Thursday, July 14, 2011

Turnaround

I wiped my sweaty brow with an even sweatier forearm, frowning at the futility of the action as I made eye contact with one of our Cabin Directors. It was the end of the week, and we were both feeling fatigued. He gave a slight smile and spoke over the combined noise of the gym fans and the noisy campers he was dutifully supervising.

This has got to be the biggest turnaround I’ve ever seen in a camper,” he said.

Suddenly he had my full attention. This Cabin Director was speaking from four years of experience, and I had to know to whom he was referring. He pointed out one of the campers playing basketball 20 feet away, and I shook my head is amazement.

The camper he indicated had been a handful of trouble all week long. On more that one occasion, the Cabin Director had brought him to my Assistant Director for discipline issues. Multiple times they’d had serious conversations about his behavior problems and the resulting consequences.

Sadly, there had been no improvement. I had wondered if the nightly chapel services were having any impact on him at all. But something had occurred on the last night of Camp. It wasn’t accompanied by any dramatic, outward display of emotion, but that camper had awoken Friday morning thoroughly changed.

“It’s like a complete 180 degree turn,” the Cabin Director said. “You’d never think this was the same kid.”

Now it was my turn to smile. We both knew that there’s only One who can turn a life around so dramatically. Only One can transform a teenager from the inside out. His name is Jesus, and there’s no doubt in my mind that this camper had a personal encounter with Him.

You played just as important a role in that encounter as any of our staff members. Through your prayers and support, you enable this ministry to continue to operate by faith, making encounters like this possible, not only for that campers, but also for many more just like him.



Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Butterfly Effect

Did you know that a butterfly could flap its wings and set molecules of air in motion which could have an ongoing affect on more and more air molecules, eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of the world? It’s called the Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions, and it is the basis for the tiny, but inspirational, book The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews. Andrews applies this principle to human interaction, illustrating how one person can make an impact on another person, thus setting into motion a course of events that can change the world. Reading this book caused me to reflect back on my own life, and God brought to mind a “butterfly wing” which eventually had a profound impact on my life.

I was seventeen years old, fresh out of high school, and working at a camp called Uplift Mountain for the summer. I was helping to lead a visiting youth group on a mountain hike. As we made our way, I was talking with two people: R.D. Saunders, who was the youth pastor of that group, and a young lady named Jen, who was also on staff at the camp. R.D. asked me about my plans for the future. I replied that I felt that God was leading me into ministry, but I felt unsure about any specific direction. R.D., being an experienced youth worker, detected that my relationship with Jen was not simply that of a co-worker. The truth is, Jen and I were barely at the hand-holding stage of our relationship. But R.D. then made a short, simple statement that would forever impact my life. He said, “Well, you and Jen ought to get married and go into camp ministry like Uplift Mountain.” At the time, I mostly felt surprise (and a little embarrassment) that R.D. could detect the nature of our relationship so easily. But that statement took root in my spirit, and, over the course of the next several months, grew into a vision and calling from God. Nineteen years later, Jen and I are married, and we’ve now been serving the Lord in full-time camp ministry for 14 years.

Last night I shared this story with my summer staff members. Their immediate response was, “Have you told this guy how he impacted your life?” When I told them that I have no idea where he is now, they challenged me to find him on Facebook. Two hours later, I found R.D. and sent him a message to let him know how he was the “butterfly effect” in my life so many years ago. His excited response, which came just an hour later, included this statement: “I do not remember being especially inspiring in that moment but I guess we never know what impact a few words may have.” And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We never know what an impression we can have on someone’s life with just a simple act or a short statement. And that impression can, in turn, have an impact on thousands (or millions) of others. Because God used R.D. to turn me in the direction of camp ministry, I’ve had the opportunity to minister to over 8,000 young people over the last 14 years. And who knows what kind of impact those 8,000 will, in turn, have on the people around them? R.D. went on to say, “I am challenged now from your message to be very careful so I can always have a positive effect.”

You, too, have a “butterfly effect” on the lives around you. It comes with every interaction you have with people. Part of that effect is in your giving. When you support the ministry of South Mountain Christian Camp, you are effecting change in the lives of thousands and, in turn, millions of people.