June 6, 2015

Why Camp is like McFarland, USA

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." This is 2 Timothy 4:7 and the perfect verse for my thoughts tonight. Today was my only full day off between the end of staff training on Friday and the beginning of camp tomorrow. I slept in, got dressed up for a homeschool graduation of someone I've never met, talked to my mom for about an hour. One of the most positive conversations we've had this year, she said, and it's true. I wasn't calling to complain or cry or ask for advice. I just wanted to talk before I turn in my phone tomorrow morning for the rest of the week. It felt good to talk about camp and hear my family's new puppy talk to me through the phone. I wish I could go meet her and talk to my mom face to face.

But tonight we watched a movie called McFarland, USA, which is the real reason I'm writing this post instead of getting some much needed sleep before the week kicks off. But this movie spoke to me and I need to now speak it into words because I can't process otherwise. If you haven't seen the movie I highly recommend it. Also I'll be spoiling it a little, but it's a really predictable movie anyway so don't worry.

It's about this coach who keeps messing up and gets stuck in this tiny immigrant town in California teaching the first cross country team. The kids are all first or second generation Mexican and they and their families are pickers. The kids work mornings before school and then work again as soon as they get out of class. The coach comes, after complications finally learns what these kids lives are really like and helps them to find hope and purpose in running. He gives them something to live for and hope for.

This summer I'm going to be like that coach. I've messed up plenty of times. In theory I'm more than qualified to work at camp. I have experience and training and knowledge. But so did the coach. He had anger problems and was too hard on his previous sports teams. I am impatient, easily tired, and easily discouraged.

There's this scene in the movie when the coach goes to pick in the fields with his runners to understand what it's like. He has no idea what he's getting into. He's exhausted. He hurts his back. But he realizes what the runners go through every day. He becomes one of them for an afternoon. And it's hard. That's what Jesus did. He became one of us so that he could learn how to help us. It was hard. It hurt him. This is what I will be doing as I work at camp this summer. I will be lowering myself to become a kid for 8 weeks. To shower in the tiny cube that switches from burning hot to freezing cold a thousand times in one shower. To share three bathroom stalls with over 100 kids. To eat the same camp food every day, week after week. To get dirty and muddy. To walk through the rain. To run until I can barely breathe because the kids want me to play with them. It's going to hurt.

But I cannot help these campers unless I know what it's like to be one of them. I know that some of these kids will come from homes that are broken. They may be poor, they may have to work every day, they may have been abused or abandoned. I won't be able to understand it completely. Like that American coach stepping into a tiny town of Mexican culture I will feel lost at times. I will get frustrated when I can't understand the kids. I will want them to do more than they can. But if I get to know them I will be able to show them that even if I cannot understand, I can care.

I can run the race- or at the very least train these campers to run their own race. I can show them what it means to finish strong. To find their faith and chase after it no matter what. People can laugh, mock, say no, even try to pull out guns. But we have a faith that keeps us going. We have a finish line worth so much more than just fame and accomplishment. We run because running gives us hope for a future. Running this race gives us something to believe in. It gives us purpose for our lives. It gives us life.

This is why I am working at camp tomorrow. Not to sell T-Shirts with the camp logo and not to teach a ten year old how to play capture the flag. I am working at camp tomorrow to change lives. To teach weary children that they can have a family and that they can have a hope. 

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