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Notes from the Teen Camp in Salinas

June 13, 2014

I pulled the keyboard over to me at 6:45 in the morning here in California and nibbled on some pan dulce while reflecting over the week’s activities.

I had to chuckle to myself. This week definitely  goes on the list of Unusual-and-Sometimes-Bizarre-Yet-Exciting-Ministries. To explain…

This is my third year of ministering in the Hispanic community, yet my grasp of the Spanish language is laughably weak.

This is a camp, but we have no tents or cabins.  In fact, we’re in the city.

I’m 55 years old, yet I’m the youth leader this week.

imageAnd – as I warned you weeks ago -, my plane flight was filled with odd characters and head-shaking events.  Again.

But, oh, has this been a good week so far.  At least seven teens have told us they want salvation in Jesus Christ.  Today is a big day as we make a formal invitation for them to talk with leaders about their desire to let Jesus Christ take over their life.

From the very first hour, this has been an unusual week.

I assured my Bible study classes back in Tennessee that my plane flight would be another odd one – they always are.  This time was no exception.  I arrived at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville for the simple first leg to Chicago and within the first fifteen minute I was told that our flight would be delayed six hours.  Not twenty minutes.  Not an hour.  Six hours, brother.

Immediately my blood pressure began to rise.  I would miss my connecting flight in Chicago and my arrival in San Francisco would be out of kilter (I have no cell phone – it went down a month ago).  Okay, Lord, what do I do?  How should I react?  I looked over at the desk and saw people chawing and griping at the agents.  By the time I stepped up to the harried man, I had prayed and settled myself.

“Sir, all I ask is that you might see if you can arrange in any way to get me on any other plane so that I can make my connection in Chicago at or before 9 p.m.”

He started tapping the keyboard and staring at the computer.  “I’ll do my best.”

I pointed at him.  “Then you, sir, are Superman.  Without the Kryptonite problem.”

He cracked up.  Grinning, he got me another flight.  And arranged my Chicago-to-San Francisco flight be first class, a privilege I have never, ever enjoyed.  First Class, man.

In Chicago I had a chance to witness to an artist who lives in Luxembourg but was going to Utah for an art festival.  He’d been in airports and airplanes at total of eighteen hours so far, and he hadn’t had sleep in almost two days.  For some reason this caused him to shout his answers to me as we stood in line at the gate.  As I talked about my faith, he nodded vigorously.  “Yeah, you’re right, yeah,” he shouted. “Religion’s good, religion’s good.  I sell a lot of spiritual, church-type stuff to religious people as well.  But not the nudes.  I found out that they don’t want to buy my paintings of nudes.”  People stared at us.

The plane flights all worked out and I arrived in Salinas at 4 a.m., dropped off to sleep, and popped up to start the week of camp at 10 a.m.  The teens were ready, and man, have we had fun.  The games are lively and loud.  Three teams – Epsilon Delta, Omega Rho, and Phi Beta – have been competing in anything from Train Wreck to World Cup Soccer to Trivia Challenge.  Nathan is unrelenting. Daisy is calculating.  Abraham is enthusiastic.  Edgar can’t stop grinning from ear to ear.

But the best part – the very best part – is the Bible time we have each day.  These studiesimage must be some of the most intensive sessions we’ve had in years. I’ve been teaching on the reality of Heaven, using it as a starting point to talk about numerous subjects such as Jesus’ ministry, God’s headquarters, the mysteries of Revelation, and the fearful destination of those who reject Him.  Bryan has questions all through the study.  Max wants to ask questions during the break.  Estrella grills me during the lunch hour.  Even the adult workers met me afterward and were asking questions about Jesus’ transfiguration, the reality of angels and demons, and feasting in Heaven.  Today is our last day.  Today will be explosive both in the games and in the intensity of our final Bible studies.

I’m in my mid-fifties, but I’ll never retire.  I’d miss out on this joy.

In the Academy Award-winning movie Chariots of Fire, runner Eric Liddell expresses his running to his sister:  “When I’m running, Jinni, I feel God’s pleasure.”

How I do agree with that.

When I’m teaching His Word, or running a camp, or seeing a person’s spiritual light bulb turn on … I feel God’s pleasure.

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