I was in charge of a cabin of five girls, sweet, ten-year-old balls of energy ready to have as much fun as possible. In addition to camp activities, we spent time each day in a lesson portraying the parable of the two sons (a.k.a. The Prodigal Son, though as we discussed, the parable is about two sons and their father, not just one), which is our theme for the summer. On the first night, we host a feast for the campers with the father celebrating the return of his lost son to give them an overview of the story and place them right inside the action. Each of the following days was spent getting to know the characters of the younger son, the older son, and the father. The kids were excited to hear the characters portray their stories, and they really seemed to be able to understand where they were coming from. On the last day, we got to hear from the father, a man who deeply loved each of his sons and only wanted to spend time with them. On that last night, one of the little boys at camp asked to be baptized, so the entire camp went to support him as he made a public decision to follow Christ in our very own lake. That was the first experience many of the kids had ever had with baptism, so it was a good opportunity to explain its significance. After watching that, one of the girls in my own cabin asked to pray with me to see if Jesus could be in her heart as well. She told me that she knew that Jesus would be able to take care of her and her family, and she wanted to follow Him. It was so exciting to see her grow over the course of the week.
While my week was a lot of fun and very tiring, it was not exactly what I had expected. Unlike most of the other cabins, my campers were from fairly stable family backgrounds and had some experience with church and the gospel. I sometimes found myself feeling as though my job was simply that of a babysitter, and it was frustrating to be unable to minister in the ways that I wanted to. One of the biggest problems I noticed was the ways in which they liked to tear each other apart for things that they too struggled with. Each of them wanted to be in control of the others’ actions. When I expressed my frustration to one of the women on our support staff, she said “It always amazes me how working with kids gives us a small picture of the ways that God sees us.” I realized that even though I do not usually tell my friends to stop singing or convince them that what they are wearing is totally wrong, I am so often guilty of trying to be in charge and focusing on the shortcomings of others. I can be so intolerant of the mistakes people make, yet I am so quick to go to God for forgiveness for those very same struggles. I am reminded of Matthew 11:16-19 where Jesus says:
But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
It amazes me that God looks down on our antics and somehow loves us in spite of all of our shortcomings.
However, I have also been able to see what Jesus means when he says in Mark 10:14-16:
‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.When Jesus deals with children, he loves them by spending time with them, taking them into his arms, and imparting a blessing to them. They come to him not as sick or demon possessed people looking for healing but as ones who need to be loved. Isn’t that also how we are? We have so many needs and desires, but behind it all is the need to be loved. And if you think about the ways in which little children reach up to their mom or dad when they need something, is that not the same way we worship our Father in heaven? Even in dealing with these “normal” kids, I am reminded of the ways in which God works in and through the youngest in His creation.
Please pray for:
Energy for counselors and support staff
Compassion to deal with these kids and wisdom to know what to say
God to work through the lesson and cabin times