We just returned home from a week at camp. My Love was the speaker for the group of ten to twelve year olds enjoying Adventure Camp; my df girl and I worked in the kitchen while my cl boy hung out with friends and helped out here and there.
Members of our family have worked at different camps in various capacities. It started with my older guys many years ago, and the rest of us kind of trickled in a little at a time. Volunteering at camp has been a tremendous growth experience for our kids–and for us.
Camp had a particularly positive impact on my techie boy. My mom calls him our gentle giant; at camp he’s known as Lyle the Kindly Viking (yes, as in VeggieTales). He is very agreeable by nature and always went along with his older brother at home and when they hung out with their friends. It often seemed he preferred to be in the shadows, rather than the forefront. When he was fourteen or fifteen, my techie boy went to work at one camp while his brother went to another. It was an amazing turning point in his life. There is no other way to explain it, but to say that he blossomed. He grew in confidence for sure, but more importantly in his faith, in his walk with God, in his ability to share this with others. He is our gentle giant still, but with a wonderful, fun-loving, outgoing and warm personality that shines for his Saviour. The icing on the cake would be that he met his future bride at camp!
In our kids’ camp years, they often brought home friends from out of town for the weekends. I loved having these teens (as well as our kids’ local friends, of course) around and it’s been a privilege to get to know them. I truly feel like they are an extension of our family, and I feel blessed when we get to visit with them as well as our kids when we go ‘home.’
I know some older ones would say that youth today are lacking in work ethics, feel entitled, think they know it all, have no respect for their elders, etcetera. While I am not denying that there may be some troubling trends amongst today’s young people, I would like to say that while we ‘older ones’ may have more life experience, we certainly do not corner the market on wisdom or exemplary, godly lives. In my experience, these teenagers and young adults I’ve met at camp and through my kids and church are, for the most part, hard workers, eager to please and to be helpful, kind, considerate, respectful and patient. They seem to sincerely enjoy making sure their campers have fun and hear the Good News. I do not envy the hard hours they put in at camp, whether they are programmers, leaders or counsellors, maintenance or kitchen staff, at overnight camps or day camps. It’s all necessary and they do it happily in service to God.
Paul said to Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12). Timothy would have been a relatively young man, yet Paul encourages him to be an example. He had been given authority as an apostle’s representative and a great responsibly in the church.
I have known many young people who are much better representatives of Christ than I am or may ever be. Many whose conduct exemplifies the love of Jesus in both word and deed. Youth that have a spirit filled with enthusiasm to serve and see the gospel go forth. Teens and young adults with faith to move mountains and a desire to be pure from the world that put me and their older counterparts to shame.
As I said, I feel privileged to know numerous wonderful young men and women including our own children. In fact, we very much appreciate the prayers of our children and will actually seek out their counsel. They often have a perspective that is fresh and unencumbered by perceived expectations and ingrained rules. They have also caused us to prayerfully reevaluate our position on certain issues.
For example, when our older boys were teenagers, they asked my husband why he disliked contemporary Christian music (we had taken a rather rigid position when it came to many things, including music). They posed the question in a gracious way, not confrontationally; and they asserted that whether or not they agreed with it, they would abide by his decision because he was their father. My husband was deeply affected by their deference. He began listening to some of the music the boys enjoyed and was unable to find fault; rather, he was inspired by it. My Love apologized to the boys, and even began taking the kids to concerts!
Remember…God is at work in the lives of all of His children, and He will use each of us, young and old, to encourage, edify and exhort one another and to fulfill His purposes. We are brothers and sisters in the Lord and there is ‘no partiality with Him’ (Ephesians 6:9).
Do not despise their youth…