Fifteen years of ending the summer in the same fashion and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Perhaps one the most anticipated and expected weeks of my life happens at the end of August. Before the chaos of school, I consistently have a chance to refresh my heart at Foursquare Kids and Youth Camp. Camp is a place where I come to sing my heart out in worship, face off in wild games and grow closer to Jesus; a break from the mundane. I started out as a camper at Kids Camp back in 2002 then moving onto Youth Camp in 2006. I began serving as a young leader in 2008 where I could lead at Kids Camp and then head back the next day to be led at Youth Camp. I have served in many different roles over the years as a now retired camper, perhaps my favorite being my role this year.
This year at Kids Camp Matt and I led a team of Leaders in Training. We did everything from scrubbing pots in the kitchen to plunging the nastiest of toilets. We cleaned it all. I went into my week of Kids Camp believing that I was going to be brutally tired and out of touch with the rest of the camp world. While I wasn’t apart of all the team games happening throughout the day, I was able to connect with young leaders from across the lower mainland, creating deep relationships and serving God together. Together as a team, we learned what it meant to be obedient servants of the Lord. These youth left me in tears (no surprise there) after watching their young hearts yearn to be children’s leaders. Perhaps the best example of their influence on the lives of these young kids was during one of our evening sessions. Each night we gathered as a camp community to join together in worship and listen to what God wanted to speak through our camp speaker. After the upbeat songs slowed their roll, one of our teen leaders raised his hands and closed his eyes in praise. A curious young boy in his cabin kept a close eye on his leader as he worshipped. It wasn’t long before this little guy raised his own hands in worship all while peeking back at his leader every few seconds to make sure he was worshipping “correctly”. Fortunately for us, this little camper made for a great lesson. We were able to communicate with our leaders just how influential they are and to be aware as to how their actions may affect the attitudes of those looking up to them. Matt and I couldn’t have been filled with more joy leaving our week at camp, but that was only the half way mark for me.
I came home on Saturday afternoon, threw in a quick load of laundry and turned right back around for Youth Camp on Sunday evening. I hadn’t quite caught up on all the sleep I needed but before I knew it I was right back in the boonies of Chilliwack. Now, I could go on and on about the competitive race for the trophy between my brother and I or I could talk about my giddy cabin of first-year campers but as for this post, I want to share what God revealed to me.
To comprehend what I’m talking about, let me take you back six years. I attended Youth Camp as a camper the week before my last year of high school. Over the course of those important five days, I felt God in new ways and was overcome with joy as he worked on my tattered heart. I left camp renewed in spirit and faith, as most do when they leave God filled events such as camp or a conference. I was excited to share with my family and friends back home what God had done in my life. I hadn’t even hit the front door on that Labour Day long weekend Friday when I was gut punched with the news of a friend’s suicide. This wasn’t just any high school friend, but one that I had spent years faithfully praying for. Someone I thought God wanted to work on. We didn’t spend any time together outside of school, but we had shared many conversations throughout our years of classes together. He was someone God placed on my heart for a good two years leading up to his death, someone who despite his unfortunate surroundings had so much potential. I prayed daily that God would heal his broken heart, I prayed for his family, his future. It just didn’t make sense. Why would he do this? Why would He do this? I had just spent a week of giving my all for Jesus, I returned home overcome with joy only to be faced with such a tragedy such as this.
Heading through the doors of my last first day of school was somber. Most of my grad class was confused and hurting. Though not all knew the boy, there was a dark cloud shadowing the faces of each senior that first day back. There was a lot of gossip, each person trying to make sense of what happened. There were a lot of tears, each person grieving in a different way. I still can’t quite understand why this had to happen but I do know that God turns our hurt and pain into something good.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I had the opportunity to love on those who were hurting in my school. There was even a couple that attended church with me for a season. I was purposeful in prayer and turned to God for hope each day over. I had meaningful, open conversations about heaven and was a listening ear for many. I stand firm in my belief that God prepared me at camp for what was to come upon my return. God knew I was going to need him, God knew my school was going to need him. I don’t discount the fruit that was born throughout that year but I do look back with regret. As most say after they lose someone close to them- I wish I had a hand in stopping this death. I wish I could have swallowed my fear sooner and spoken to him about God. I wish I would have been louder with my love of Jesus after my friend’s death. I lacked confidence and I lacked trust in God. All painful lessons that truly make me think differently about the urgency to share my faith. A lesson that stands as a reminder of those hard times to come. God can turn those painful times for his glory, I need to be a vessel for him in those moments.
Flash forward to this year. I had a ton of fun at camp. I felt confident in my faith and was excited for God to fill me up and send me out. It was the second day of camp where I began feeling rather anxious. I have had a history of anxiety but wasn’t too sure why I felt this way. The third night I laid awake in bed tossing and turning for what felt like hours. My chest felt tight, my limbs felt weak and I couldn’t catch a breath. I stirred and cried and stirred and cried. And in my distress, I felt a still voice say to me “Alex, do you trust me?”. Six years ago I lost a friend, being at camp was a set reminder that surely I am unaware of the circumstances I could be coming home to. I have to trust that no matter what I was to come home to, that God is a good God who is in control. My fears have no place and no power stronger than my Father. Disaster may hit or it may pass but my God is still good.
“The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” Psalms 145:9
Tomorrow begins a year of the unknown as I begin my French PDP program at SFU. I have many worries over this next stretch of long days and arduous work. I worry whether or not this is the place for me and I am having a hard time settling into the idea of teaching as a career choice. Not even two weeks ago God so quietly asked me, do I trust him? My answer: without a doubt. God has his loving hand over the painful disasters of this world, he also has his hand on my future. I am walking in faith that my Father knows my steps and that he will use me in whatever circumstance I am placed. My prayer is that God will take this new, worrisome adventure and use it for his glory. Though my mind floods with stress thinking about this next endeavor, I have a secret excitement bubbling inside for all the work my God will do over this next 365 days.
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” John 14:27