I love my job.

I can’t say I’d go as far as I love camp, but this past weekend was certainly a fantastic experience for me. When I read over the job description before officially applying for this job, the planning and running of various camps annually was the biggest concern for me. I was up front about that in the interview because I obviously can’t run a camp the same way an able bodied person can. I also have some complex emotional wounds related to my high school youth group camp experiences. Okay, it’s actually not a long story: I quit attending youth group at the church I grew up in because the first camp I went on as a 9th grader, I spent the whole weekend in constant threat of anaphylactic shock despite having met with the youth pastor in advance to confirm that I would be able to eat safely during the weekend at a camp site a few hours away from the closest medical facility. Through several conversations with family, friends, and my counsellor leading up to this junior camp, I was actually prepared for a positive, redeeming experience of camp.

My mom was the one who pointed out that I loved my high school retreats, and really, that was a youth camp just run by my teachers and attended by classmates instead of people from the same church. I obviously didn’t have the wheelchair at those though, so I still was unsure how camp would look and feel for me as a leader with limited mobility.

Thanks to an incredible team, I can tell you that I’ll be able to grow and thrive in this area of my job. Matt was still on this camp to teach me what I need to do and look for, but I feel confident I can plan ahead for the physical needs and make camp awesome for everyone with the help of awesome leaders. Right off the bat, I had a chance to see the quick thinking needed and the selfless servant hearts of the volunteers on my team. Weeks ago, I’d booked a bus to transport the bulk of the young people and leaders, and I’d last minute booked a second bus to take the young people not going on camp to a bonfire at a church member’s house outside of town. I never got the confirmation for the second bus and was a little worried about it, but was more focused on other details of camp to give another ring to the bus company. Both busses were booked to leave church at 6.30pm, and at 6.32 I had to call the first bus company because the one to take us to camp hadn’t arrived. The confused woman on the other end of the line told me she didn’t see our booking and asked to call me back when I gave her our invoice and confirmation number. We sent off the seniors and scrambled to count seats in leader vehicles. By the time she called me back to say a bus could be there in half an hour, we’d already sorted out seats for every person to leave and would be on the road within twenty minutes.

Eight vehicles and two hours later, we spilled out into camp. Matt made some minor adjustments to our evening agenda and squeezed his night talk into breakfast the next morning. Junior camp at RCC has a fantastic kid/leader ratio which also means I’ve got a lot of people to ask for help when anything comes up that I can’t physically do. We also have incredibly helpful young people, and I was never at a loss to find someone who could carry my stuff to or from my cabin or load my wheelchair in or out of cars or help push me across a damp field.

Camp will never be my favourite part of my job, but everyone knows talking to teenagers about theology is my favourite thing to do – and that kinda happens at camp. In fact, by the grace of God, I had this beautiful moment on Saturday night as the sun went down and we had about 20 minutes of free time before gathering everyone up to say goodnight and go to bed. I happened to see two young people sitting at a picnic table with their Bibles open. At a picnic table with their Bibles open. I immediately went over and asked if I could join them reading the Bible; they kindly welcomed me.

“What should we read?” one of them asked.

“I think Ezekiel has some cool stuff,” the other suggested.

“There’s a crazy wild description of angels in Ezekiel chapter one when God shows up to talk to Ezekiel,” I added.

They both flipped to the table of contents to scan for Ezekiel and opened up to the start of the book. We took turns reading a verse or paragraph at a time, and I lit up as they told me about the things they saw about God’s character described through the weird looking spiritual beings showing up on the banks of the Kebar during the exile. As we wrapped up, I told them how much it meant to me that they let me read the Bible with them at a picnic table in New Zealand. Then they asked me to pray for them. Soon after that, I had a leader ask me to problem solve some transport issue, and once that was sorted, he shared some life and work opportunities before him and gave me a chance to pray for him.

Guys, I love my job.

I have been so richly blessed to have had so many picnic table conversations about the Bible in Germany, and it’s a privilege to be invited to pray for the young people in my life. What an absolute gift to have that same honour and joy in this new role in a new country.

I’m still only halfway through the “transition period” experts expect expats to have when shifting cultures. One of the things I had on the forefront of my mind was moving into a primarily monocultural setting where people take time to get to know you unlike TCKs who go deep fast relationally. One of the greatest unexpected blessings is people welcoming me into life on life relationships after only knowing me for three months. One of the leaders told me he’d asked his small group guy on Sunday morning what a camp highlight was for him, and the kid’s response was reading the Bible with me and his friend. It’s not hard to guess that that was my highlight too.

My life and work would be a lot easier without the wheelchair, but I still don’t think camp would be my work highlight if I had full mobility. It’ll always be the “picnic table moments” wherever they might be located – and I won’t complain if they happen to be at camp.

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