Do you remember Summer Camp? The smell of fresh mud and dirty socks? Do you remember the friends you made and the memories forever imprinted in your mind? Do you remember the decisions made which forever changed the trajectory of your life?
Last week I had an amazing opportunity to serve at NTS Camp with our High School and Middle School Students.
Making the decision to go to Summer Camp vs a Summer Vacation is one which many leaders make every year. My heart is so full when I think of the amazing leaders which made the decision to serve students this summer. Their heart and love for students is contagious!
But I have to share that God had so much more for those who chose to serve and those who participated in this amazing week.
Here is a glimpse:
Every day would begin with a hearty breakfast followed up with worship for the students and teaching for the leaders. The students would get to participate in interactive “chat” rooms which were tailored to specific topics such as Faith, prayer, how to read the Bible, etc . . .
After this we would come back together and share in Youth Group time, where individual youth groups would come together and “share” the things they either wanted to get out of the week or things God was stirring in them throughout the week. These were very powerful moments for each of us.
Following lunch, the afternoon would be spent in “Team Comps” and Open Rec. Now you must know, it was HOT!!! Sun shining bright, no shade, sweat dripping HOT HOT HOT! The students jumped into competition mode and made it their own. It was so fun to watch. And yes I did compete one time to my girls delight.
After dinner we would experience a combined worship / teaching and then have small groups. Small Groups would serve to be an amazing time of sharing and healing. Followed up by social time called “Club NTS”.
The topic this week was “Kingdom”. And through the week, we learned how to recognize our value in the Kingdom, how God yearned to draw the lost to Him, how to lay our burdens down so we can recognize our place in the Kingdom and how to forgive so God could grow us to our full potential.
As the leader of a student, you think about things like: Making sure the students are where they should be, did they eat, making sure they don’t get hurt, did they go to bed on time. Making sure you don’t forget them on the bus. You know, normal leader things. But as a student ministry leader, the dynamic changes. Unlike anything else you could ever experience, God gives you the opportunity to see them through His Eyes. He blesses you with doses of great Love which He gives so you can share with a hurting generation. And He reminds you who is in charge.
A moment of transparency, I am a woman of great emotion. I always have been. When I was a child I was teased for it, so I would try to hide it. Now there is no shame. Jesus wept when Lazarus died, so I know that He had emotion. Psalm 126:5 says “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” This coming from the psalmist from whom we learn that our tears can be seeds that will grow into a harvest of joy because God is able to bring good out of pain.
So when a student mourns, I mourn with them. When a student experiences joy from the freedom found in Jesus, I experience joy and praise Jesus for His Grace. Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” When we mourn with others and love them through it, I believe that we have an opportunity to feel Him comfort them through us.
So as you can expect, there were a LOT of tears and a LOT of Joy this week!
Throughout the week, I didn’t do much. I enjoyed watching each student find their way. It was so awesome to watch the students building teamwork. The team captain for our team was amazing at lifting their energy level drawing from his inner Mel Gibson with “they can’t take our freedom!!!” It was great.
My heart was humbled as I watched our students serve one another. The Love that our Father has placed in their beautiful hearts for each other is greater than anything I have ever seen. The integrity showed by both the high school and middle school boys was inspiring. There was one male middle school student who over and over served without complaint going over and above the call of duty. My heart was so full.
And God, as the great Gentleman that He is, gently pushed me out of the way and worked miracles in the lives of my girls. As a type “A” personality, I have to be careful not to get in the way of God’s plan. And this week was no exception. It was beautiful, I was humbled and inspired by His Grace as my girls found freedom in His Hands and I found time to be a prayer warrior for each one.
As the week came to a close, the smiles on each face were bright and cheery. The hugs were endearing. And the Love in their eyes was beautiful and pure. Hearts were drawn to Him, chains were broken, bonds were created, burdens were placed at the foot of The Cross and fear was replaced with Faith.
On the final day, NTS ended with communion and a “Foot Washing”. To emulate the moment when Jesus’ washed the feet of His disciples, we all had opportunity to share with others our love for them by serving them in this intimate ceremony. I have never seen or been a part of anything like this but it is so beautiful to watch others as they love on each other.
It was a week unlike any other.
To all of my friends, God is so very good. He gives us little moments and big moments where we have the opportunity to see His Love and Grace in action. This is an amazing gift and one which we never forget. Watching others find freedom in Him is greater than any vacation. I encourage all to find opportunities to serve as His Hands and Feet. I personally, am so very thankful that He chose me to go on this journey with Him.
And to my team, know this: Always remember the mud, sweat and the tears you experienced on this trip. Remember the Grace which God poured into you and that He will never leave or forsake you. This grace is with you always. And while we may not have taken home the cup, we took home something much greater. The Love of our Father and freedom in His Perfect Hand.
And as we leave this place, recognize that we are “Never the same”.
Lord, we thank You for an amazing week! We thank You for the opportunity to come together in community. We thank You for dirty socks and late night talks. Father, thank You for Your Amazing Grace. Thank You or Your reminder that it is for ALL OF US! Thank You Lord for breaking chains of fear and pain this week. Thank You God for showing us our value in Your Kingdom. Thank You Holy Spirit for sharing the truth with us. Thank You for raising a generation of believers who are learning to Pray to The One who breathed life into them! Thank You for the hearts of the leaders you Have given to lead them to You. I pray for this generation Lord, I pray that You will continue to pour Love into them and remind them that You are with them always. I pray God that You will help them to see their value in Your Kingdom. I pray Father that You will raise them up to be courageous, willing to trade bondage for freedom, rejection for acceptance and fear for Faith. I pray that You will give them each eyes to see Your purpose and the strength to step out in Faith and follow Your call, I pray God that You will help them to see themselves for The Mighty Warriors You have called them to be! Thank You Jesus that Your Grace is sufficient for us all. And thank You for allowing me to take a small part in your beautiful Story.
Your Amazed Daughter