I was stalking up on camp food essentials. Ran into a friend, they asked what I was up to for the Memorial Day weekend. I admit an eyeroll most likely was attached to my follow up answer. CAMPING…in the great outdoors…with campfire and smoke…bugs…air mattress…no showers…nature…
After she saw and heard my heart, without missing a beat and a huge smile on her face she said, “oh you are a princess”. Without missing a beat, I said “you do know what Sarah means? Princess”
I am not shy about who I am or how God created me. Some he made to love the great outdoors, getting dirty and stinky, cooking food over a fire pit, finding critters in your sleeping bag or having a gun or bear spray on you when you want to walk in the woods. Some he made to love hot daily showers, pillow top mattresses, a straight iron, electricity. Each to their own.
This year we had accepted that we were not going to church camp. There were reasons that came and we adapted and moved on. Then a month out, we realized camp was going to happen. It was hard to spend months with the idea that we would not be enduring 5 days off the grid to then all of a sudden have to accept it. I even quizzed the kids, asked them if they REALLY wanted to go, already knowing the answer, but still wanted them to have the out, praying they might see it in the same light as me. But as each little set of eyes lit up, as memories came flooding of the last few summers at Naha and as God was quick to remind me of what he does every time we go, I found myself developing the packing list shortly after.
Anytime that I have to do something that I am not all that thrilled about doing, but still see that it is through God’s master plan I am doing it, then I ask myself what is the WHY for me?
It was cold and rainy on our first day, I was given the opportunity to kayak in with bean and avoid the 2+ mile hike with 50 plus people. We got soaked. We saw seals. She ate Cheetos so that I could carry on a conversation with our kayak buddy.
When we arrived and saw the green cabins with the massive green lush lawn, I literally felt my soul leap with anticipation. Wait, what? Could it be, my soul actually longed for this place that has bats in the ceilings, mice running in the kitchen?
Veil and I walked up to the main cabin and met smiling faces that seemed like our own little welcoming party. The place was just as I remembered it. It provided a strange comfort to me.
When the campers all arrived from their hike, we all began to unpack and get settled in our new lodging for the next 5 days. Just like riding a bike, I watched those of us who have been coming to Naha find our well-known rhythms. It was like a dance, the camp was filled with laughter, kids running and at times hopping because they were so excited. Camp staff’s reactions matched if not were larger then the kids. This place has such a unique hold on one’s soul.
Leading worship, watching kids sing with abandon, unashamed of their heart’s cry, are the moments any worship leader will make a point to embed in their memories. There was one worship service that the kids were literally shouting “JESUS” at the top of their lungs that I thought to myself, not even the rocks have a chance to cry out. Child like faith. We “mature” believers must witness it from time to time to remember what it was like to have enough faith to move the mountains.
Richard and I signed up to do the nature hike with kids. Each group was different. Each we gave them different assignments as we encouraged to look for God in nature. But a few groups we taught to listen for God, away from the noise, away from the distractions. We asked them to say “speak Lord, I am listening” and then sit in silence. When the silence ended, we asked them what they heard. Oh, my goodness. The youngest group and the oldest group had concrete things, specific words that God spoke over their individual hearts. It was surreal to witness.
The days were filled with little bodies beginning to tire from the long days of playing and late nights. Their little minds and hearts were being challenged to understand who God is. Our camp director said that camp is equivalent to a year of Sunday school in 5 days. Wow. Watching groups of kids holding bibles in their hands, hear little voices read his Word, watching how the souls entrusted to the counselors were doing a work within the counselors themselves was inspiring.
I realized that camp was coming close to ending, I in my heart still was asking God, why did you send me? Did I feel used? Did I feel like I came and reached his purpose?
I was standing back, listening to our camp director deliver one of the most powerful salvation messages I had ever heard. Memories of my years going to church camp were weaving in and out as she shared. All of a sudden, I looked and saw that the wiggling bodies, the chatting mouths, the kids that always had to be separated were stone still. You could have heard a pin drop. I heard the Spirit say “PRAY NOW!” so that is what I did, I prayed for seeds to fall on fertile ground. I leapt to lead them in worship, couldn’t wait to give God glory with them.
When the kids were dismissed, I went to put my uke away, when I all of a sudden recognized two little feet that were standing close by. I was met with a soul that was at the brink of breaking. With tears fighting to fall, a lump in their throat, they uttered these words.
“I know you are studying to become a pastor one day; can you please tell me what is going to happen to you guys when I go to Heaven”.
“what do you mean, Ez?”
“when I die and go to Heaven, what are you guys going to do”
There was not enough air in the room to fill our two sets of lungs. There were not enough words to form to answer her searching heart. I stumbled over my words. I talked about Ken. How he is in Heaven and we are on earth, still living life, trying to live out his memory and looking forward to seeing him again. I reached for her, she kept her distance.
She nodded, tears waiting to fall and quickly left my presence.
The world was spinning, my heart was racing. I ran to our Children’s leader/Camp Director. My words were laced with grief as the tears fell from my face. I told her what happened and without missing a beat, she told me she would go and talk with her.
After collecting myself, I witnessed my little warrior cry as she faced her understanding of mortality and what her family will do when she goes to be with her maker. I realized in that moment that was my WHY. Camp this year wasn’t because God wanted to do something in me, it was because God wanted to do something within Ezzy.
I know that her talk with our Children’s leader changed something in her. I saw the heaviness in her soul lifted and she had joy about her.
Sometimes we can be so focused on ministering to the kids that are lost, who need to find Jesus. Sometimes we can forget the kids who have verses memorized in their hearts, have accepted Jesus is Lord, can be in need just as much as the others to understand the concept of salvation and eternity with God.
The fears of life going on without her, the fears of how her family will cope when she is gone all came spilling out of her.
Spilling out of her in a place that has been revealed to me as a touch of Eden.
God orchestrated every detail. He met her little heart that has been asked to face so much the last few months. The weeks spent in the hospital, the scary procedures, the months of school missed, the daily reminder she is different then everyone she knows. It all came crashing. It all came bubbling up in a place where she was removed from the loud world, we live in. The reality became apparent that each of us in our family went straight back to normal life after crisis hit, leaving no time to wrestle with the hard stuff that happened for each of us.
I am ever grateful for the chance that our family had to go. Ezzy can’t go to camp without me, I have to be able to do her therapies with her, get all her extra care done on the sidelines, things people don’t think about, I also know the warning signals when things are going to go bad with her. Which means her little sisters have to tag along. We are blessed that there were many hands and willing laps that didn’t find her sisters a bother and actually told us they are so glad we come each year.
I read this psalm the other day and it has been sitting with me as I process what took place less then a week ago. I believe it is a testimony that Ezzy will be able to sing. I believe God did a work in her and met her in a way that has grown her faith and understanding of what eternity means with Him. She sees the world different then others and in return God met her in a way that she could receive his truths.
Naha, yet again you hold a special place in my heart. I know without a doubt that my girl will look back on this summer and recall the time that her fears of the future, the fears of her life with CF were met with HOPE. How her soul has a different song to sing now.
“When I open up in song to you,
I let out lungsful of praise,
My rescued life a song”