“What do you want?”
A few nights in to our final camp of the summer, Melissa asked the 7th-8th graders this question. Their answers were:
“I want a safe place from rejection.”
“I want to be included.”
“I want confidence.”
“I want community.”
“I want people to be kind to me.”
“I want people to think I’m really great.”
“I want people to accept me.”
“To understand me.”
“To respect who I am.”
Each camper went on to give a very honest answer…and one that most all of us can relate to. The next morning, Melissa reflected back on their words.
“Last night, you all talked about what you wanted. Many of you talked about being included and accepted, being liked and appreciated. None of you said that you wanted to stand alone.
That, however, is the very thing God said to Jeremiah…Jeremiah who was only a boy when God called him. Jeremiah asserts this very fact in Jeremiah 1:6. But, over and over again, God calls Jeremiah to strength and to courage—right where he is. He says “Do not be afraid, for I am with you and will rescue you.” Chapter 1, verse 8 “Get yourself ready! Stand up…” Chapter 1, verse 17 “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you.” Chapter 1, verse 19
God calls Jeremiah to something bigger, something much like a quest. A quest is different than a journey because you don’t just happen upon it. You go intentionally—and you come back with something more than just your own happiness. Jeremiah was a man that stood for God for forty years. He often felt like all of his friends were against him, but he stuck to his quest.
In the beginning of Jeremiah’s quest, God gave him a vision of a walking stick made from the branch of an almond tree (Chapter 1, verse 11). The almond tree is the first tree to blossom in the spring. In the Hebrew, it means to wake up. One of the most prominent facts about Jeremiah is that his faith began so early in his life. God woke Jeremiah up and called him to stand. He calls us to stand, as well. A walking stick is an important tool to stand on and move forward. Where do you believe God is calling you?”
This particular morning at camp, Melissa gave each camper the opportunity to take a walking stick and make their own stand. They each had the opportunity to proclaim that they wanted to go on a quest…to stand for and with God. Then, other kids responded with comments like, “I’m walking with you,” “If you stand, I’m going to follow you,” and “I’m standing with Paige.”
These 29 campers did not have to stand alone. Over the course of the week, they each went on a quest. They came alongside each other and offered hope, truth and encouragement that is rare for 7th-8th graders to receive from each other. They came back with a sense of their own purpose and who God had called them to be. And we hope a little happiness mixed in.
We are grateful for our summer at Hopetown this year…for God’s protection and provision over the hearts of 176 campers and 18 staff members. We are humbled and grateful….for him, for them, and for you.
Where is God calling you as the summer winds down?