First up, some disclaimers: I have had all of 4 1/2 hours of sleep in the past 39 hours so there is no telling where this is going. Also, I have decided to forego polishing on this one. I took the challenge from Jason Gray's approach to writing his song "Without Running Away" where he wrote "in a single sitting, allowing what will come to come without overanalyzing it."
I've been to a few parties for children over the years. I had a couple myself. Usually about 15-20 children have shown up. Fun times. Well, folks, Saturday Night @ Camp (SN@C) has become an all out uber-party. For one night a month, we invite kids K-12th grade to spend an evening at New Life Camp. We play games, watch movies, eat supper together, and best of all, share lessons in God's Word. When we held our first activity in September, we have over 100 students. This past Saturday for our second event, we had between 240-250 students. If I may borrow from TobyMac - Love was in the house, and the house was packed.
Having the potential for a larger group, I worked a little harder to get staff and get things done early. Still, I spent most of my Friday and Saturday gearing up. A lot of rooms needed to be rearranged, a lot of food needed to be ordered and picked up, and a lot of organization needed to be put together for the staff. Honestly, I didn't feel stressed. I felt overly excited, like I actually was getting ready for a big party for these invited guests.
Turns out I should have stressed a little bit more. Check-in started and the line jammed up quickly. How could I have missed that one? I've seen it before - I should have had the staff in place to get them through quickly. Problems started popping up. Some students were being dropped off instead of checked in properly. We ran out of blank forms. Finally managed to get some extra help and get everyone through.
The biggest help we got was several parents who volunteered to help with serving supper. They grilled hamburgers for the high school students and served Chickfila for the middle and elementary school students. It was so much food, and thankfully, there was plenty for all! The staff was working furiously to serve the students, clean up spills, and make sure everything was enjoyable. So grateful that this part of the program went well.
There was simply no slow down the entire evening. I ran from check-in to the dining hall to help prepare the nuggets and strips. I did any odd job that needed tending to during the meals - emptying garbage, taking children to the bathroom, removing talking privileges from the middle school because they would not follow one instruction - fun stuff like that. I hurried from there to Johnson Gym to help prepare water cups for the elementary kids' movie. With over 90 children, that was quite a bit of water.
But then, the bad discovery took place - I had not gotten the paperwork entered for rides out! Cameron and Trisha worked frantically to get it ready, but we started a little late. And when we started, some unknown people decided it would be a fun joke to get on our walkie channel and say some very impolite things as we were trying to get children to the appropriate cars. We ended 1/2 hour later than planned, and then we still had clean up to do. I finally got out of camp by 11:00.
I'm sure in the reading of this, you might think that it didn't go so great. On the contrary, I was so happy to have this event. It definitely needs sharpening, and I plan to examine each and every piece in the weeks to come to make the next event the most excellent party NLC has ever seen!
Before I close this out, there was one thing that happened early in the day as I was getting things prepared that nearly brought me to tears of joy. As I was driving to camp with some supplies, I decided to put my iPod on shuffle. It landed on Andrew Peterson's new live recording called Above These City Lights. And though I had heard this song so many times before, fireworks went off in my head. First, I shall share the lyrics from the master wordsmith:
If you'll step inside this great glass elevator
It'll take us up above these city lights
To where the planet curves away to the equator
I want to show you something fine
You can see the roads that we all traveled just to get here
A million minuscule decisions in a line
Why they brought us to this moment isn't clear
But that's alright - we got all night
Could it be that the many roads you took to get here
Were just for me to tell this story
And for you to hear this song
And your many hopes and your many fears
Were meant to bring you here all along
I decided to take that elevator up. What I saw was gorgeous. Over 200 children and 20 volunteers were coming from many different directions, lifestyles, backgrounds, and more. Some had been to camp before. Some were coming for the first time. But they were coming, drawn (whether they realized it or not) by the Holy Spirit's wooing. The song being sung was the beautiful music of God's love for children, great or small.
But Andrew's song ends with a twist:
How I love to watch you listen to the music
Cause you sing to me a music of your own
As I cast out all these lines
So afraid that I will find that I am alone
Could it be that the many roads I took to get here
Were just for you to tell that story
And for me to hear that song
And my many hopes and my many fears
Were meant to bring me here all along
Could it be that the story of Daniel's faith in the lion's den was for me to overhear to challenge my own rest and trust in God's sovereignty? Was I challenged by the passion my brother showed for deep study of God's word as he taught those things to the middle school students? As the high school students scattered across the camp looking for treasure, was I stirred to seek the treasure of God, hide it in my heart, and store it in heaven for all eternity?
SN@C is just one thing God is using in my life at New Life Camp this year to show me something - I need tremendous growth. Right now, I feel stretched more than I ever have before. And I don't think in this case that God is doing it just so I will know how to run these programs. He's preparing me for something - what that is, I don't know. But for now, I'm doing my best to delight in my love for Him more and more as He whittles off what is unfruitful. And if His love leads me to parties with 250 students, I relish the opportunity.