Saturday, September 01, 2012


I meant to write this post almost a year ago, but never finished it. While I was at Camp (see previous post), I ended up improvising what I wanted to say all along for a cabin of 13 & 14 year old guys. Then I realized that I should probably write it down.

Almost two years ago, my friend Adam started a Bible Study group (or "Small Group" as I often call such things) consisting of people he knew from various places and people they knew. It's become a really important community for me in that time, but that's not the point of this post. Instead, I'm going to tell you about a little bit of what we studied in the Scriptures.

The Epistle to the Hebrews, or "Hebrews" for short, is an interesting part of the New Testament, partly because we don't have a listed author for it, and partly because it talks about some pretty funky stuff. We took a long time to study it, but we took the longest time on the eleventh chapter. Hebrews 11 is an oft-quoted bit of the Bible, where the author of Hebrews goes through a lot of the Old Testament and lists when various people demonstrated "faith", which he defines, to paraphrase a bit, as being sure of the things hoped for, the unseen promises of God. The author talks about Abraham moving to a country he had never seen, Joseph believing that his descendants would be leaving Egypt eventually, Moses choosing hardships over palace life, and finally goes into a long list with less specific associations about people doing great things but also being naked, hungry, stoned, and (my favorite) sawn in half.

Now this is all well and good and we can sit back and say "Well weren't they so brave and full of faith! Wow!", but that would ignore the next chapter (Hebrews 12, natch), where Paul puts in a bit of application. Since all of those people had faith and were able to endure such things and accomplish such things, we should similarly endure things and accomplish things, by faith. We, like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, etc are looking forward to "a better country", or a promised land, that we haven't seen. We don't have evidence for believing we'll get there, at least not the same way we do for most things in life - If we did, it wouldn't be faith.

None of that was really surprising to me when we studied it, but there's a difference between knowing intellectually that something makes sense (within the context of the Scriptures and Christianity) and knowing it in your gut and actions. The gut half started to happen a bit as we studied it, though, as I mulled over my own faith and how little it's tested in the ways Hebrews describes. It's not as if no one goes through that sort of thing for the sake of Christ anymore, but I've yet to be killed or be told by God to move to another country (much less one I've never heard of), and so I don't, can't, know exactly what I'll do when/if that happens. It's not as if I never have doubts - Hours, days, weeks go by sometimes when I see the other side more clearly and want to say that faith in the unseen is absurd, and I'm some of you would agree.

But then I come back to thinking, or maybe feeling, that it's true, which leaves me with the dilemma of what I'll do if that  happens. I don't think there's anything I can do but pray that, when it gets hard to have faith, he provides me with more. I was going to say that that's difficult, because it is and because I'd rather depend on my own faith than have to trust that he'll give me what I need... but I wouldn't have any faith if he didn't give it anyway.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ligonier Camp, Summer 2012, Session 6

Quick, I better write this down before I tell anyone else and stop feeling the need to write it down.

On Saturday, August 11th, I drove up to Ligonier, PA, to be a "rover" at Camp. When it was a counselor's day off, I would take over his tribe for 24 hours, then at dinner switch to a new tribe. I stayed through helping clean up camp, because it was the end of the summer for them, and drove home after breakfast Sunday. I was so tired.

The second Saturday night, after the last batch of campers had gone home, Camp had the closing campfire for staff, including a time called "Say So", which is when people stand up and talk about things they saw God do at Camp that summer. I wasn't going to stand up, because I was only there for a week, and there were people present who had been there all summer, but then I thought about it for a long time and decided what to say. So I thought I'd first tell you the two things I said then.

I remember driving up the long driveway of Camp in 2008 with my Dad, because I didn't own a car, and being dropped off in a part of the country I had never been to, at a place where I knew no one, to do a job I really didn't know how to do. I also remember how much better Summer 2009 went, partly because I already knew people and thus felt more comfortable. Frustratingly often, my abilities and personality seem to depend greatly on how familiar I am with the people around me. And so it was that as I approached the Camp this time, driving up PA Route 711, my thoughts were greatly consumed with "What the heck are you doing?! This isn't going to go well, because you won't know anyone there. It's been too long!".

After arriving at Camp and parking, I quickly found Stef, who's now Summer Camp Director, but she was headed off to the Lake Property for a Dedication ceremony, and so I went into the dining hall full of unfamiliar faces. Except there was Geraud, the first counselor I ever talked to when I arrived in 08, and he was also there to fill-in for the coming week. And there was Amy, who had been Stef's assistant all summer, but was leaving that day. And Liz, who has no official title at camp other than that she's "around", because she lives in town and helps whenever they need. And Lauren. And others. It quickly became apparent that there were enough familiar faces, and the rest of the staff were so welcoming, that everything would be okay. I could pretty easily say that Session 6 is the week when a lot of old staff come back, so it makes sense that there'd be so many familiar faces, and Camp Staff are generally welcoming of strangers who have come to help, particularly at the end of the year when everyone's tired... or I could thank God for providing me with that.

At the Staff Say So, I said I'd pick the latter, and I still do, but not to the exclusion of the first one. I hope that makes sense.

Back to 2008. When Mike German told me that his high school friend Lori told him that the Camp she had worked at the previous summer needed more guys for their summer staff, I was a dissatisfied Comp Sci major who had vaguely considered teaching but had little basis for serious thoughts in that direction. A year later, I had been a TA for a year, just received a Comp Sci degree and was about to enter my second summer working with kids. A year after that, I started a part-time Masters program to become a teacher, and hopefully I'll be finishing that within a year. If it hadn't been for the work at Camp, as well as all the education majors who work there, I don't know if I would have pursued teaching as a career. Again, it's pretty easy to explain this all away as the logical outcome of events, but again I'd rather thank God.

That's pretty much what I said at the Say So. I could probably write a post about what went on during Session 6, the ridiculous skits featuring Hans & Franz, the kids who needed "wraparound" counselors and the kids who only sort of did, kids peeing in the woods, faceplanting chasing a ten-year-old playing Gold Rush, just volunteering for lots and lots of things because I wasn't tired like everyone else and then getting sick, hanging out with people I hadn't seen in years, telling old stories, debating and making jokes about theology, losing at chess to children, playing Camp songs on guitar, jumping up and down.... but those things don't feel as important to tell you. When I left, Sunday morning, eight days after arriving, I shook hands with the guys I had worked with that week, hugged several of the people I knew from years previous, got in my car and left. It was exactly the sequence of events I wanted to do before getting in the car, which was nice. As they said this summer, I had "no regrets" about the week.

Oh, one last thing: At the start of the week, I felt like a pretty awesome Counselor, once I realized I still knew how to do the job. By the end of the week, I had seen a lot of the ways that I am not the best at it. It was humbling, and that was good. Some of my problems there will probably be problems to some extent when I'm "in the classroom" (as they say), so in that sense it was hopefully helpful. Again I am thankful.