"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

6.12.2006

then your face will surely show it

I was supposed to be at youth camp this week.

It's just one of those things. The Youth Minister realized with one week's notice that he had too many sponsors and not enough kids and so when I got to London last week, there was an email waiting to say, "sorry, you can't go."

It happens. I understand. And, really, a week of youth camp is probably not the best thing to do when you're still culture-shocked and trying to catch up with everyone and everything. I'm so behind on so many things that matter when you're working with teenagers - movies, television, sleep. And I cried at the grocery store this weekend (there were too many choices in the salsa aisle). Not the best mindset for a week of no sleep/intense conversations/leading a group. So it's probably for the best.

But I'm sad to miss it. My phone keeps ringing with calls from kids. With the ones from my church, it's not a huge deal - I'll see them in the fall and will hear their stories and struggles and dramas and decisions just like always. But when it comes to the kids from the other churches in our camping association, that's different. Some of them you only get this one week to connect. At camp. It's the only chance to hear their stories, to hear about how their lives were this year, to hear what they're thinking about the year to come, where they're seeing God's call work itself out in very real ways in their lives.

Plus camp is just so much fun. It's the only time of year I drink coffee -- in a bizarre ritual known as "Slammers" which involves singing a silly "Swedish" song, then quickly pouring hot coffee over ice and seeing who can down it first. A kid talked me into trying it a few summers back, and it has become part of camp. As has the late night dance party our girls always stage on the hall, which usually has the effect of sponsors from other churches coming to inform us what our girls are doing. (We don't tell them the girls are using our stereo. Or that we ordered the pizza.) As are the only two rules you really need in youth ministry (1: No blood. 2: No fire. Or anything that could lead to either of the above.). As has cheering our guys on in the basketball tournament (this'll be the last year for AFNG to play, won't it?). As has the ritual of making t-shirts to wear on the bus home ("God Squad" is still the best.). As has the amusement of tracking down the couples who've gotten lost on their way back to the dorms after the dance (hint: the dorms are not in the direction of the baseball field.). As have the near-legendary practical jokes (duct tape and saran wrap, e.g.?). As has taking pictures and playing games and running around and hanging out and staying up late and talking to friends.

As has watching kids lead in worship and come to experience God in ways they'll carry with them for the rest of their lives. As is listening to our youth group share what's going on and groaning before answering the Youth Minister's always question ("Where have you seen God?"). As has taking communion on the last night of camp, served by students and their youth ministers. As has going to camp to serve the students and finding that you needed the week as much as they did. As have the incredible conversations you get to have with kids who are figuring out what they want to do, where they want to go, and, most importantly, what kind of person they want to be.

It's a gift to be a part of such a community. I'm missing it already.

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