Our Campus Pastor always starts his sermons by saying, “My friend used to say you need seven meaningful touches a day.” I used to dread hearing this because I didn’t think it applied to me. I didn’t think I needed “meaningful touches”. I just couldn’t admit that this was something I really did need because, honestly, it made me feel weak. I think this is something we all do too often. We have an overwhelming need to not need. We don’t want help, we’ve got this on our own. This is something I used to strictly live by. Well let me tell you, I was wrong. I can’t do this life on my own. That realization hit me hard as I attempted to journey through this summer without accepting help or love or meaningful touches. I thought I was strong enough on my own-I don’t need a break or sleep. I can make it through this crazy camp thing no problem. False. I need help. I need a break. I need sleep. And that does not make me weak. That makes me human.
The camp life schedule is not an easy guide to follow for a whole summer. You’re up late, you’re up early, you don’t get naps and barely get time alone. Our weekends consist of hours upon hours in a van trying to get to our next camp on time and attempting to choose a place to eat in a less than 15 minute conversation (a feat we’ve only accomplished once). We all knew this when we committed to the team and we were ready. We went through training and team building and plenty of prep. But we quickly realized that exhaustion is a much stronger force than we originally thought. Thankfully, our Associate Campus Pastor, Haley, knew this from the start and added a week of sabbath to our itinerary this summer.
Our team was blessed to spend a week at a lake house in Minnesota. A week with no schedules, no expectations, and tons of space for rest (I may or may not have slept for about 14 hours straight). On our first day, Matty and I were floating out on the lake, relaxing and locking in some very uneven tan lines. During our float time, I started to feel a little guilty. Why were we spending this week being selfish and not at another camp spreading God’s word? I quickly came to realize that not only are we severely in need of physical rest, we’re in need of spiritual rest. Now, I don’t mean spiritual rest as taking a break from our ministry, I mean that we need to focus on our hearts and souls so that we can continue our ministry with as much strength and passion as possible.
As a camp counselor, you encounter some heavy stuff. You meet campers from all over, each with a different past and story. A huge part of our ministry is pouring all we have into these broken and hurting campers, hoping that God gives us the right words to say. That outpour looks different every time. I’ve sat with campers and held them as they broke down and cried. I’ve shared my journey of faith in hopes that they find some shred of inspiration in my words. I’ve stood at the edge of a lake for hours throwing rocks and praying that each throw somehow lessens the anger and pain in my camper’s broken heart. And I know my teammates have poured themselves out the same.
The hardest part of camp ministry for me is when I try to take on and carry the pain of campers in my own heart. Trying to understand why these kids have had to go through these terrible times is angering and exhausting. This is why rest is so important. God calls us to rest. To renew. To refocus on him. The team always says that you can’t give what you don’t have. And we were all running a little low. So we spent those six days of sabbath pouring into one another. Sharing stories of praise and laughter. Sharing sad and angry tears followed by lots of prayers for past and future campers. We called out for help, not only to one another but to God. We called out for comfort, clarity, and strength. We used this time of sabbath to put it all on the table. Our stress, fear, anger, sadness, and confusion. As well as our triumphs, praises, and incredible sightings of Christ in our campers. We abandoned our fears of appearing weak, our fears of vulnerability, and accepted the help, love, and all of the meaningful touches. Most importantly, we rested and fiercely loved and encouraged one another. And it was so good.
It made me realize how much amazing and miraculous work God is doing through us, that our labor is not in vain, and that I am overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to serve with this team.