The past nine or ten days have flown by. It started with the City on a Hill retreat I mentioned in my last post. I kind of have mixed emotions about the retreat. The turnout was not quite what we were hoping for, so that probably affected the spirit of the weekend. I think we made some significant strides forward from our last City on a Hill, however, there was still some growing points. Our focus changed from leading others through different steps toward a decision to follow Jesus to different ways of participating in the mission of God to heal and restore a broken creation. Our topics changed from things like spiritual conversations, personal testimonies, and crossing over, to things like non-church spaces, hospitality, and working for justice. Our format changed a bit from teaching followed by formation group times to teaching, dialogue, and formation groups all rolled up together. When it worked, it worked really well. But we often struggled getting everything done within our time restraints, especially me. I wish I would have planned a little better for the parts I facilitated. From what I understand everyone generally had a good experience and felt like this was helpful to taking next steps in living on mission. I look forward to our next City on a Hill experience.
I left for Sooner Youth Camp the day after the retreat. We also had a small turnout compared to years past. However, a smaller camped helped to make it a really smooth week. Our theme for the week was “Risen” and the teaching a preaching times all focused on the resurrection of Jesus. My responsibilities were teaching the 15 & 16 year olds, leading praise time, and one night of preaching. This was my fourth time on staff at Sooner in the last seven years. I have become a big fan of this camp. For one, it reminds me of my own camp experiences as a child – no air conditioning, staying in cabins, swimming at the lake, and devotionals at night under the stars. Sooner does a great job of creating community. Almost everything is a communal experience and everyone participates in everything. Sooner also does a good job of allowing the kids who don’t usually fit in to actually fit in. Everynight, we have social hour which allows anyone to get up on stage and sing a song, perform a poem, tell a joke, act out a skit, etc. It is a taste of the Kingdom of God when the marginal kid gets up on stage and sings a song off key and still gets a huge applause from the rest of the camp. Another thing I love about Sooner is the price. At $145 it is one of the cheapest camps I’m aware of and I think it is important that we have opportunities for kids and churches who don’t have a lot of money.
I have to tell a story about one of my friends who preaches for a church that sent a group to Sooner this year. The Pilot Point Church of Christ in Pilot Point, Texas is a little rural church of about 50 people. One of the important things they do each year is pay for any kid who wants to go to camp. This year they recruited and paid for 32 kids to go to camp! They are probably the smallest church that participates in camp and had the largest group of kids. That is just amazing and a testament to the glory of God! Way to go Craig and the Pilot Point Church of Christ!
God was working on me at Sooner as well. I hope to share some other reflections later this week.