Thinking Out Loud

April 29, 2016

Camp Memories (4)

The camp that I worked at was large enough that the food services operations had been contracted out to a catering company. Some of the teens who got hired were friends of other people on our junior staff, but there was no screening of anyone in the sense that our staff had to have a recommendation from a pastor, a youth pastor, and enclose a copy of their personal testimony.

All this meant that our dishwashers and housekeeping staff — who were Christians — regularly interacted with non-Christians who were cooks and bakers. Furthermore, the cooking staff got to attend any of the special events that were taking place in the evenings — special speakers, concerts, etc. — which meant that over time they had a number of questions about what we believed.

Evangelizing the people from the catering firm became a priority for the dishwashers (guys who fell under my supervision) and the housekeepers (girls who lived with the female bakers and cooks).

As Labor Day approached, two of the bakers were close to crossing the line of faith, but there was no indication that this was happening anytime soon. This increased the level of concern — and prayer, I hope — on the part of the housekeeping staff to the point where they upped their game in terms of pleading with the two who had expressed some interest.

img 042916I will say this: Regardless of your views on soteriology, or any aspects of the monergism/synergism debate, there is something to be said for the line from the Billy Graham radio show, “This is your hour of decision.” And there’s, “Now is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.” And don’t forget, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Even if you believe that salvation happens as process and not in a moment of crisis, I believe there is still always a defining moment.

Then, on Labor Day Monday, in other words on the same day, and possibly within an hour of each other, the two girls decided it was time to make that commitment.

So the housekeeping staff were ecstatic.

And they ran and got me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I had never been in the spiritual delivery room before. I just thought it was interesting that after evangelizing and sharing their faith journey all summer with the two catering staff members, they felt they needed a professional to lead the actual conversion moment. And they thought that I was that professional. (We did have people with theology degrees on staff, but…)

So, not knowing what I know now, I felt it necessary to have them “pray a prayer” because that’s what the Bible says you do when you want to enter into eternal life, right? (Well, it does and doesn’t.)

Girl One joined me in the dining room, which was an appropriate setting given their summer had consisted of preparing the food which was eaten there. I told her that I was going to give a line and she simply had to repeat it after me. She did. Smiles. Hugs and high fives.

Then Girl Two came in and after a brief discussion, I told her to simply repeat the prayer after me. I was on a roll now. Any chance there’s a third person waiting outside?

“Dear Jesus;” I said.

“Dear Jesus;” she repeated.

“I acknowledge that I’m a sinner;” was the next line.

Silence.

“I acknowledge that I have sinned;” I repeated with slight editing.*

“I can’t pray this;” she said. 

Wait, what?

At this point I could have concluded that she just wasn’t ready; or that she’d felt coerced into this moment; or that peer pressure had resulted from the other girl’s decision. Or perhaps she just couldn’t give intellectual assent to committing to follow Christ. Or maybe I’d worded it wrong and she didn’t want to think of herself as a sinner.

For all those reasons, I could have just suspended this and suggested she think about it and get back in contact with the camp or her new friends at some point in the fall.

But I didn’t go that route. Instead I opened my mouth and this came out:

“Then just tell God, in your own words, what you want to say to him right now.”

I have no idea what she said next; I only remember that it was sincere, it was beautiful and it passed whatever was my ‘sinner’s prayer’ litmus test. And there were more smiles, more hugs and more high fives…

…Today I know so much more. Entering into new life is more than a prayer; it’s a commitment to live a new life in a new way under the Lord-ship of Jesus Christ even when the cost is difficult. But for that day, that would have to suffice.

There was little time to arrange for follow-up, but I heard some encouraging news in the short-term through my housekeeping contacts, and we did have monthly camp reunions — this was a huge camp — back then which kept some staff in touch in a world before email, texting and social media.

In the years that followed, I got to pray with other people while doing itinerant youth ministry** as a guest speaker in various churches; but there was never another moment like this one.

I’m just so thankful that I was there when needed and when the opportunity arose.***


*After 11 weeks at camp, I think the doctrine of sin had been clearly defined, but today, if I was going to introduce a prayer at all, I would probably word it differently.

**I got to experience some interesting situations and meet some great people in itinerant ministry, but there is something to be said for working in a local church environment where you really get to know the same people over an extended period of time. At camp, working and living and sleeping in community created some close relationships, but eleven weeks seems like such a short time and the nature of the organization made follow-up challenging. I love the context for ministry that camp creates, but it’s important to recognize the shortcomings of any evangelism model.

***It’s easy for an organization to miss the importance of ministry to its workers. Some of the greatest life-changes are taking place at the staff-level and it’s important for senior staff to see the summer as a two-pronged program.

 

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April 28, 2016

Camp Memories (3)

Filed under: Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:58 am

parent child - Wikipedia commonsThere are certain junctures in life as one emerges from girl to woman or boy to man where one finds themselves in a middle ground between adolescence and full adulthood. A person is perhaps in a place of leadership and yet they are forever the child to their parents. One of the lessons I am learning now that my own kids are in their 20s, is the axiom that you never stop being a parent.

At the camp I worked at, the junior staff had varying degrees of relationships with their families. Many went back to the city on weekends; others had family cabins — what we refer to as cottages — in proximity to the camp. My objective during the three years I was on senior staff was to spend every possible moment on the camp property. Summers are short in Canada and what we call “cottage country” in Ontario is beautiful, and I didn’t want to miss a moment of it.

In my first and third years there I was able to accomplish this. But in the middle year, I had to return to the city to complete some obligations I had with the individual who was employing me through the fall and winter months; the first time to catch a train for a week Winnipeg, the second time to catch a flight for eight days in England.

At all other times though, I was happy to spend my time at camp, and missing home never entered my head.

On the other hand though, while it was rare for me as a senior staff member to meet the parents of our other 160+ staff, my own parents had their own relationship with this particular ministry organization. This camp had in previous years got themselves in some trouble with various levels of government concerning reporting procedures, which is a nice way of saying they hadn’t filed any paperwork for over a year. People were paid, taxes on accommodation were collected, but the federal and provincial (i.e. state) revenue departments weren’t seeing a penny of it, and they were threatening to shut the whole operation down.

That’s where my father stepped in. For Americans reading this, keeping your tax information in a shoebox and reporting certain deductible items on an honor system may be common, but here in Canada shoebox type accounting doesn’t make the cut, especially at a business or charity level. So over many months my dad did the forensic accounting needed and implemented systems where each department had a cost code and the government started smiling again. The accounting supervisor he hired and trained works there to this day.

For this reason, he and my mother often showed up at camp — there was even a designated cabin for them to stay in — but because I never called home, I never knew they were coming until they had already arrived. “Your parents are here;” someone would inform me; to which I would reply, “Okay, thanks;” and carry on with whatever I was doing.

So now we return to the meat of this discussion as outlined in the first paragraph above.

Closest thing I could find to what we used that year. By the following summer the bikes had mysteriously disappeared.

Closest thing I could find to what we used that year. By the following summer the bikes had mysteriously disappeared.

One summer the director, having served in ministry in Africa, thought the best way for us as senior staff to get around the property would be to purchase a “fleet” of four gas powered minibikes; what I think were called mopeds at the time. They certainly were convenient, and we kept the keys where the campers would never find them. (I’ll skip the story of the day I let a camper ride on my back and we hit a giant hole in the middle of a field and were both thrown off the thing.)

On a particular afternoon, I was riding one of the bikes back to the main office, when at the same moment my parents were arriving from the parking lot. My mother had no idea the camp had even purchased the bikes, didn’t know I knew how to ride one, and totally freaked out, speaking loudly over the sound of the bike’s engine, “Paul! What are you doing? Get off that motorcycle!”

I know those were her words because there were just enough staff members around to hear it that it became associated with me for about a week. Even junior staff who were on their day off that afternoon were walking up to me saying, “Paul! What are you doing? Get off that motorcycle?”

To her credit, I learned many years later that there was some story in her family involving her brother and a motorcycle — a real one, not a little dirt bike — which may have instilled some fear in her. To my credit, I shut off the engine, told her not to worry, started the engine again, and drove off…

…Even when you have your own children, you never stop being your own parent’s child. Furthermore, you never know when parental instincts are going to kick in, even in that moment where you are in a leadership position and don’t see the potentially lethal moment of embarrassment sneaking up on you.

Still, I hope I never do that to my own kids. That’s why I don’t have Facebook. I can’t comment on their status updates or photos. I can let them be themselves as they jettison childhood and embrace adulthood, right?

Well, not entirely. Because the axiom is true, you really never stop being a parent.

 

June 18, 2014

Wednesday Link List

gbiWednesday Link List 2

It’s summertime and you don’t need an Angler’s License to fish for Christian news and opinion pieces on the net. 

 

Typically, my youngest son includes his youth pastor as a reference on job applications; but for this summer job there is the terse admonition, “You may omit names of ministers of religion.”

Typically, my youngest son includes his youth pastor as a reference on job applications; but for this summer job there is the terse admonition, “You may omit names of ministers of religion.”

April 2, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Irresistible Grace

After falling for an April Fool’s Day prank yesterday — hope you enjoyed yesterday’s here — you may be overly cautious today, but as far as we know, everything below is legit.

Despite a submission guide at PARSE that allows writers to post additionally at their own sites, our Leadership Today overlords want you clicking from their site, thereby depriving me of stats. So if you see something you liked, leave a comment here or there; it’s the only way I know. Clicking anything below will take you first to PARSE.

While leaving no Christian internet news stone unturned, Paul Wilkinson also writes at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Twitter.

Devouring God's Word

June 5, 2013

Wednesday Link List

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

This is a picture Shane Claiborne posted on Twitter of the community where The Simple Way ministers in Philadelphia: Sprinklers open for cooling on a hot day

Be sure to read the post which immediately precedes this one, about Calvinist propaganda for kids… And now for another day on the links…

  • “If a church tells the Scouts they are no longer welcome to use their facilities a whole bunch of kids, most of whom are not gay, are going to get one clear message: You’re not welcome at church. Fighting the culture war has already hurt the Christian image, as we are much more recognizable for the things we are against.” Before your church has a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, take 90 seconds to read this including the updates in the comments.
  • And speaking of people we make unwelcome in the church, here’s a story like no other: A particularly buxom young woman (i.e. size DD) unravels a sad tale of a lifetime of being marginalized by the local church.
  • Another great, concise (about 12 minutes, I think) sermon by Nadia at House for All Sinners and Saints on Hope. Realistic church motto: “We will disappoint you.” Click this link to the text, then click the internal link to listen, then click back to follow along as you listen. 
  • 30 Churches in Holland, Michigan are covering their individual church signs this week with burlap on which is painted “One Lord, One Church.” This is a movement designed to promote unity between the denominations.
  • The White House has issued a statement pressing the Iranian government for the release of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, but Iran does not recognize his U.S. citizenship
  • Yesterday’s Phil Vischer Podcast was the best so far! Phil and panelists Skye Jethani and Christian Taylor are joined by anthropologist Brian Howell discussing short-term missions.
  • Teapot tempest or major issue? A Methodist pastor refuses to stand for God Bless America. Hours later, The Washington Post has to run a separate article to showcase all the responses the first article got.
  • For the pastor: A different approach to mapping out your fall (and beyond) adult Christian education program
  • Also for pastors: What to teach about tithing? Andy Stanley teaches percentage giving. But as Jeff Mikels points out, some people don’t like that concept.
  • The K-LOVE Fan Awards are out! Guess what? They like Chris Tomlin. Wow, there’s a surprise! See the winners in all nine categories.  
  • If you don’t mind wading through a lot of posts to unearth some classic wit and wisdom — and several bad worship team jokes — there’s always Church Curmudgeon’s Twitter feed.
  • Rob Bell is on the ‘cover’ of Ktizo Magazine, an e-publication built just for tablets.
  • Porn is an issue for women, too.  Maura at the blog Made in His Image shares her struggle and suggests that step one is sharing your struggle with another person.
  • Also at the same blog: Christian women, should you buy that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polkadot bikini? Rachel says its a matter of exercising God-given responsibility.
  • We mentioned the blog Blessed Economist once at C201, but I’m not sure if we did here. It’s economics — the real thing, not personal finance — from a Christian perspective. Here’s a short piece to whet your appetite, there are some longer case studies there as well.
  • A friend of ours who graduated recently in film studies has posted a 17-minute short film about a band of orphans Fleeing through the wilderness of post-apocalyptic British Columbia in search of food and shelter who take refuge in an abandoned church and face a horrifying choice.
  • Also on video, a group of high school teens at Camp Marshall got together in 2011 to produce a rather artistic video of the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing that serves as a music video and a camp promotional video
Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn't very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

Found at Postsecret, but this post actually isn’t very secret; a lot of people express this same sentiment online

September 22, 2012

Remembering John Boddy

To the Toronto community at large John “Jack” Boddy was known for John Boddy Homes, which built subdivisions in an area stretching from the northeast portion of the city all the way to Peterborough.

But to the Christian community, his primary legacy is Muskoka Woods, a summer camp and year round retreat centre in Rosseau, Ontario approximately halfway between Bracebridge and Parry Sound.

Nearly sixty years ago, John married Marie McClintock, daughter of home builder Robert McClintock. As an engineer, he quickly learned the business, and followed a McClintock Homes tradition of donating a portion of land in each new subdivision to one or more churches, most of which were Evangelical.

He also supported a number of faith missions and local churches, but his story took a turn when his eldest daughter, Tammy, returned home from Teen Ranch a changed person.

When a proposal to turn Glen Rocks — a former Christian and Missionary Alliance resort and conference grounds — into a retirement complex failed to meet civic approval, Boddy purchased the land for a summer camp. Originally met by very restrictive zoning, he pressed on to winterize buildings — something not easily accomplished with cottages built on rocks — and begin the work of expanding and restoring buildings while applying for permission to build new structures, permission that was not always forthcoming.

But eventually the camp grew… and grew and grew. For a decade it adopted the moniker Muskoka Woods Sports Resort, eschewing the term ‘camper’ and replacing it with ‘guests.’  Today it’s simply Muskoka Woods, with a name that hardly needs introduction or explanation having served multiplied thousands of families, with guests including the sons and daughters of major sports figures and Hollywood stars; with people who once came as kids now bringing their children, and youth who once served on staff now having their teens serving as second-generation summer employees. The camp has 1,000 acres of property, and 2,000 feet of shoreline in an area considered among the top vacation destinations in North America.

For the respect and admiration he garnered, he was always referred to as “Mister Boddy,”  or “Mr. B.” and yet, the passion he had for the camp was not all that different from the awe and wonder experienced by the children arriving for the first time. With a Walt Disney-esque spirit, he is reported to have said that each year Muskoka Woods should offer some new “sizzle.”

On the retreat and conference side of the operation, a few years ago Muskoka Woods introduced The Leadership Studio, a posh facility with a development program for Christian leaders located at the east end of the beach, with accommodation connected by a foot bridge over a creek to the main property.

While his son Edward continues on the house construction business; just as John Boddy took the reins of a business begun by his father-in-law; today his own son-in-law (married to daughter Lori) John McAuley is CEO of the camp operation with a background that supplies healthy doses of spiritual and administrative leadership.  And that daughter whose visit to Teen Ranch sparked the Muskoka Woods dream holds a PhD in clinical psychology with a practice in central Florida.

John Boddy passed away a week ago today after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.  At his funeral yesterday, attended by about 500,  it was noted that although he forgot who he was and who others were and forgot he owned a business, he never forgot his God; such was the tenacity of his faith. Even in seasons of great confusion he was able to speak directly to people, encouraging one individual with the promise that her “best days were ahead.”  His wife Marie was presented with a binder containing stories of how the camp has impacted the lives of former staff and guests.

One of those is my story. Though never a summer camp type, I discovered another set of possibilities working at Muskoka Woods; and was introduced to Christian camping in general, through which I got to know other camps, including the one where I met the girl who became my wife.  For the last three summers our two boys have worked at that Christian camp and are seeing lives touched through their efforts.

It’s said that you can accomplish more in the life of a young person through one week at camp than at 52 weeks of Sunday School. While not wanting to minimize the latter, the fact remains that Christian camping is a most powerful ministry tool.

John Boddy was a great Canadian Christian leader with a reputation known throughout Canada’s largest province and beyond. Guests at his funeral were reminded that we need more like him. He will be greatly missed.

June 12, 2012

Hanging Out Time

There are a number of areas where I would like a ‘do-over’ and those that were a test of my parenting skills are no exception. But one thing I did right was establish a nightly Bible story and prayer time which I’m told has also been an inspiration to some other families.

I wrote about it here almost three years ago.

Sunday night we had our last hanging out time (aka HOT) before Kid One left for his summer camp ministry, where Kid Too will join him in a couple of weeks. The ‘final’ of this event was more significant since Kid Too is off to university in the fall, one that doesn’t afford him the luxury of coming home on weekends as does Kid One.  So I suppose there will still be a few weekend editions with just two of us;  just as there have only been two of us present for the weekday editions the past few years.  But for the most part, what started nearly two decades ago with a copy of The Beginner Bible is about to enter the realm of history.

The robins are leaving the next.

Kid One returns in the fall to his second last year of electrical engineering. An engineer in the house. Who would have guessed? His parents tend to be a little more artsy. Kid Too is off to study with the aim of becoming a youth pastor. Not too scary until you consider that most youth ministry people end up ‘graduating’ to adult ministry.

I kept thinking we should do something special for the final night, but instead I was struggling to keep it together. It seemed like somewhere, a soundtrack should have been turned up, with Michael W. Smith singing “Friends;” except that we’re relatives not friends, and maybe without all the sappiness that critics think that song radiates.

Still the verse really applies,

Packing up the dreams God planted
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s granted
Means a chapter in your lives is through
But we’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem you’re gone
‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong.

I keep thinking how much their nightly time in the Bible and Christian books, and in prayer has benefited me. I’ll have to work twice as hard this fall to keep discipline.

A chapter in their lives is through; and sadly, in ours also.

By the way, I mentioned this last year without too much success, but for those of you who want to support a couple of summer missionaries, the camp where they work offers a summer assistance program that supplements their rather meager base salary. If you are in Canada, you get a tax receipt. Just email me using this blog’s contact page for more info.

March 3, 2011

The Accountant at the Christian Camping Seminar: An Original Story

The director of a large regional camp center had just returned from a large Christian Camping conference when he decided to host an all-day meeting for directors of smaller facilities who would never be able to attend such an event.     He gathered the names of about a dozen small places from around the state, found 14 people who were interested in coming and amazingly found a Tuesday that they could meet.

Some of them only ran day camps, and one of them had a parcel of land that only operated as a camp for only two weeks out of the summer.     He shared some things that had taken place at the conference but was careful not to be the big camp telling the small camps how to do things.    They watched a few video clips, ate lunch together, and gave a tour of his site to those who hadn’t seen it before.

Mostly, he led discussions.   Realizing that it was becoming a one-man show, he tried to get someone to come as a speaker to wrap up the thing before dinner.    Everybody he picked, including members of his own staff and board, were tied up that day, so he invited a guy from his church who was a good Bible teacher but honestly wouldn’t know the difference between a camping facility and a dairy farm.

At 4:00 PM, his friend arrived, coming straight from the office in the city still wearing a suit and tie.    Not a jacket and tie, but a suit that looked like he had just stepped off a New York subway into downtown Manhattan.     He stood and stared at the group of nine men and five women who were wearing mostly jeans and golf shirts.

If he didn’t feel out of place enough for that reason, he had also realized about half-way through the day that he’d left his Bible and his notes somewhere else.  However as he kept driving — and praying — a backup plan slowly began to take shape, so that when he was introduced, he knew the exact direction he wanted their time together to go.

“I don’t really know much about what you do;” he started, “but I want to ask you just three questions about your facilities.  The first question is, ‘Do you have hard water or soft water?'”

This took everyone by surprise, including the person who had invited him.    But it recovered quickly into a lively discussion on how all water is not the same, and how it affects everything from laundry to making coffee.

“The second question,” he continued,  “is, ‘Do you have hard soil or soft soil?”

This time around they knew the drill, and discussed not only the growth of plants and trees, but how soil type affects drainage during a storm, or putting up new buildings.

After another few minutes on that one, he put up his hand to calm the discussion and asked a third question.

“The final question,” he said, “is, ‘Do you have hard people or soft people?”

One person laughed out loud but mostly there was silence.

At this point he said, “You know, I got invited here because I teach the Bible at our church, but the truth is I’ve checked my car twice at lunchtime and my Bible and notes aren’t there, and I’m lost without them.

“But I really felt directed to talk about this.    In any organization there are people.    Some work behind the scenes and only interact with the other staff.    Some work on the frontlines and interact with the broader community.   But all of us need to be people who the Holy Spirit can work through and can be seen working through.    All of us need to lose the tough and rough edge and be people who have been softened, so that the higher purpose of what we do is evident to anyone who meets us.    All of us need to develop the ability to communicate the love of God to people, not over the course of several days or hours, but over the course of several seconds.    It needs to be something we wear on our faces.   There needs to be a difference.   The problem — and I expect it’s true in Christian camping as much or more as anywhere else — is that we’re so task driven and so physically stretched that we lose sight of being the people God wants us to be in encouraging others and being salt and light in the bigger world.   We miss an opportunity to show that what we sing or confess on Sunday morning is a real factor in our lives.   We appear to have it all together, when in fact, Christianity is meant to be a community of broken people.   We give the impression that the job at hand is more important than the people we’re doing it with.

“I guess that’s it;” he concluded.   He had driven for an hour out to the country to deliver less than 300 words of exhortation.

He decided the closing prayer would take the form of silence, with each person praying their own benediction on the time they had spent together.

So… here’s the question:  In your church, in your ministry organization, in your family, do you have hard people or soft people?

~PW, July 15, 2006

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