girl problems


When you are a missionary at Kidz Camp on the Southwest Ohio District, you hear a lot of funny stuff. My favorite quote this week came from a little dude who was probably 8.  We found him sitting, slouched over with a grumpy face by a light pole. I thought his world had come to an end. He was missing his mom and his friends were teasing him? Or maybe, he was in trouble with the counselor? Or maybe, his dog Pinkie just died?

We asked, ‘Hey Dude, are you okay?’ as we walked by.

No,’ he grunted and then hugged his arms around his little chest.

‘What’s wrong?‘ in my best ‘mom’ voice.

‘That girl over there likes me.’ Came the disgruntled reply.

Ahhhh, trouble in paradise, indeed. If only he knew that SWO Kidz Camp was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to girl problems.  Our hearts go out to ya, Little Dude.

There is a lot of pessimism out there for this kid’s age group, called ‘Generation Y’, and the generation a little older, the  ‘Millenial Generation’. What with their iPods and connectedness and Snap Chat frenzy, a lot of people believe that the Selfie Generations have little to offer.

Outside of North America, these generational tags are rarely used and the defining and characterizing of ages into named and charaterized boxes is also quite an ‘American’ thing. But, people everywhere still like to talk about and often criticize ‘those young people.’  Perhaps, a bi-product of Western cultures is a tendency to silo people into categories.

Churches have teen groups, Senior Adults have Prime Timers, and then there is Kids’ Sunday School, with its flurry of activity. There is something for every generation, but the something is rarely a ‘together’ activity. We tend to plan our church events according to age-appropriate, age-restrictive lines.  When this becomes the norm, it may be that we forfeit our ability to appreciate and exist in the beauty of the Body in its diversity.

Here at Southwest Ohio Kidz Camp, we have been watching adults pour into the lives of 200+ kids and it is nothing short of heroic. We are witnessing a group of men and women, many of whom have taken a week of vacation from work, shepherd active, sweaty, energized, sugar-charged pre-teen kids through a series of daily events meant to tire the body and feed the soul.  In the process, the buzz quiets to hear Jesus and they rush the altar to respond to his voice. There is a fantastic beauty, purity, and simplicity in their child-like interaction to the voice of God in their souls.

When was the last time that we, as adults, took God at his word like that?

When was the last time we danced in worship so our bodies could quiet down and hear Jesus speak?

The intentional coming together of generations, genders, and races is never easy, never fluid, it is rarely comfortable, but this is the true picture of the Body of Christ. We are never more alone than when we silo ourselves into homogenous units of people.

Part of our role as missionaries on Home Assignment is to create awareness of other cultures and issues and to tell the story – the story of what God is doing. Why? Because we have a tendency, as humans, to think about our own needs and persepectives to the exclusion of others. In some ways, we tend to forget that we share this planet with the rest of the world.

Just as girl problems are a reality for every age of life, so to, is the sharing of the sandbox more than a kid problem.  Our world needs a peek into the kingdom today and maybe we do too.

Did Jesus mention something about childlike faith?

As for girls problems, Little Dude, we hear you, but we have bad news: It just goes downhill from here … for a while. Shakespeare himself said, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth.’ But, eventually you learn the rythms of unity, of shared passion, of relinquishing ‘me’ for ‘us’.  That is the Gospel, isn’t it? No greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for a friend.

That man was Jesus.

  

tiger mom

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The clouds let go of a gush of tears as my baby left the car tonight. My wipers worked their rhythmic magic, a pulsating synchronization of my mother’s heart. In a few short months, she will leave for college. What is this ripping of ligament from bone that slashes at my tiger soul? It is the precursor to a thousand sleepless nights of wondering where she lays her head, how much sleep she gets, and what concerns worry her brow. Seventeen years of cinching car seats and looking both ways culminate in a kiss goodbye as she hops into a car of teens. Soon, too soon, she will board a plane that carries her far, too far, from my mother’s arms.

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an ordinary missionary on furlough

Let’s be honest.  If someone asked, ‘What does a missionary do?’, most of us would dig deep and mumble something about learning languages and telling people about Jesus and smile that please-don’t-ask-me-more-cause-that’s-all-I’ve-got grin.  The real truth is that most of us are not exactly sure what a missionary does and we are even more confused about this thing that missionaries periodically do with random names like furlough, deputation, and home assignment. 

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that a missionary furlough is a vacation. This is a natural conclusion because one would assume that after a few years of snake-fighting,  Bible-sword wielding, mountainside-preaching, a guy or gal might need a break.  I understand why that assumption could be drawn.  In fact, I think there is a lot of confusion about what a missionary does and how they do it.  The term ‘furlough’ is itself misleading, which is why the powers that be have coined a new term ‘home assignment’.  Of course, that very vague term leaves the non-church going community scratching their heads.  

Furlough is a lot of things: exhausting, fun, challenging, hilarious, uncomfortable, memorable, a blessing (to name a few) but it is most definitely never a vacation.  Missionaries are required to do home service and the vast majority do it with open hearts and and passionate spirits though it takes them away from their homes and the people that they are called to serve and love.

My hero today is an ordinary guy on furlough and one of the most committed missionaries I know.  

Months earlier, his missionary partner agreed that the family would participate in a Nazarene kids’ camp service on Friday, 12 July. Now, the camp kids have been assembled all week doing various campy things and the furloughing family was invited to participate for the entire week but their funds did not allow that personal adventure. Having a good gig house-sitting for a cute Sheltie pup named Darby, they committed to just come by camp on Friday morning and share with the kids.  

The 11th of July rolled around and plans were made for a next morning departure at 4:00 AM  that would put them on course for a 5-hour one-way journey to speak to 160 kids for 30 minutes.  Following the missionary presentation, the family was due to get back in the car and make that same 5-hour journey home.

Around 9:00 PM when the reality was sinking in, my hero called his partner into the hallway and said, “I don’t think we should ask the family to travel 10 hours in a truck.  I will go it alone.”  

This was not a parent caving in to loud complaints.  On the contrary, the kids had great attitudes.  This was a missionary dad understanding that the next three consecutive days had heavy travel attached and with wisdom beyond his years, he made a decision.

Lest we assume that his family were the only ones on his mind, let me quickly add that his impetus for making that drive in the first place was all about 160 squirming eight to eleven year olds in a make-shift chapel somewhere in the California mountains.  One might ponder whether a 10 hour drive for a 30 minute sermon is a good plan when the logical conclusion is that while he speaks:

Some will be scratching their bug bites and others will telling jokes with their friends.  

At least one little boy will be pulling a blonde girl’s pig-tails and she will be giving him the you-disgust-me face.  

A piece of chewed bubble gum is going to find itself stuck to the underside of a chair and a brown-eyed 10-year old is going to doodle and re-doodle her name in flowers in the notebook meant for notes.  

Yes. we know that this will happen. But, what we do not empirically know yet believe by faith is that in the midst of the frogs and the tadpoles, and the half-eaten snickers bars and the un-deodorized armpits, the Holy Spirit is going to be present.  Quite often, the tadpoles bend their ears to hear the Holy One call their name and they respond.

That ordinary missionary knows this because he was called to be a missionary and a pastor at the age of 9.  His missionary partner was called at the age of 14.  And on and on it goes with God calling right there when you are wearing a t-shirt on its 5th day of use and wiggling toes that have begun to grow a mysterious mountain-stream fungus.  By faith, we believe that God calls children and so that ordinary missionary on furlough went.

As I push the publish button on this post, he should be beginning that long journey back. May God grant him alert eyes and a peaceful heart as the tadpoles swim home to become ordinary missionaries in their own worlds.Image