On July 2nd, bright and early the girls left for a short stay at Campfire! They participated in the Sprouts week, which is a three day, two night stay. I was glad that they were able to get a ride up to camp with Joyce (James' nurse who was a nurses assistant for check-in) and so they had someone they knew with them when they arrived.
From looking at the pictures and hearing the girls stories I think it’s safe to say that they had an enjoyable time. I decided to pick them up myself on Friday so that I could see the actual camp since I had never been before. I had a chance to watch the closing ceremony and look around the camp and I took two very tired girls home.
The girls with their cabin pack
Marietta was excited to find someone from her class there - Annelies
Rebecca receiving her certificate at the Closing Ceremony
Walking up to the cabins, with the main lodge in the background.
Some of you have already expressed your surprise that we sent the girls to Campfire! as we have been questioners of this program more so than supporters. Evangelism has been a big topic recently in the area, with various speeches discussing our roll in evangelism. This is always a difficult topic as we so often have different views on how this should be done. I, for one, struggle greatly with this. How do we get the Word out there without watering it done or worse, distorting it? How do we actively demonstrate our love for God and so win our neighbours for Christ??
This may be an untrue statement, but growing up in the country I think I noticed that as country folks we would live strongly on the “we live in the world but are not of the world” and how we should not mix with the children of unbelievers. We’re friendly to our neighbours but we live our separate lives and don’t bother each other. Then I moved to the city and it took me time to realize that I could no longer live on this concept. When the neighbour kid knocks on my door I can’t turn her away because I don’t want my kids to be “of the world”. Am I or my children any better then my neighbour?? It is only by the grace of God that we have been chosen. We so often hear that we can show our neighbour by how we live and that is good enough. Is it really? Many people have good morals. We have neighbours that demonstrate good morals but they do not go to church. Yes, my neighbours see and know that we go to church, but have I spoken to them about our love for God? Have I tried to explain to them why we desire to go to church not once, but twice each Sunday? I’m afraid I’ve failed greatly in that area.
These issues never much bothered me enough to think further on what I should be doing until these past couple years with James. There we countless times where the opportunity arose to speak about God and how he functions in our lives. But being raised Canadian Reformed we just don’t know how to openly pour out our love, our feelings, and our joy over having such a wonderful God and Father (okay that might be a general statement, but not completely false) … and I failed so many times. I failed miserably as I’m not an open and talkative person when it comes to speaking to people I do not know and all the proper things to say would come pouring into my head after the person has left, and when they came again I still don’t say them. And I can look back and say “but they knew”, for they did. It seemed that everyone picked up that there was something different about us. I remember having great conversations with several nurses in the ICU who picked out immediately that we were Christian (our mannerism or the Bible at the end of the bed?), but I was ashamed at how she had so many text memorize that could just pour out of her mouth and how she could speak so freely. I remember after that most awful night of battling with nurses standing out in the hallway during rounds and the mom from the child next to us asked how James was doing. I just starting crying for it was becoming apparent he was not going to make it. She had great words of wisdom and asked to pray with/for us. She spoke so openly and freely (although I don’t agree with all she said for they are things that cannot really be said to a complete stranger when you have no idea what they believe, even if you are trying to offer comfort). Why can I not do that???
And so this ongoing struggle of how to properly evangelize continues in my mind. If there’s one thing I hope my children are able to learn as they grow up is how to speak more openly and freely about how the Lord works in their lives. When it comes to Campfire! I no longer have an issue of mixing my children with those who are not of the covenant for I feel that they need to be exposed, under supervision, to learn about what is “out there” and how to speak up about what they believe and why. At their age they may not really see this yet, but these things take time. The kids learn in school how to talk about God, but Campfire! approaches this from a different manner again, a less formal setting, giving them a chance to speak more freely I suppose.
I struggle with the fact that I don’t necessarily know what the girls are being taught when they are there, for I see Campfire! as a “home and school” situation. We need to build on what they learn there, just as it should be an extension of what they learned here. But when the kids come home I don’t get to hear about what they learn, I get to hear about the fun games and stuff they did. I think the biggest struggle we see in this situation is the fact that these children, covenant and non-covenant children, are being taught, lead and guided by mostly inexperienced young individuals who have a great love for God, but may not have been properly trained and taught how to teach this to others. As individuals we have a responsibilty to our neighbours and those around us, but as an organization qualified training and guidance is needed, which can not be done in a weekend (think of the amount of school our ministers, missionaries and misson aid workers must go through before they can do this). The covenant is often forgotten and the love of God is instead impressed upon all and everyone … so like the evangelical churches around us. They mean so well, but do they realize how much their words are impressed upon these children. A remark at the closing ceremony brought this concern close to heart again when the individual closed off by saying good-bye and stating that if he did not see them again in this life he would see them in heaven. I’m afraid these are remarks that cannot be made on their own in such a manner. They sound wonderful for we would all love to go to heaven, but even being covenant children does not guarantee us a place in heaven, and if there were children there that are not from the covenant … what about them?? Such a statement cannot be said on it’s own but has to be reinforced with what is required to get to heaven. With this left unqualified, a child is only going to remember that he’s going to see this leader again in heaven. And that leads me to wonder … what else did my children hear those few days?? Is it any worse then what they might hear closer to home? Does that make it okay? When kids get something stuck in their head (and adults too sometimes :) it’s mighty hard to get them to understand that they may not have been taught right, or the full truth, etc. (It comes already with school when you hear but Mrs/Mr. So-and-So said … so therefore it’s fact)
As I said, the girls enjoyed themselves and I continue to struggle with how we can properly evangelize. We need to simplify things in order for our children and outsiders to understand, but we can never water-down the Word or give false information. Where is the line between simplifying and watering-down? And the entire fact of watering the seed after it is planted is also an issue when it comes to evangelizing tools such as VBS or Campfire! If we were presented with the opportunity to send our kids again, would we? … I’m undecided at this point. There is much good to be said about the organization, but there are still things that I continue to struggle with. Nothing is ever cut and dry in this life!