As I write it is September 1st. A new school year has begun with all the wonder of what God will do this year and the frantic preparations and pace as we invest ourselves into our friends for another year. Before it gets too crazy let’s do a “Selah” like that of the Psalms. Let’s pause, catch our breath and look back over a sacred summer filled with the wonders of God.
I know we all have amazing stories to share and I have heard some that take my breath away. I would like to share a couple with you as a means of offering thanks to God collectively.
I had the honor of being part of four different camp weeks this summer. I want to describe two of these experiences. The first was our camping experience with our YL Capernaum team in Kauai. YL Capernaum in Kauai is getting ready to celebrate their one-year anniversary on September 11th, so everything is new to this fabulous team of people led by Ana Nunoz.
We had a truly holy week with 17 friends, around 20 buddies, and a group of leaders. All of us whether kid, buddy, leader, or staff felt like we encountered Jesus in a profound way.
The moment that brought this into crystal clarity was the last night at a dessert with all of our participants, including their parents. A 21 year-old young man named Josh, who has cerebral palsy, spoke using his voice box from his wheelchair. He gave what I consider the most profound and elegant testimony of how emotionally painful his disability has been for him and his family. He then described how Capernaum is the first thing in his life to bring him hope and belief that his dreams could come true. He had us play a song that communicated what he felt.
As the song played, his parents arose from their seats and approached their son and wrapped him in their arms while weeping. Then slowly each kid that had been at day camp surrounded Josh, hugged, and held him throughout the song.
Have you ever felt like Moses encountering God in the burning bush? That is the only way I know how to describe the scene. As I watched in silent wonder, I couldn’t get over the feeling that each kid had responded to Josh in this way because he had become their voice; an articulate eloquent voice that stated clearly their struggles and beautifully their hope in Christ that they had received through Capernaum.
Glory to God!
The second experience was this past week at Oakbridge, near San Diego. Our amazing staff couple, John and Nancy Pantellas, serve in the Greater Los Angeles Region under my dear and Capernaum-loving friend Alan Smyth who is their Regional Director. They created and organized our first all YL Beyond Capernaum camp. One hundred and forty campers and leaders attended from California and Arizona. I had the privilege to speak.
What really stood out to me is our ability to go deeper with our friends and challenge them. Their response was dramatic. You could tangibly sense their hunger for Jesus and their response to Him. I have never experienced a YL Capernaum crowd listen as intently as they did, and no they were not asleep. It was a smashing success. We are going to do two four-day camps next summer and seek Pastors and church youth groups to be with us as a way of reaching our goal to more effectively move our friends towards the church.
Glory to God again!
Friends, I know this is only two stories among many. So I have this idea. I would love for each of you to send your most meaningful summer camp story and a picture with it. I would like to compile this into a small book we could use to share YL Capernaum with those around us who know little about our friends with disabilities and Capernaum. If you want to do this, just email it to me at your convenience.
There. We took a breath. We praised God! Now!
Into a new year of wonder!