I’ve just completed a week as the dean of a 5th/6th grade children’s camp at Mt. Wesley. While I was there I ran across a number of my colleagus who were at the retreat center for a continuing education event. Almost each time I told my colleagues why I was also at Mt. Wesley eyes rolled and a number said, “you still doing children’s camp at your age?” It’s true I am 61 and I felt it as a trudged up and down the hills in Kerrville. And it is also true that most of the 60′ish aged clergy I know are not involved with chldren’s ministry these days. I’ve often felt that any age over about 25 is too old to relate to pre-teens. However, I must say I get this age and from what I can tell they get me.
We had a small camp this year, 25 campers; it is late in the Summer with school about to begin in two weeks. I seem to always question my involvement when the numbers are small like this. Is this a good use of my time? The Conference’s money or my church’s good will? I was reminded by a couple of my staff today that this small group gave us a unique opportunity to do some really effective ministry with a great counselor to student ratio. I was great fun! Driving home today I wondered will I do this again? How many more years do I have (at my age). Can I muster up the energy needed to hang with 11 year olds from 7am to 11pm for a week?
All these questions really shrink in comparison to the good that happens when loving adults devote their time to model the Gospel to the young. It was really a good camp and the children were engaged from minute one until their parents drug their suitcases to the cars. And they get it, as much as an 11 year old can get it, they get it. Their minds are open and their spirits are eager to be challenged by the gospel. But more important than adding more knowledge to these eager minds, it is the fact that they stand in so much need for the healing of the gospel at their age.
Each year as I trudge up the mountain one more time to explain that the Mt. Wesley tradition is to carry a rock from the bottom of the hill to place it at the top of the hill on the Bolivian Cross. It is done to symbolize laying our burdens down at the cross. And you may think the burdens of the 11 year olds are small like their age, but without giving away confidence I will tell you they have large burdens for their age. I am always brought to tears by the litany of pain, suffering and abuse these children have already experienced. I leave each camp thinking, how can I do more to alleviate their suffering. And then it is their sweet sincerity and willingness to trust that keeps me coming back. So I guess 61 can go back for 11 a few more times, because I’m convinced we made a difference in some lives this week. I had re-affirmed to me that our children are lacking trustworthy-loving adult interaction these days. So I guess I’ve got at least one more trip to Mt.Wesley in me.