Storms, Shipwrecks, and Planks of Remembrance: Hopetown Highlights, 5th-6th Grade Camp

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“How many of you have fallen down before?  You understand, then.  We try so hard to do something right, and we still fall down.  Your parents encourage you and build you up, and you still fall flat on your face.  That’s the thing about trying to have confidence.  It just doesn’t work for very long.  The Bible says it like this:

We are just as capable of messing it up as they were.  Don’t be so naïve and self-confident.  You’re not exempt.  You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.  Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless.  Cultivate God-confidence. -1 Corinthians 10:12

In other words, we all mess up.  You try to have confidence, but you know that sometimes you don’t get it right.  Sometimes, as much as you try to make a friend, sometimes it just doesn’t work.  We just fall flat on our faces.  And what I want you to remember is that you can trust God and His promises, even when you fall.  You don’t have to worry so much about what other people think, because you can remember what God thinks of you.  It’s God-confidence.  We’ll call it God-fidence for short.”

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Our 5th-6th grade camp started off with these words.  Actually, it started off watching Swiss Family Robinson on the back of a barn, sitting on quilts under the stars.  And then, the next morning, each of our interns and leaders, stood up and inserted a camper’s name into one of God’s promises.

“Carter, God has it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” -Jeremiah 29:11

“Riley, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither heights nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-29

And so on, with 33 5th-6th grade campers.  We started off with God’s promises, and then moved quickly to our own shipwrecks.  We’ll catch back up with camp at that point.

“Falling flat on our faces reminds me of a story I heard recently about 3 of my friends who were on a really big sailboat.”  They were going from island to island with a little over 270 people.  The weather got really rough, and so they had to stay on one of the islands for a while.  Like a really long while.  3 months, to be exact, because of bad weather.  Then, finally, when it was time to go, they realized it was hurricane season.  One of the friends said, “It’s too dangerous.”  The guy who owned the boat said, “Let’s change boats to a sturdier boat and go to a safer place.”  At about that time, what’s called a Nor’easter came up—which is a REALLY big storm that seems like it comes out of nowhere.  They couldn’t see the sun or stars for 14 days.  And can you imagine what they did then?  They panicked.  And then they did a few other things.  You can read all about the things they did in Acts 27.  In fact, why don’t you read it now? (It’s way too long to put in a blog). 

In the midst of all of the things they were doing, there was one guy who said, “We’re gonna be okay.  The boat is going to fall apart, but we’re going to be okay.”  When the others asked him how he knew, he said that an angel of God told him.  He said, “Stay on the boat, and you’ll be okay.”  This guy had God-fidence.  His name was Paul.

We all respond to the storms in our lives in different ways, much like these people in the story (that’s really in the Bible in a book called Acts).  Here’s what the other people did.  You might want to see where you find yourself in your storms.

1) A group of them were SNEAKY.  They went over and pretended to let the anchors down, trying to help everyone.  But what they were really doing was letting the lifeboats down, because they thought they could ride to safety without anyone knowing.  It’s kind of like us.  When we are sneaky, we try to get our way and look good at the same time.  We act strong when we feel weak.  Can you think of a time you might have done that?

2) Another group had ME-FIDENCE, instead of God-fidence.  They wanted to jump ship and do it their own way, rather than what God had said about staying on the boat.  When we do this, we don’t trust God, and so we take matters into our own hands.  Can you think of a way you might do this in your life?

3) Then we had the FIXERS.  The fixers wanted to drop the anchors and pray for daylight.  They were busy trying to work to fix the problems, rather than trusting God.  We become FIXERS when we are afraid of what will happen to us if we don’t take care of everything ourselves.  Can you think of when you’re a fixer in your own life?

4) Then there were others who were JUDGMENTAL.  They noticed what the other people were doing, and went over and cut the ropes to the lifeboat themselves.  They were a little like tattle-tales.  They didn’t want the sneaky ones to get away with what they were doing.  They were trying hard to be good and do things right, but didn’t realize that they were doing something wrong in the process.  Have you ever acted this way?

5) Then, there was a group that was ANGRY.  They wanted to get rid of all of the prisoners on the boat.  They were protecting themselves, afraid they wouldn’t be taken care of.  They were mad at the situation they were in, but got mad at the people around them, instead.  Can you think of a time, you’ve responded to a storm in this way?

6) Others became AFRAID.  They were silent, and sort of tried to disappear.  They were afraid to stand out, and didn’t think anyone would listen or care about what they had to say.  And so they didn’t say a word.  Have you ever felt that kind of fear?

7) One group became STUCK.  They lost all hope.  They, basically, were frozen.  They didn’t know what to do, and so they felt like it was easier to do nothing.  You might have felt stuck like that at some point in your life…at school or with your friends?

8) Another group just kept on DENYING the situation.  They said, “Let’s put down the anchor and it will be smooth sailing!”  They didn’t want to think about the sad or hard things.  They tried to escape by pretending everything was good…when it really wasn’t.  You might have done this in your life before, when something was hard.

9) The last group was mostly just HUNGRY.  In fact, they were starving and worried they wouldn’t get any food if the storm didn’t pass.  You can feel hungry like this, for a lot more than food.  You might feel invisible sometimes…like no one notices you.  You want more attention.  And then more.  It just never seems like it’s enough.  Have you ever felt this way?

We all usually respond one of these ways when a storm comes.  

What have been some storms in your life?

How did you respond?

In Acts, God (through the angel that spoke to Paul) really tells us to do two things:  

1) Stay on the sinking ship.

2) Trust in His promises.

You are going to have storms.  But what Jesus promises us, over and over, is that he’ll never leave us.  He’ll never forsake us.  And, so often, He surprises us in the midst of those storms.  

But, let’s get back to where we left off on the boat.  The storm kept getting worse and worse.  They tried to throw off as much weight as they possibly could.  They couldn’t figure out what to do and were losing hope.  But, Paul continued to say God told us to stay on the boat.  Paul knew they were hungry, and knew that God was going to take care of them.  And so he took bread and gave thanks to God in front of all of them.  They broke the bread and began to eat.  It’s a symbol of what Jesus did for us.  That bread is a symbol of our hope.  It gives us strength and encouragement, in the midst of our storms.

And, then, finally, they saw land…a beach, no less.  They left the anchors in the sea, hoisted the sail, and headed happily to head to the beach.  Guess what happened then?  The ship hit a sandbar and broke into pieces.  And those 276 people each grabbed a piece of the ship and used it to keep them afloat while they swam to land.

You’re going to have storms come up in your life.  But there will always be pieces, or planks, you can hold on to.  Those planks are evidence of the care God is taking of you.  What’s a piece you can hold on to in your storm?  Family?  Friends?  Verses you love?  

It’s what shipwrecks and storms are about…hurt and hope.  You will have hurt in your life, but there will always be hope.  Because of Jesus.  No storm will ever be too much for you…whether it’s a storm outside of or inside of you.  We have those, too.  

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What are storms that can happen inside of you at times?  Do you get angry?  Do you get discouraged and can’t seem to get out of it?  Do you feel mad at yourself when you fall?  

Well, Paul, the very same guy who was on that shipwreck says this in Philippians 4:  “I’ve learned the secret of being content…I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little.  I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.  Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”  Or, another way, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  

We all have storms, both inside of us and outside of us.  When we ignore those storms, it’s the same as taking a hammer and smashing out the oil light in our cars.  Our cars would eventually stop working.  And so would we.  We need to talk about the storms that come up in our lives…around us and inside of us.  

And, then, we need to pick up our pieces to remember, and trust in God’s care for us in the middle of the storm.  You can have God-fidence because of Jesus.  He’s with you in your storm—right now—and you can make it through ANYTHING in the One who makes you who you are.  And that’s a pretty great person to be, storms and all.”

At camp, the 5th and 6th graders talked so bravely about their storms.  They encouraged one another, and gave God’s promises to each other in ways that are rare for kids their age.  One boy said, “I wish I could stay at Hopetown forever.  People are never this kind.”  We need to create safe spaces for the kids we love.  We need to give them space to talk about their storms, and remind them of God’s care and promises to them in the midst of those storms.  And we need to laugh and play with them, too.  We had a holiday, in the midst of the storm talks, with animal races and art projects.  And every child left with camp with encouragement, promises, and planks to remind them of the truth that they can make it through any storm with and because of Christ.  God-fidence.

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