Well hello everyone! Holy cow - my original goal of blogging once a week has been erased because these past 4 weeks have been CHAOTIC! I'll give you a quick recap before I begin describing to you what God has taught me in these past few weeks.
So... I made it through training! After a fun filled week in Loveland, we busily worked to finish up training at Lucile Erwin Middle School. We were kept busy with practicing program, learning how to cook camp meals, and perform other camp operations. The time was extremely sad when all of Summer Staff realized that saying goodbye to each other would be a very difficult task. It was so hard to believe that after spending two busy, fun, Christ-filled weeks with some of the most amazing people I had ever met that I would have to say goodbye to some of them until next year. The relationships founded upon hard-work, patience, and enthusiasm are some of the best friendships I could ever ask for. Summer Staff: y'all are awesome :)
But, as our time drew to a close... we were SO excited to head out to our locations! After the tears were shed on Sunday morning, we packed up the vans and headed off! Jane and I were blessed to travel with the lovely Kenosha girls for the majority of our caravan across the country. First stop was Omaha, Nebraska with not much else to do other than rest up for the rest of the drive! Then, we headed to Chicago where the experiences and memories are endless. After two fun days in the Windy City, we had to say our goodbyes as we drove off to our locations, only separated by the lake.
On Wednesday, we arrived in Grand Rapids! It was one of the most exciting things to finally meet our lodging facility contact and tour the church we would be staying at all summer. After a hectic couple of days of setting up the facility, visiting project sites, meeting with our local coordinator, and mentally preparing ourselves, we were ready to go! Despite the high stress levels of that first Sunday of camp, we were so blessed to be prayed for during church - it was just what we needed!
First week of camp - YAY! We welcomed 24 campers from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. All of the youth participants were between 12 and 14, most of them being participants of camps in the past. Our leaders were AWESOME as they constantly were lending an extra hand and keeping their kids in line... :) One of the most rewarding parts of the week was visiting sites and feeling like I was interrupting all of the hard work they had done. Both times I visited, the kids were working so hard that they didn't even want me to stop and take pictures. It was truly incredible seeing God's light pour through these youth as they eagerly served the people of Grand Rapids. From week 1, I learned that constantly being thankful for each moment is one of the many ways to glorify God. Of course I was nervous for the entire week being the "trial" run. But, I learned that God has a plan for every single moment and that his hand works through everything.
Week 2: Holy moley, 97 people! Campers from Alabama, Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa enjoyed a hot, humid but ultimately rewarding week here in Grand Rapids. The stress leading up to the week of camp was not as high as expected, despite having to find sleeping rooms to fit 97 people AND their stuff. Jane and I were both incredibly excited to have youth and leaders of all ages fill the halls with enthusiasm to serve. Of course with 97 people comes 97 problems. We were challenged in more ways than one. However, I am incredibly grateful for those challenges: they taught us lessons, made us stronger, grew our patience, and strengthened my love for the Lord. I realized just how blessed I was to work in a safe environment where I was supported by so many people even in the middle of a "crisis." The rewards of seeing the youth engage with their service projects and return with stories upon stories were immeasurable. One adult from Georgia would come back to the church every day feeling so appreciated but also so appreciative himself for having the opportunity to serve and meet the people of Grand Rapids. His enthusiasm and love for his youth group, crew, project, and community was so inspiring.
My main lesson from week 2 focuses on the heart of a servant. While the problems we faced only made us stronger, there were many things that took a toll on my heart. A few times throughout the week, I would mention to Jane, "Why can't they just say a simple thank you?" It was tough. Only hearing, "Where's this?" or "Go get this" was tiring to my patience. Numerous times I would hear in my head, "That's what being a servant is all about." But, I would try to find excuses to rebuttal against that. I have now found that peace:
I have a special concern for you church leaders. I know what it's like to be a leader, in on Christ's sufferings as well as the coming glory. Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way... So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
-I Peter 5:1-8
Being a leader is tough. There can be large gaps of time where no change, impact, or respect is noted. But its not about that. Its about maintaining that spirit and compassion of service. Its putting forth so much all the time, with plentiful amounts of grace and love. Its not expecting anything or hoping for more. Its knowing that God gives leadership to those whom he will reward with overwhelming amounts of joy and love. Its a positive, enriching, unique cycle of which I am so happy to be in.