." I remain speechless at what follows. Jesus says, "Let them come." Humility-- the next lesson- although benefits of this virtue may not be reaped here on earth there is no question a humble person has infinite value.  Jesus playing with children, being silly, laughing, making funny faces, and telling the best stories. He is humble, taking the time to spend time with a population of little importance that are at times ignored, or seen as pestilences.

Fourth lesson-- always be amazed at Jesus. His uncharacteristic  ways of doing things, His sense of humor, being amazed at God- questioning God, talking to God, laughing with God, crying with God. Here is the secret I believe to never growing up-- by wondering about God, questioning God, and seeking God we can be like the child "for their's is the kingdom of heaven." 

Matthew 19:14

 

Chantal Williams is a physical therapy student at Andrews University and has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2011.


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