DASS camp this year was once more a special blessing and joy to be a part of. I never would have guessed that God would take me back to Dresden after the last time at camp in 2008. My biggest unmet expectation was knowing kids! It was such a surprise, a good one! That I only knew one kid from previous camps and a few younger siblings, Tim, the pastor, and only one of the other staff members. I also didn't know anyone on the American team before May (only had heard a few of their names before) It was a totally different adventure this year, but really incredible.
The first blessing was seeing that the camp has nearly doubled in size in the past year. They always had a limit of 55 and now they have a limit of 110. They also announced that they will have two camps again next year, to meet their size expansion. Another blessing was seeing Tim's parents serving as the cooks (they also did last year). What a special way for parents and their kids to serve together and get to watch God work in each other's lives. Another blessing was 7 straight days of absolutely perfectly beautiful weather... we were able to play every game and just enjoy the good weather. My favorite blessing was spending campfire time with Luise, a girl who first started coming to camp as a teen herself my first year in 2006. It was so encouraging for me to sit there and hear how far she has come with her walk with God and all the things she has done and wants to do with her future. She served last year in south america and now she hopes to start studying social work in the fall and be able to work with people somehow in the future. It was also really incredible to see her crying one night during worship, and crying again another day when we broke into groups to pray. She was so real about her fears and struggles... so open and honest. The beauty of her heart challenged me.
My biggest lesson and challenge during camp was honesty. I felt my flesh being pushed and pulled in every direction to be someone I am not, to try to fit in, be popular, make the kids laugh and like me...
And yet my thoughts were constantly fighting against those feelings saying, 'Lesley, that is not who you are, and that is for a reason. I didn't make you just to fit in, to be liked. I didn't choose you so you would try to be someone else. I made you, uniquely you. I chose you, uniquely you. And that means I know exactly where your faith is, and I am pleased by your every prayer, your every smile.' That lesson that I so badly needed to hear, so badly needed to believe... I soon realized many of those kids also needed to hear, also needed to believe. I saw that Luise just needed to be remembered how incredibly loved and cherished she is by the God of the universe. He made her, he knows her. There were a few other leaders and campers that I also got close to through the week and I just remember thinking and praying I want them to know that God knows them and he loves them... exactly as they are, in the exact difficult trial, in the exact annoying circumstance. They just need to be reminded, they just need to hear that it is true again, to be encouraged to believe it.
I was challenged first to be honest with myself, second to be honest with God, and third to be honest with those around me. The Lord constantly spoke to me about the importance of all three things, individually and together. I was so thankful for that reminder, for that challenge. And though I can say even now it is a struggle and I am not doing it perfect, I am thankful to know my weaknesses and thankful that I see God yearning to change me.
"Getting honest with ourselves does not makes us unacceptable to God. It does not distance us from God, but draws us to him — as nothing else can — and opens us anew to the flow of grace. While Jesus calls each of us to a more perfect life, we cannot achieve it on our own. To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace. It is only through grace that any of us could dare to hope that we could become more like Christ.
The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.
The question which the gospel of grace puts to us is simply this: Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid that your weakness could separate you from the love of Christ? It can't.
Are you afraid that your inadequacies could separate you from the love of Christ? They can't.
Are you afraid that your inner poverty could separate you form the love of Christ? It can't.
Difficult marriage, loneliness, anxiety over the children's future? They can't.
Negative self-image? It can't.
Economic hardship, racial hatred, street crime? They can't.
Rejection by loved ones or the suffering of loved ones? They can't.
Persecution by the authorities, going to jail? They can't.
Nuclear war? It can't.
Mistakes, fears, uncertainties? They can't.
The gospel of grace calls out: Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord."
-The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning