Even countries apart, it astounds me how God connects us in peculiar, yet pure Kingdom moments.
Several days ago I got a Facebook message from a friend that the Methodist camp staff in Missouri had been let go. To be completely sincere my initial reaction revolved around the fact I live in Haiti and while I was sad for the pain those I love are experiencing…there is not much I could do. I wasn’t even at camp this year, and due to work related mission trips, I hadn’t spent a whole week at camp in a couple of years.
Then, more and more things started popping up on my radar. More Facebook messages. More text messages from students that were heartbroken, and wanting to know what I thought. More photos assaulting my Facebook feed. More emails. Then last night as I saw a photo that got posted…I was reminded of camp in 2011.
Honestly, I didn’t want to be there. I was organizing the biggest relief effort the church I worked at had ever fielded. I was sending teams and leaders twice a week for what would be an entire year, and traveling myself at least once a month…on top of everything else I was already doing. The friendships gained over that time were countless and so incredibly special. However, while I was juggling mission responsibilities and student ministry responsibilities I was completely burning myself out…because I was giving myself to good, God honoring things and in my heart I did not have time to be at camp.
But God’s time table did place me at camp.
I was placed as a leader in a small group that would have a ripple effect on my life, and life outside US borders for years to come.
I shared about surrender one night. One of my co-leaders had shared from the perspective of marriage, and I felt led to share my perspective on surrender as someone who God has created and called to life beyond ‘social norms.’
Afterwards, one of the students followed me and said, ‘Can I talk to you about what you were sharing?’
I will never forget that night. I will never forget that conversation. I will certainly never forget the intense presence of the Holy Spirit over what was shared.
My friend shared that she felt called…to a strange place she had never been and couldn’t explain why she would feel called there. Those she had already shared it with had told her she was crazy, and it couldn’t possibly be a real thing. Callings like that didn’t come to people like her.
I was the first voice in her life to say she wasn’t crazy. She felt called to Africa, and I knew she wasn’t crazy because when I became a believer in college I had the same calling in my life. I had the same well-intentioned, or not, people tell me I was crazy, and even ‘You are a young, new Christian. All new Christians feel that and you will get over it soon.’
I knew what it felt like to be in her place. I knew what challenges lay ahead for her. During that evening I knew God had placed me in her life to encourage, love and pour into her with all of the gifts and experiences God had placed within me. It is called discipleship…and it started at camp.
We prayed her through years of obstacles, and she traveled to Haiti with me in 2013. It wasn’t Africa, not yet, but it will be. She came back to Haiti with the organization I work with in Haiti this summer. She has been ignited, and went home ready to change her major at her university. Now we are praying her through God’s plan for her. He is certainly the only one right now that knows where he will lead her.
I first felt the call to Africa in 1999, God didn’t send me to Liberia, West Africa until 10 years later. Now he has landed me in a place that if I arrived blindfolded, then had it taken off outside of the airport, I would ask ‘Why has Liberia started speaking French?’
Calling is real, and sometimes God speaks into it in the most beautiful ways.
I did not grow up in church. I never went to ‘church camp.’ My first experience with church camp was as a leader for our students as a student ministry director. Our church had many discussions on where we should take our students to camp each summer. This particular camp is not the slick and modern camp that many of our students were craving, and thought they wanted. The tradition of silly songs is awkward for me at times, but this is a place God preserved for transformation. It is a place students are challenged to leadership in planning, praying through and doing nightly services for their peers. It is a place where all are told they have talent and all talent is affirmed. It is a safe place to toss out your doubts, your disbelief and be challenged to be more for the Kingdom of God. It is a place that the Holy Spirit shows up in very significant ways.
God has used so many moments within the camp setting to heal, ignite and send out students to live a Kingdom life. Even in my short time with the leaders and students, I have a plethora of stories I could share.
Nothing within me naturally wanted to be a part of camp, but God revolved it around a deep community that I was absorbed into so easily and seamlessly. Kingdom community is sacred. It does not always revolve around place, nor should it, but sometimes places are sacred, too, not as an idol. Moses didn’t take his shoes off to idolize the ground, he took them off because he was on sacred ground.
This community is my brand of crazy, and they desperately want to preserve time and space for God to show up…in whatever way God has planned. But in God’s plan, not the human plan that revolves around human perspective and opinions. Five years ago, I never would have cared that a Methodist committee decided to close some camps, but God does usual things at times and I find myself wanting my friends to persevere in how they feel God is leading them. I find myself praying for the leadership, students, staff…that God would speak for all to hear and obey gracefully.
I have no revelation about where God is at work in this. What I do know is that his glory will shine through this and I desperately want the time preserved for young women who are from small churches to meet other crazy, Jesus loving, Kingdom living women so they can hear that they are not crazy and God’s calling is real.