It’s always rewarding to encounter young adults who spent time in our ministry as children and youth. I see many encouraging examples of young people who have gone on to lead fruitful and self-affirming lives; and most of them, like many of us, are simply lives still in progress. To be honest, for me, I get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment if I encounter a young man who is still alive, not in jail or on drugs; and possesses the education and experience to forge a meaningful life for himself. When I see that I feel a sense of fulfillment. But this is often not the case. I love hearing the stories of victory and faith, but love requires me to hear the stories of loss, despair and regret.
Recently I stumbled onto one of our young people from years ago, who was dearly loved yet deeply troubled and spent a lot of time with us. He’s a grown man now and we hadn’t heard from him in awhile. We didn’t know if he was dead, in jail or what. When I saw him I began running through my list of assessments in my mind:
Well he’s obviously alive and he’s not in jail so that’s good. How does he look? He looks ok… doesn’t look like he’s living on the streets, but why is he here in the middle of the day when most adults are working? Hmmm… He’s happy to see me so that’s good. Not embarrassed or anything like he would be if he were up to no good.
We began to talk and catch up with each other. I find out that he’s in between jobs and has a girlfriend but no kids (always a good sign). We continue talking and, like always, here comes the usual question: “Hey Chris, do you still take kids to camp?” What follows are fond recollections of fun times and shared experiences and lessons learned… truly a spiritual reunion. “Man I wish I could go to camp again, remember that time when…?” It’s amazing to see their faces light up as they relive what for many of them has been the best moments of their life. A week where they can forget about the stress and dysfunction of their daily existence and just be a kid and have fun. And this gives me the opportunity to ask questions and get at some of the deeper issues about their lives now, as I put my own spin on the memory lane stroll. “Remember that time when you were in trouble and God helped you? How are things going for you now? Remember that time when you swore off running the streets? How are you living now? Remember God? Remember Christ and how he loves you? He’s still with you, you know.” And after our conversation he moved on, encouraged by the memories, and reminded of who he is in Christ.
Summer camp has been a transforming experience for so many young people in our ministry, people for whom it has been the best part of their youth. It’s that time again when we are taking kids to camp to take part in experiences which will impact them for the rest of their lives. We do two camps for elementary to high school age youth: Kids Across America, a sports camp in Missouri, and our own Manhood Camp, both targeting young black boys in the city. We are hoping to take 30 youth to camp this summer at a cost of $300 each. Can you make a special contribution to support our ministry this summer to help kids go to camp? Any amount helps. Cause everyone needs a “remember that time” experience by which they may be rejuvenated, and reminded of who they are when times are tough.