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Monday, June 30, 2008

Youth Camp

Last week we went to Youth Camp. We went to Student Life Missions Camp at Stetson University, close to Daytona Beach.

Our speaker for the week was a man by the name if Sam Bhatt. This man was absolutely amazing. He was funny, he was so easy to pay attention to, and he was passionate. He said on his first day, "My name is Sam Bhatt, and I am a disciple of Jesus Christ." He wasn't a typical youth camp speaker that thinks he is above people. One of the greatest things for the kids at the camp (there were over 1000) was that Sam loved to just hang out with the kids. I heard Sam plays a killer game of ultimate frisbee.

Our band for the week was the Chuck Hooten band. Chuck was of the same mold as Sam, to where he was incredibly humble and in tune with what God wanted to do. We got even more time to hang out with the band, because they came and spent an hour or so with us during our small group time. I was amazed at how accommodating this band was. At the same time our youth LOVED this band, and I am going to do whatever is necessary to get them to Haines City.

It wasn't just speakers and bands though, during the middle of the day we went on Mission. Our mission for the week was volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club. This was incredibly gratifying for a couple of reasons. 1. The children we were working with was amazing 2. The staff at the BnG was so nice they let us lead them in Bible stories and share whatever we wanted with them 3. My wife used her kindergarten teacher skills to lead at least five of these children to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (PRAISE GOD!) 4. Our teenagers stepped up in a huge way. You would be amazed at the ownership and responsibility these teenagers took in the mission we were given. The adults could have left the Club and nothing would have changed. I was so proud of them.

If all that were not enough, I have to tell you about Wednesday night. On Wednesday night Sam's message was so incredibly basic. He took us through some of Jesus' highlights, like turning water into wine and feeding the 5000 and then told us to put ourselves in the shoes of the person who witnessed the miracle. After that he read the horrific tale of the crucifixion of Jesus, but he did so from a medical examiner's point of view. And then he called us to a time of commitment.

Every one of our teenagers stood up to say that they wanted to step up their Christian walk and give God 100%. As I watched them, and saw how God was moving in them, I felt led to take them outside. We went out of the service and just prayed with each other. During this time of prayer we could almost see all of the walls breaking down. All of the stuff that they were holding back, all of the times that they gave less than 100%, and the all the times as their leaders that we let them down. God worked in that prayer circle in a way that will change lives FOREVER.

After that God led me to take them up on a hill and make an Old Testament altar. We got sticks for each of the teenagers and they made a covenant before God and their brothers and sisters in Christ of what God was telling them to do and what they were going to do. I would not trade this time in my life for anything. It was such a humbling, awe-inspiring time.

God is amazing, and worthy of our praise! But remember that God wants 100% and he DESERVES 100%. Don't give God your leftovers. Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow after Him. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Tribute

Change. A very difficult thing. It is especially difficult when you are so content with the way things are. You know the joke: How many Southern Baptists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Change? What's that?

I like things the way they are and so right now is a particularly weird time for me. First of all, school is out and it is sooooooooooooo quiet here at the church now. I really miss my tenth grade Bible class. My wife is out of school, which is good for her, but I really miss eating lunch with her every day. (By the way, it's her birthday today... HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) And last but certainly not least, one of my favorite people in the world Michael Bartlett is moving away and taking his incredible family with him. As a way to pay homage to Bartman and to access a therapeutic release this posting is dedicated to him.

I remember the first time I met him, we were at Harold Butler's house for one of those awkward "Meet the New Guy" dinners. (I was the new guy) There were more staff members than I could possibly remember in one night and I always feel nervous at such things.

Bartlett and I met at the dessert table (a theme in our friendship) and he mentioned that he was recently in Pasco County, the site of the first church I ever served at. Me, in all my nervous brilliance said, "Did you know that Pasco County has more Nudist Colonies per capita than any other county in the U.S.?" Somehow he did not know that. Anyone else would have probably thought that was weird but Bartman rolled with it and I talked to him that night more than anyone else.

Well, somehow I still got the job and ended up working pretty closely with Bartman. He was my wife's boss and I am so grateful for the way he treated the one that I love. I could NEVER have asked for a better boss for my wife. Understanding, supportive, encouraging, respectful... it gave me such peace knowing that my wife was working at such an amazing school.

Bartman and I also developed a little tradition. His Bible class usually got over at 10:45 and I ate lunch at around 11. Him and I had an unspoken agreement to meet during that time at least twice a week. I truly miss those 15 minutes as well.

Bartlett and I share a heart's desire for reaching the lost and showing kids the love of God. Sometimes in ministry it can feel like you're surrounded by the world but standing all alone on an island, when those times came I always knew that Bartlett would join me on that island. We always seemed to see things the same way and the only disagreement we ever had was over how much worse his Bears are than my Bucs.

It is hard to believe that after only knowing a guy for one year that you could become this attached, but I have and I truly will miss my friend. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will be "successful" at whatever it is that he does. He has often told me that he feels like his life is just constantly building to something else. Skills and lessons learned one place prepares him for the next stage of his life. I am sure that that is what is happening here as well.
And trust me, if anyone understands why he is leaving it is me. There is just something within you that is always drawing you to your home. He is from North Carolina and I know this must be a very bittersweet feeling to move back home, but it is definitely God's will.

I will miss him, I will miss our time together, but I will forever be connected through this one amazing year of my life. And to end I am putting on some of his "favorite" photos, and I am also ending with his famous catchphrase... "Onward and upward."