Tuesday, December 15, 2009

God Does His Own Work at a Youth Camp

The presumption might have been that youth camp would be easier now after all the years of running such camps. And what with all the detailed planning months in advance this time round

Overnighters fuelled by Chocodates
and the overnighters (fuelled by Chocodates from Dubai) for last minute stuff just before camp.

But the parable of the sower (Luke 8:9-15 via William Taylor's Midweek at St. Helen's city podcast) scoffs at such dangerous complacency. For Jesus warns us that wherever God's work is done and where the word is preached, Satan waits to snatch it away. So Christian gatherings - church or such youth camps are particularly vulnerable.

Even before being faced with the discouragement that is the natural consequence of the sinfulness of others and of self, the modus operandi should have been prayer. John 17 (via this past Sunday's sermon at The Crossing Church) shows us that Jesus' priority when faced with the conclusion of his mission on earth was prayerful dependence on God, even though he himself was part of the godhead. How could we mortal men then have foolishly assumed that by planning better or trying harder, we might have more success in the doing of God's work.

But God was gracious so that even in our stupid relative/reluctant prayerlessness, he gave growth to the repeat speakers in their handling of God's word, the repeat scampers in their understanding of him, lovely scampers and campers, health and safety (other than a few funny tummies and a scrapped elbow), and fun to be had by all. He also brought us Rory Shiner from St. Matthew's Unichurch in Perth, who provided much refreshment in his talks on the resurrection ("THE resurrection, not necessarily Jesus'").

We had a bumper crop of boys this year so it was great that the ideas God had given were mostly rough and tumble, and slightly gross.

Pingpong Air Hockey
We started off with pingpong air hockey and ended with a rather wet dinner table that needed a wipe-down with disinfectant. It would have been grosser if the i/c for the game had agreed to go along with my variation of having the competitors chew on a crumbly cookie before each game. Pingpong dodgeball after featured some terrible strategies (sticking together in a bunch) and some slightly sneaky ones (pretending to be the wallpaper).

Scoutball or Tag Rugby
That afternoon, there was ultimate frisbee Aerobie flying ring and then, when a flying ring had been stuck up a tree, scoutball (which the professional PE teacher explained was really tag rugby and yes, they did play that in school).

It was gloriously sunny on the first day, and then on the second, when there was blind water volleyball complete with a temperamental net that got rather bored and decided to wander off at some point, leading to an all-out waterbomb fight.

Whose Voice Are You Following?
While everyone was nice and wet, the flour game was introduced. It was meant to illustrate the importance of knowing which voice to listen to in the cacophony. Doing the really sloow commando crawl was probably the worst tactic evah.

The wide game, hastily put together to take into consideration the different proclivities of this year's campers, got everyone on a bit of a high so there were many incriminating photos of people doing rather strange things with the unofficial mascot, a rubber chicken with a loud squawk that I intended to use as a morning alarm (hereinafter known as "The Chicken"). There were very good imitation of animal noises, worrying You Jump I Jump scenes with The Chicken on the bumboat back from Pulau Ubin, and the horde arriving back at camp singing "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the top of their lungs. The Golden Chicken Awards after tummies had been stuffed with good barbie was a great way to round up the evening.

On the indoor games front, the usual camp favourites of Saboteur, Sleeping Queens and even Cranium fell by the wayside in favour of:

Blokus and Crepes
Blokus for the senior campers (scampers)

Apples to Apples
and Apples to Apples for all, to be blamed, no doubt, on the preponderance of ACS boys and other waffley types. ;-)

This is Spartaaa!
It was good fun making silly announcements at breakfast with loads of dressing up: there was a cute little leviathan, a surly pirate who kept giggling and a spartan dude who needed his six-pack drawn-on.

Morning Coffee on the Stove
With all that was going on at camp - the talks, the studies, book club, cooking, games, chatting, singing, playing musical instruments with varying degrees of competence, it was good (and in fact necessary) that we started each day (at coffee-fuelled 7.45am) with 2 Corinthians 4 and prayer to set and/or straighten up our priorities with God's help.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written,"I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4)
While the scaffolding (teacher-speak apparently) helps set the tone for camp, I pray that though now we strive with much sweat and tears, it will always be my prayer that in 5, 10, 20 years from now, the participants remember neither the fun they had nor the great brand name we've given the camps nor even the people who've told them the gospel but God whose glory we preach. For this ministry is his and sustained by him.

"May they forget the channel, seeing only him."

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