Monday, August 16, 2010

unashamed love.

honestly, i still havent had the opportunity to step back and take a look at what the Lord has done in my life over the past few months. i dont know where i should begin, so i guess the beginning is always a good place...

to tell you the truth, upon arriving at the airport on May 30th, i was completely ready for the summer (or at least that is what i thought). it is so humbling to think back now and know that i was never "ready" for what the Lord did in my life this summer. and the fact of the matter is that we are never ready for anything that the Lord has for us. we can prepare and prepare and try OUR hardest to be ready but its simply impossible; yes, the Lord equips us with the th
ings that we need to accomplish the tasks that He has set before us, but we are never ready due to the simple fact that we are fully reliant on Him to accomplish any task.

when i looked at the faces of the 31 people (32 in july) i would be working with for the next 2 1/2 months of my life, honestly i was scared and excited at the same time. i had experienced a good team before, but i had also experienced a team that had lost its vision. my prayer from the get go was that this team would be completely and utterly lost in passion for serving one another and the Lord (continue to read on for the outcome of this statement).
but i knew that regardless of the outcome of our team unity, God would change my life as well as the lives of many others.

during training week, the only statement that sticks out in my mind the most is when JE (or at least i think it was JE) said, "We don't need to expect, but rather anticipate." as i began to think about this statement, i wondered how often do i expect God to do things rather than anticipate Him to do things. in all actuality i feel that i expect God to show up in this or that rather than fully grasp the fact of anticipating God to move. when we expect God to do something, it's as if we are putting conditions on God. we want him to do a specific thing or task with someone or some situation, and not leave any room for any other choice. what i came to realize is that God will work and do great things regardless of what we want or think.

when the summer started, like i said i thought i was ready. little did i know that upon arrival at Lee University for the first week of camp, i would literally have the hardest week all summer. truthfully, i think back and see how Satan tried to bring me down with this situation, but i had to continually rely on the strength of the Lord in this situation and understand that i could not preach or proclaim His name without Him being wrapped up right in the middle of it. i quickly turned to prayer and my team for support. and funny enough, God gave me so much peace through all of them whether that was an encouraging word, pat on the back, a smile from across the cafeteria, or a simple prayer. from that point on i knew that God was going to bless me and teach me so much about Himself and church community through these people. as the summer continued on, God continually placed children and adults in my life that have changed me and i think about those moments and those people every single day. some stories are as follows:

1. my first weekend camp ever (after working camp for 2 years prior) was at Shocco Springs Conference center in Alabama. i was a little apprehensive to say the least. i didnt know how it was going to run, and i was really concerned that we couldn't intentionally invest in these kids and adults lives long enough to make a difference, but man i couldn't have been more wrong. that week i had the amazing opportunity to have O'Tuckalofa Baptist as my church group (they taught me how to remember their name by saying it like i was tucking a loaf a bread under my arm--ha!). but from night one i started praying for them and investing in their lives. one boy in particular clinged to me right away. his name was Kane. Kane was a hunter at heart, and had one of the biggest country accents you have ever seen in a 11 year old. all he wanted to talk about was hunting. i couldn't get him away from it. i am a hunter myself (believe it or not) but i can only talk about it so much at one time. anywho, after worship on saturday night we all headed back to the room to talk and discuss what the Lord had done that day. in the middle of the pastor talking with the group, Kane leans over to me and says, "Daniel, I want to talk to you after this. And it's not about hunting." immediately i knew what he wanted to talk about, simply because of the fact of what was preached on that night, as well as the things discussed in church group time. afterwards, me and Kane sat and talked for the next hour and a half about who God had made him to be. he questioned the fact wether or not he was a child of God, and came to the realization that going to church and being a good person wasn't good enough. that night Kane gave his life to Christ, and i was so blessed to be given the opportunity to be a part of it. after that we continued to talk about what it looks like to live a life worthy of the gospel and how we can live each day for Him.
Through this experience God taught and reminded me of how i should never underestimate Him. how i needed to have the faith that He will still work and move regardless of what we think or feel.

2. During Cycle 9 (which was another weekend camp) I had one of the most amazing church groups. After worship on Saturday, we all got together in our church group room and were talking about some of the things that we learned that day, whether it was in bible study, track times, or worship, and how we could take all of that back home with us. Well we split up into groups, and for some odd reason i was placed with all of the 3rd grade boys from the church. it was interesting enough, because they truthfully had some good insight on what they had learned. we did this for about ten minutes, and afterwards the children's minister spoke for a while. during this time, one of these third grade boys, without hesitation, leaned his head on my shoulder. i asked him if he was tired and he said yes. i was kind of thrown off guard, but whatever. as time went on he eventually ended up in my lap. i didnt know what to say. afterwards, his father came up to me and told me that his son never does that with anyone. at that moment, it was as if God had "fun punched" me in the face. God asked me why i didnt do that with Him. why did i not trust my Maker like this kid trusted me? how could i not find true comfort in a Father, who knows me inside and out, like this kid who found comfort in
me with little recognition of who i really was? the trust that this child had in me was overwhelming. i literally left speechless. because i knew at that moment that God was telling me to do the same with Him. He wanted me, and He wants all of us, to climb up into His lap and find comfort, rest, and peace. all of which He is the only TRUE giver of.

3. lastly, my favorite moment during camp was the very last weekend of camp. yes, it was another weekend. it seems to me that this is a running theme of "weekend camp" revelations! anywho, this weekend was very special to me. we finished up our summer at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina, and this particular week we had about 200 kids and adults. if you do the math correctly, that means we had about 10 kids per bible study. i had one of the most amazing group of kids ever. i knew from night one that the Lord was going to do something amazing in this group of children. after having them fill out their bible study info cards (just like they do every week) i read through them like normal. one stuck out to me in particular. a little boy in my bible study named Zach gave some very unique answers that i had not received all summer long. questions 2 & 3 coincide with one another, and his answers were as follows: Q--Do you consider yourself to be a Christian? A--No. Q--What does it mean to you to be a Christian? A--......(blank).......
yeah. tell me about it. it hit me hard that night. the Lord immediately told me that this kids life was gonna change this weekend. and believe it or not i trusted the Lord's judgement call on that one. i began to invest so hard in this kid, like it was the only thing that i knew how to do. i made it aware on several occasions that i was always willing to talk whenever it was wanted/needed. so the next morning rolls around and i am with this kid all day. i had him in bible study, at OMC, and on this particular Saturday, indoor rec. i was actually completely devastated by the fact that i could not coach soccer this day due to the rain pouring outside, as well as the fact that Zach was supposed to be in my soccer track. but i finally came to my right mind and told God that this "indoor" experience was going to be a good one. so we started playing our rec games, and we split kids up by number. well, i intentionally placed myself as one of the staffers to be in charge of Zach's group (Brittany being the other one) and we proceeded with the games. it was great to continue to link scripture for Zach to the games we were playing. after this we started track B inside. this particular time i knew i had to let him go with someone else to play games, so my friends DMac and Rachel led out his group, and not once did i stop praying for them and him during that time. after rec was finished, lanette, our rec leader, had the brilliant idea of playing Everyone's It in the gym. now, this game is what you would expect from its name. everyone was it. we had about 100+ kids and staff running around a gym tagging each other. i had a blast!! we played several times, and it hit me that i needed to be on the lookout for Zach. well i spotted him across the gym, and at that moment i was tagged. so i sat down....however, being the staffer that i was, i felt that i could bend the rules a little bit and move while i was tagged out. i made my way over to where Zach was sitting (because he had been tagged out at this point) and chilled till the next game. well we start again and i immediately tag Zach out. well i thought it was funny until i immediately got tagged out right after i tagged him. little did i know that this is how the Lord had intended it. so i sit down next to him, and i could tell that he wanted to say something. so, being led by the Spirit, i simply asked him, "So has this weekend been more than you expected?" He responded with "Yes" with tear filled eyes and began sobbing shortly after. i moved us out of eye shot of his friends to take away embarrassment of crying, and asked him what was going on. he looked at me and said, "Daniel, I'm ready to give my life to the Lord." well if you know me at all, i began to sob right along with him. i explained to him what that meant in more detail and we talked for about 45 more minutes. he prayed and when he looked at me afterwards, you could tell that something inside of him had changed. he was overjoyed. he wanted to tell anyone he came in contact with. and that is what he did. the first person we saw was alex (a fellow staffer) and he told him without hesitation. what was interesting to find out is that his church group leaders had been looking for him for that last 45 minutes. it was quite humorous to see their reactions, but they were excited themselves. Zach's children's minister told me that she had no idea that Zach was not a Christ follower. she said that she just assumed he was because he grew up in the church. that was a sad truth
to hear but it is true in a lot of cases. that night before i went to bed i prayed for Zach and his new life. i decided that i wanted to pass my bible along to him since he was using a small red Gideon bible all weekend. it was hard letting go of something that i cherished but i knew that he needed it more. through this whole experience with Zach, the Lord taught me several things: First, He showed me that He is faithful in His promises. God promised me that He was going to change this kids life this week and I fully trusted that. Second, i saw the working of the Holy Spirit, not only in my life but in Zach's life as well. i can think back now on all the situations that the Lord placed me in with Zach and His working hand was all up in it. when i decided to go over and talk to Zach during the game, it was only because i felt i needed to. He gave me the words to say and im so glad He did, because there is nothing that I could say that could help this kid. and ironic enough that day during my quiet time i read out of Acts 11 and it states in verse 17, "Who was I that I could ever stand in God's way?" that scripture was so evident in my life that day. i had to understand that God was going to do something great in this kids life, and if i was going to selfishly stand in front of God, then He was going to push me out of the way. so before that happened, i removed anything of myself so that God could be seen. Lastly, it was sad to see that a lot of times we as believers assume to much about people to know who they really are. Zach's children's minister reminded me that there are often times when we assume that the people around us are believers simply because they go to church or are just a good person. i knew this sad truth, and i had been teaching kids all summer that you cant be that person, but i felt like it is now part of my responsibility to help all people understand this sad truth as well.

i had one of the best summers of my life this year. i am still in awe of what the Lord did in my life. i am still praying for those kids like Zach as well as my team. i am still processing this summer experience even though it looks like i have already (but little did you know that i have been writing this entry for 3 weeks now) but if i could sum it all up, i would state it just like Paul did:

"but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything."
2 Corinthians 6:4-10