Our summer of ministry is officially over. Our last campers headed out yesterday and things are quiet again. As always, the silence is a bitter sweetness. Our passion is to IMPACT lives with the TRUTH of God's Word and to make DISCIPLES like JESUS. Our passion is Jesus' passion; to see people: families, children, staff, mission teams, developmentally disabled adults, neighbors, friends, our community... redeemed by the love & mercy of the Sovereign, Almighty, Creator God. It is sad to see the summer come to a close.
With the silence comes a simultaneous deep breath - entering a time of rest after two and a half months of ministry AND anticipating our next guest group, Shepherds Retreat, work group or staff get together.
I praise God for a great summer. It was a summer of transition, growth, pain, healthiness, worship, discipleship and hard work. It was my privilege to engage with several students who took on the challenge of discipleship. Through them, God challenged and convicted me of my love for His Word, my humility in serving others and my trust in Jesus to follow Him wholeheartedly. What a blessing to see one of our biggest summers yet. This was the first summer we offered eight weeks of our own programs. Our day camp for kids doubled to offer two weeks for free... reaching out to serve over 60 families (more than 100 children) from our local community. We saw another summer of growth for our Shepherds Camp... with more campers than last summer. Another great blessing was the full introduction of the James Project. The James Project has led to dozens of families and students serving our staff and campers each week, the creation of a counselor/program staff training program and the completion of many projects around the camp AND the purchase of our new dock section, scholarships for Shepherds campers, financial investments to help make Day Camp free and care-packages for all the staff.
One of my favorite events of the summer was our Bocce Bash with the Special Olympics. A few camper teams and over 50 athletes from the community made for a great evening of bocce ball. It also doubled as our evening activity... providing all of our campers with an exciting sporting event right in our own backyard. For me it was a summer of learning.
This was one of the first summers I intentionally strived for healthiness as a response to worshipping God.. I am grateful for times of spiritual formation through solitude & silence, journaling, prayer, scripture and repentance. I was also blessed to have Natalie by my side from time to time AND to see her in Bible Class or Chapel, serving campers and helping out around camp. God used Natalie to teach me so many things about our Shepherds campers alongside being dad. God taught me a lot about WORSHIP which was the focus of our discipleship, James Project partnerships and personal formation. In the face of worship, God showed me this summer that my default idol is camp. For me, it is easy to elevate myself or my role at camp from created thing to Creator. God convicted me of my interior motivations for building relationships and running programs. He taught me how my exterior actions can and should flow from my religious affections for Him... which is a big lesson that He continues to teach me. As a summer of transition, God also taught me wisdom in leadership and grace in love through some unexpected ways.
One of those unexpected ways was through a Shepherds camper. Day Camp was in coming to a close and we were getting geared up for another session of Shepherds Camp when I received a phone call from one of our campers' care providers informing me that Scott (one our campers) had died in his sleep at home. Scott lived with five other guys in the same house in town for the past 12 years. He and two of those guys have attended Shepherds Camp since before I arrived. I am thankful that Kelly, myself and a few other staff members were able to attend the viewing and the funeral. We also had opportunity to spend some time with Scott's housemates and staff. Through that time it was a blessing to see the impact that camp has had on Scott, his friends, family and his staff. It was an even greater blessing to be able to suffer with them and to express our love for them. It is difficult to put words around all the things God has done and is doing through Scott's life, his time here at camp and the relationship that we have with his housemates and staff. I pray that we will be able to serve them through camp and outside of camp as well.
I suppose I say this at the end of every summer; God is amazing and He did great things this summer at Arrowhead.
Here is a poem that was written and then put to music to be sung as Scott's funeral.