Monday, September 8, 2014

Jesus Saves: A Summer Camp Tale

By Julie Gernand

Oh, how I love waking up on summer mornings.
I love feeling a soft, warm breeze coming in through the window, with the promise that hotter sunshine will arrive later in the day. I love to walk outside later in the evening, the sun still hanging above the horizon. The end of summer is so bittersweet. Perhaps this one in particular.
As I woke up this morning, I laid there reflecting upon the past few months. This summer was one of great adventure for me. God challenged me in many new ways this summer in roles of leadership. Me. Simple, silly, sinful me.
Taking the lead in discussions about Jesus Christ has always been something far outside my comfort zone. I did it when I felt I “had to” in the past, but I usually put too much pressure on myself to say just the right thing, or to suddenly find the perfect passage to discuss. I would leave small groups or Bible studies thinking, “So-and-so had much better things to say than I did” or “They must think I have so little faith, never being able to speak up well enough in our group.”
I made opportunities to learn about Jesus into a time of selfish striving.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21).
How wonderful is this verse from Ephesians, for God is capable of doing things through us we never thought imaginable.
For one week this past summer, I had the opportunity to serve as a middle-school overnight camp counselor for the Christian children’s theater company for which I teach. Not only did we spend a week at a local college singing, dancing, and acting, but we also spent much our time worshiping and learning more about our Creator. 
Most of the sixth through eighth graders at our camp came from Christian upbringings, but many had never really heard the Gospel message before. During my reminder phone calls to camp parents the week before camp, one parent made sure to let me know that her daughter (let’s call her Carrie) “didn’t do church stuff and home” and that she “doesn’t have a Bible.” She wanted to let me know that their family was a ‘spiritual’one, but not one of the Christian faith. She was coming to camp with a good friend of hers.
Interesting, I thought.
I made sure to keep a special eye on Carrie throughout the week.
Carrie was in my group for daily devotional time. In a discussion setting, we talked about what it meant to try to understand how big God is, and what it meant be His unique, beautiful creation. We talked about having strong Christian friendships, and about being Christlike with our actions. Though it made me nervous to be in charge of such important topics, I tried my best to answer the campers’ questions, praying my way through, with my Bible close at hand. 
On our final night at camp, the Gospel message was presented to the group. Near the end of the evening, the camp director gave the children the opportunity to find a counselor and talk further with them about what they had heard, if they chose to.
There she was, grinning from ear to ear, jogging toward me.
“Ms. Julie! I get it! I get it! I really understand now! Jesus is so wonderful, I can’t believe it! Thank you for helping me to understand!”
I was filled with such joy! This young seventh grader who came from a home where Jesus hadn’t been spoken of really understood the saving message of Jesus Christ! I wrapped my arms around Carrie and prayed with her. Together, we thanked Jesus for transforming our lives. The next day, we had another chance to speak with the campers about next steps in faith: reading the Bible, getting plugged into a church, and finding solid Christian community. Carrie was stoked.
Though I live far from Carrie, I continue to pray for her. I pray that she finds a genuine relationship with her Father, and that she lives out her life for Him alone.
I am honored and humbled that Jesus would use instruments like myself and the other crazy “theater-kid” counselors to reach these young people. I now know more than ever that nothing can happen apart from our Father, and that our words alone are useless without His divine help and guidance. 
It seems to be God’s way to use the weak and the sinful for much greater things! My striving over trying to find the perfect things to say was left behind this summer, and I learned more about the truth-filled phrase, “Let go and let God.”
Jesus, Use us. Make us your instruments. Give us words. Give us actions. Guide us so that through us, more seeds will be planted in the garden of your Kingdom. Humble us, Lord. 
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever felt pressure or a lack of self-confidence in a Christian-gathering setting? What did Jesus show you through that experience?

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