First off, I want to thank all of you for your support. I appreciate all your encouragement and prayers. This was my fourth year to serve at Joni and Friends Family Retreat, and I was blessed to be able to attend both weeks for the first time. God teaches me many things at camp, but usually there is a major thing He wants me to understand. This year’s focus was getting outside of my comfort zone and following Christ wherever He leads me. It’s funny how I often head to camp expecting one thing, and God has something completely different in store for me. This year was no different.
For the past two years I have served in the Child I group (5-8 year olds), so I thought I would probably be there again. I had put on my application that I would prefer any age group except infants and young adults, so I figured that I would have a child camper. Well, God knew exactly where I should be, and I found out that I was in the young adult group. When I learned this, I started to worry. I knew the routine of the kid groups, but this group was completely foreign to me. I had no idea how to relate to someone who was probably going to be older than I was. As it turned out, God paired me with a 20-year-old named John. I have never met anyone who is so similar to me. We both are fairly quiet guys who love music, wear glasses and cargo shorts, and enjoy the outdoors. We even had matching Man of Steel shirts at the dance! One thing that God taught me through John is not to be fine with doing things in my little comfortable norm; rather, I should not hold anything back for God’s glory. God showed me how wonderful it is to let go of my worries and to give Him my all, not caring how I look or what others might think. It was so delightful to watch John do things that he was hesitant about and then absolutely love it, like dancing and the shaving cream fight.
The theme of being Christ-focused, not self-focused, carried over into week two, when I was paired with 20-year-old Peter. I have always secretly dreaded that my camper would want me to be in the talent show with him. This has never happened until this year, when Peter wanted to do a skit. I don’t particularly like being in front of large groups of people, so this was definitely out of my comfort zone. Through prayer and encouragement from fellow short-term missionaries (STMs), God helped me take my focus off of self and onto showing Christ’s love to Peter. It was a true blessing to help Peter with it and watch him have a blast.
Camp is a very special place where God’s love is almost tangible. God’s hand is visible as He changes hearts and strengthens families and STMs. Camp allows those who the world calls “different’ to finally be “normal,” and accepted not based on function or abilities, but rather for who they are: beautiful handiwork of God. It is amazing what can be done when everyone is operating under one goal, being the hands and feet of God. You get to see a glimpse of heaven as God’s love saturates every aspect of camp. I am so thankful God has allowed me to be a part of His immense work here on earth.