During our inital staff meeting we were each asked what brought us to camp. In my previous two years at camp, I had seen the Holy Spirit TRANSFORM kids right before my very eyes. It was like night and day; and I was addicted to the moving of the Holy Spirit. I replied, "I came to get my 'Fix'. I'm like a 'Spiritual Junkie' who can't get enough of the working of the Holy Spirit in changing people's lives." Maybe not the most "theological, hermeneutical" (to quote Bro. Jesse Duplantis ;D) answer, but it did describe why I was there. (If we can't be real as Christians, we may as well pack up our Bibles and go home!) I wanted to see God change these kids' lives!
Back to the kids. As with any Summer Camp, we had a wide assortment of children from many different backgrounds. Some were quiet and shy. Others were outgoing and making new friends immediately. As I met each one, my heart cried out for God to do whatever work needed to be done in that precious life. I've heard it said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. As I looked into the eyes of some of those kids, I saw a hunger. A need to know that God is real. A hunger to know that there is hope. A hunger to know that God really loves them, as an individual.
You see, we sing those great little kids' songs like " Jesus Loves the Little Children" and so forth, but there's a difference between singing the words of a song and knowing and experiencing the reality of those words. That's what Spirit Wind Children's Camp does for kids. It helps them to experience the love of God in a way that they may never have experineced before. Ministry on a kid's level is far different than ministry on an adult level.
I know, many of those kids were from good churches with good children's programs, but sometimes it's hard for a child to open up to an adult who has a relationship with his/her parent. There's a certain vulnerability...a fear that if something personal is shared...something that is happening in his/her family or a personal struggle...it might get back to the parent. (I know in my own family, there are things that my kids have confided in other adults with whom they were close that they would never share with me. And I'm so thankful for other Christian adults who have come alongside, mentored, and been there for my kids.)
Over the course of the week I saw "masks" removed. The Holy Spirit was drawing those kids to Himself. Of course, He uses people to orchestrate that drawing. The counselors spend 24/7 with those kids. A counselor has such an opportunity to sow into a child's life. And the counselors this year were great. I saw such a heart of love for the children. Even the two Junior Counselors, who were in their early- to mid-teens, had such servants' hearts towards them.
Then there was Pastor Ben. He was fantastic with the kids. Those of you who are Valley Word folks may know him from when he and Gary and Shannon Casola came to do VBS in 2004 and 2005. He has a true anointing to minster to kids on their level. I want to share just one of the many analogies that he used during ministry. It was so simple, yet so powerful. He was talking to the kids about knowing the voice of God. He presented this scenario:
Suppose there was a phone here, right now (without caller ID), and it rang. It's your mom calling, but you aren't expecting her call, and you don't know who's calling before answering. You pick up the phone, and the voice on the other end of the line simply says, 'Hello.' Would you probably know who it was by that one word? [Most of the kids said yes.] How would you know it was your mom? [Because we recognize our mom's voice.] Why do you recognize her voice? [Because we spend a lot of time with her. We live with her.] Well, then, how do you think that you might learn to recognize God's voice? We learn to recognize and know His voice by SPENDING TIME with Him. The more time we spend with Him...in prayer, in reading His Word, in Praising and Worshipping Him...the more we begin to recognize His voice when He speaks quietly to our hearts.Jesus talked about how sheep know the shepherd's voice, and then He said in, John 10:27 (KJV), "27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" Pastor Ben's analogy was a simple example to bring it into modern terms, but so effective with the kids (and the adults, I might add.) That's just one small part of the many teachings that were shared that week.
There was a young boy there who admitted to not wanting to be there at first. When he came he had the "I'm tough. I can take care of myself, and I don't need NOBODY!" attitude. By Thursday night his tough shell had been penetrated. He was crying and broken before the Lord during the time of ministry. He didn't seem to care that all the other 10 and 11-year old boys were seeing him like that. Of course, they were also in a similiar state.
Brokenness before the Lord was being evidenced every where you looked that night. Strongholds of pain, fear, rejection, and abuse (in some cases) were pulled down and destroyed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I knelt down between two young girls for almost thirty minutes and just hugged them as they sobbed before the Lord. The presence of God was so heavy in that place that it was almost like a thick cloud. Afterwards, you could see the change in the kids' faces. But it was most evident in their eyes. The pain and sadness that I'd seen earlier was gone. There was a peace in its place. God is Awesome!
[Well, I'll finish up in Part 3. This post has taken a different turn than I'd originally intended, but I prayed that the Holy Spirit would speak through my fingers on the keyboard, so I have to trust He has spoken through me. ]