This is my first assignment. I visited Amy for a long weekend when she had an assignment at Windy Gap in 2004. We were still dating then, and I was just a visitor. This time I'm what is commonly referred to as a staff spouse. While this term is ostensibly gender neutral, I believe it is informally thought of as a female role. The first Monday of the assignment I attended the spouse's meeting; I was the only husband. Surprisingly, I left that meeting feeling more connected than before. Part of it was humbling: Seeing what Angel, a mother of three kids under the age of five, has to go through when moving to camp for a month helped me swallow my pride and move forward in my role. It gave me perspective and helped me realize that what I consider problems are really just lies that I need the Gospel to dispel. Since we don't have kids, I have more freedom in camp and also more time to get involved, which helps me feel like I'm a part of this mission.
Thankfully, Amy enrolled me in Real Life and the Broken Heart Skit when she came to Assigned Team training in the Spring. As this month approached, I became more unwilling to take my roles seriously, believing that Amy and the rest of her team conspired to take advantage of our non-parent status and hijack my free-time just so they could have a warm body in their little charade. However, watching the first set of campers leave last night, I was brought to tears. Getting handshakes and hugs from high school guys I didn't even know was a moving experience.
Real Life is a unique way that we as adults share our story with campers. It takes place in three installments. We pretend to be the way we were in high school by pre-recording thought tapes of how we would process a week at camp. The first is our thoughts before leaving, followed by our response to the sin talk, and finally how we would spend our fifteen minutes talking to God. After this we then share a two-three minute version of our story. I, of course, was type-cast the party-guy, stoner, druggie, which was true of me in high school; however, thankfully I was able to give them the full story through my testimony.
I have to admit that I didn't expect much out of this. I knew that they wanted me up there because I have a colorful past and they need to have some variety. I didn't expect what I got out of it. First of all, I have told this my story to peers and members of authority before. However, every-time I have told it before I have been the one to do the work of distancing me from my past. This time was radically different. As I told my story to about 450 campers and leaders, I didn't feel chained to it at all. I think it was the first time in my life when I felt the victory of Jesus in this realm--He was doing the work, has done the work, of distancing me from the past. That alone is worth me inconveniencing my self by taking part of this, but it went further. I got to see kids, tough high school kids, in tears as they took a risk to come talk to me after the final Real Life. I don't deserve to experience this from another person. I don't have what it takes to care for another broken human being, but God chose me to be up there connecting with kids by sharing my past. I was trying to communicate these feelings to Amy, and I said something about not understanding why me sharing the darkest part of my past pushed kids from all walks of life to want to thank me, hug me, and just talk to me. It was the most unreal, counter-intuitive experience.
Today is Sunday, and everyone with a job is getting camp ready to do it again. I don't know if I can do it again. I don't want to cheapen the experience of the first week...I don't want the names of the kids that shared tears with me to be forgotten...I don't want this to be a formula.