Thursday, August 7, 2008

On life and Camp

There’s something about camp that shows you things about yourself that you didn’t see before. Maybe it’s the oxygen deprivation as you hike miles uphill to canoe around a little pond, or the dingy lighting in the wet and muddy shower houses. Or maybe the incredible starlight that the city never told you was there. Now, our hope is that this will happen for the kids we take and that it will result in their experiencing God in a new way, but it can apply to us too. In fact there’s something about working with youth that shows you things about yourself.

This has been a very long summer. It hasn’t been an easy one. It was one of those times when the rest of life and ministry battled over which could stress me out more. We in the ministry don’t like to admit that there are those times. We tend to wax heroic about things. Well you know, we don’t want God to be embarrassed that things aren’t going exactly how we would want them to. Isn’t that good of us? But the fact is that I have been learning a lot about myself in all of the messiness. Of course, throughout the summer I didn’t feel like I was learning anything except what burn-out feels like, but as I’m gaining a little perspective (albeit only a week of perspective) I’m seeing a little sense in all the madness.

I’ve learned some about my limitations and how important it is to be healthy if your job requires you to constantly pour into others (which is any of us who claim to be Christians). Kids just test your patience plain and simple. And they are so easy to invest your hopes into. Sometimes that is a bad combination because when there’s a rescinding of previous progress made it can feel personal. It’s not of course and that’s something I’m working on.

I came into last week’s camp tired and barely limping along, with my hope being in the moment the last kid was returned to their parents and the summer program was over for me. Needless to say I wasn’t as engaged as I should’ve been and I didn’t have much patience. But another thing I’m learning is that I’m not the lynchpin to all of God’s plans. I don’t personally have to right all the wrongs of the world. Granted I still want to, but it’s impossible, not to mention heretical, to think that the world’s order rests on my highly intelligent reasoning.

There were moments last week when I had to look at a child I wanted to lose it on and repeat this internal mantra/prayer “This is a child of God. This is a child of God.” And it was in those moments I especially realized that ministry left up to me sucks. I’m no good at it. And in the end my worth is directly proportional to what I hand over to God.

And so, I think my biggest lesson this summer is that if I’m not a woman of prayer, I’m worth nothing in God’s plan. Prayer is one of those mysteries of the faith for me. Somehow everything in the world is as God wills it to be, yet He has given us this option for participation in His plan that can actually produce results that wouldn’t otherwise occur if we hadn’t prayed. Is that mind-boggling to anyone else? James tells us that the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. First and foremost I need to work on being that righteous man, or woman in my case. I’ve felt so far from that this summer. And secondly, I need to be praying! Because I want to accomplish much and this summer made it very obvious to me that I cannot do that on my own.

Camp was a beloved experience for our kids and a tolerated one for me, but one that God was definitely at work in. One of our youngest girls made the decision to follow Christ, and while I’m not sure she actually fully understands, it was another step in her ever evolving awareness of faith. And for me, maybe the dingy light of the muddy shower house lends something of an unnatural clarity because I feel as if I see myself a little clearer and understand with a little more maturity (I hope) my tiny little significant part in God’s plan. So for now, as I sit here with some of the wear of the summer still weighing on me, I’m going to take a deep breath and pray.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August Update

August 1, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

Ding-dong. Ding-dong. Diiiiiiiiiiiing-doooooong. On a regular basis Andrew and my doorbell gets a little extra love from an eleven-year-old named Demetrius, or “D. Reid” as he likes to be called. He lives down the block from us and also frequents our youth programs, but it is the many visits he makes to our front porch that has allowed us to get to know D. Reid.

D. Reid is eleven going on thirty. The second oldest with three sisters and a very young and somewhat absent mother, he worries and wonders and takes on responsibility and asks question after question after question. I have never met a more inquisitive child. Sitting on our porch he asks about home ownership, insurance companies, college and financial aid, electricity and generators, and anything else that happens to cross his mind and reach outside his ever-expanding sphere of knowledge.

So old in the way he speaks and acts, it takes really looking into his eyes to see the eleven-year-old D. Reid—lonely, na├»ve, unsure and desperately seeking guidance. It is this D. Reid who seeks out Andrew for advice and approval and who also falls into the company of other lonely young men lacking guidance, both things propelling him in different directions. And so it has been a summer of battles for D. Reid as he takes steps to do what is right and then falls back into peer pressure. Yet, if there is any kid that I am hopeful for (and I have hope for them all) it is for D. Reid.

Much of our summer program focused on the Gospel message this year. By the end of the summer the kids knew very well what sin is and why Jesus died for our sins. On one particular day we were teaching on Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) and D. Reid seemed particularly preoccupied and bothered during the devotional. He told Andrew he needed to talk, but soon rescinded and said he had figured everything out.

Later, after Bible Club was over, Andrew was mowing the lawn and I was doing some other chores around the house when D. Reid paid us a few more awkward visits. He finally could bear the guilt no longer and confessed to Andrew that he and another kid had thrown seat backs out the window of their school bus that morning and he felt bad and wanted to make it right. The Holy Spirit had been working on him all afternoon! He said he knew right where they had tossed them out and he wanted to go find them and return them to the bus driver. The three of us took off in our car on a mission to find those bus seats! Being hours after the incident and in a residential area, we were not too hopeful that we would find them but we drove up and down the blocks he remembered several times. We did not see them. Andrew kept telling him that whether or not we found them, he needed to make things right and D. Reid agreed. In one last attempt to locate the seats we got out of our car to search for them and amazingly someone had moved one of the seats off of the street and into an abandoned lot. D. Reid carried it to our trunk and we climbed back in with renewed hope to search for the second one. His breath was short in the backseat with nervousness and excitement, his anxious pants revealing the child making this man-sized decision. On a hunch Andrew drove down the ally and there was the second seat sitting beside a dumpster!

With both seats safely in our trunk, we drove home praising D. Reid for his choice to make things right and encouraging him to take the most difficult step yet, to walk onto the school bus the next morning in front of his bus driver and the other students with the incriminating evidence in his arms. He was going to do it he said. We dropped him off at his house and watched him carry the seats up his house steps. It was one of those moments that makes all the other moments in the day worth it. God is working on this young man’s heart! He followed through and returned the seats the next day, proving that his little boy days are coming to a close and his feet are beginning to walk the steps of a young man. The rest of the summer was not perfect for him. He continues, as we all do, to battle with making wise choices, but at that one moment I saw a glimpse of the man that God wants D. Reid to be and I was honored to play a part in the process.

It is for this reason that Andrew and I are here. Please continue to pray for us as we deepen the relationships made over the summer, and pray for these young men and women in our neighborhood who have so much to overcome, yet who have so much purpose for God’s Kingdom.

For His Kingdom, Andrew & Adria Medlen