A while ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a child about summer camp. Christian camping ranks high in the National Survey on Youth and Religion (NSYR) for what has helped children and youth grow most in faith. So I always ask, always try to ask, when I the opportunity arises. This day I did. “Have you ever been to a church camp?”, I asked. “What is that?” Well, there is one our area, up on the shores of a lake. You go, there is wall climbing, football, soccer, you sleep in cabins and eat along big, wide tables, you swim in the lake, which is like the ocean – by this time I had their attention – and at the end of the day, you to the chapel, sing songs, pray, and have a worship service.
By the end of this paragraph, the child, usually chatty, was speechless. They lived in an apartment building in our city. Had never been to camp. Had seen a lot of things – mostly in cities – but hadn’t spent a week by the lake with other kids, growing in community and faith.
When I had finished, like children do, and like adults learn not to do, they were direct, inhibited and honest. They looked me straight in they eyes without a blink, and asked, “Can I go there?” They emphasized the I. And the there. Like there was this gap between their life, and a week of Christian camping by the lake. Like there was a gulf, unreachable. Like it was beyond their grasp. Not possible.
What a joy, believe me, what a joy, that I could answer that day: “Well, there are lots of generous people at our church, lots of them, and we have camperships available if you’d like to go.”
Without so much as a second of hesitation, they took up the generousity of the fine Christian people at my church. They exclaimed, like a hockey player scoring a game wining goal; like a University basketball player scoring at the buzzer; like a young child, picturing something hopeful, exciting, faith-filled in the world in front of them. They shouted, and I mean, shouted, “Yes!”
I don’t know what will become of this kid. Where they will end up. I believe they are going to go far. Very far. But it is nothing short of a gift to be able to offer, in the name of a Saviour who has a church in a city, goodness and hope in the first few years of their life. I have a feeling this kid is going to make to it camp, and far beyond.