“The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61–62, NRSV).
Despite his amazing passion, Peter was not enough.
In 2010, Pastor Tony invited me to go to summer camp as counselor for a group of fourth and fifth grades boys. This involved spending vacation and about a week away from my family. I had never gone to church camp growing up. The whole concept was pretty foreign to me, but I was on fire for Jesus, and so I said yes.
By the time camp rolled around, I was ready—a fairly new Christian (uncontrollably passionate), steeped in the bible, with a fantastic prayer life, compelling vision, spiritual gift for teaching, and years of experience coaching youth club sports. I went to camp to make a difference! Lives were going to be changed forever: meaningful small group time, kids enraptured in worship, tears, conversions, the birth of powerful and loving mentoring relationships, deep theological conversations with other counselors – the whole ball of wax. Yes! I could see it. I could feel it in my heart. Through me, Christ was going to have a HUGE impact on many young lives.
Then, I got on the bus.
That, of course, was just the beginning. Camp is clearly designed for young people, not fat middle-aged men. We moved constantly all day long. We walked from activity to activity (rock climbing, zip-line, the Screamer Swing, swimming, archery, paint ball, hiking), danced during worship twice a day, participated in color wars on the field and in the pool, and even stood up on our chairs periodically during meals to chant at the top of our lungs. All this according to a tight schedule, and with seven boys interested in going in seven different directions. We were late everywhere. My voice and patience were utterly shot by the end of the first day. On the second day, I was really looking forward to “Flat on your bunk” time after lunch. In theory, this meant quite time for the counselors.
During one of those hour long periods of concert volume level bedlam, after repeated pleas for order so that I could read my bible and re-charge, I lost it. I yelled at those kids and let them know exactly how selfish they were being for running around, being loud, and having fun. Pastor Tony bailed me out of there, and like Peter, I realized that I was not enough.
Do you know who was always enough, camp after camp ALL summer long? Summer staff. Day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute they loved. They smiled. They learned our names, listened to our stories, embraced our kids, supported our leaders, served our meals, made us laugh, and by the time we left, made us cry. Then they cleaned our mess (think for a moment about what 200 boys can do to their bathrooms) and put camp back into order for the next group of churches. They lived for us with heroic and consistent passion and sacrifice.
I go back every year. This summer made five. I always find myself emotionally and physically bankrupt right after lunch on day two. I have learned to lean into the Spirit when that happens. In fact, I have come to treasure that emptying and filling up as the annual centering point of my spiritual journey. I also do my best to get to know a few more Summer Staff each year. I ask them why they serve in hopes that I can learn something from their stories that will help me raise my daughter to live and serve like them. I pray that some of them may read this and understand that to be the deepest compliment I know how to give.
“For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). That is Summer Staff—all the way. They are enough. Praise God!