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a familiar escape

You can always tell when you meet people who will become life long friends. Those people who aren’t just in your life for a specific season, but who will remain a constant through the years. Josh and Terresa Shaw are two of those friends. I led YoungLife with Josh back in 2006, and while he and I were only on the same team for about a year, he and Terresa and their three (soon to be 4!) kids have become great friends and some of favorite people to spend time with over the past 7 years. I love that I’ve gotten to photograph each of their babies newborn photos, and you can see their most recent portrait session from last fall HERE. So when I found out they would be on summer assignment at a camp up in Maryland I knew I had to plan a visit.

I don’t have any summer vacations planned, and this past week I think everything caught up with me and I just needed to get out of this town for a little while. I needed an escape, so I packed a bag and ran away for the day. The phone was off all day as I sat and caught up on life with Terresa, played basketball with Anela, worked on a few crafts with her and Jacob, chased that sweet little rascal Lucas around and tickled his belly to get those big laughs out of him.  It truly was just what I needed. and then we went down into camp to join everyone for dinner, and my heart about burst open. I haven’t been to a young life camp or club since 2008, and I didn’t think it was possible, but I had apparently forgotten just how near and dear this ministry is to my heart. Seeing the camp volunteers decked out in their christmas attire to serve dinner (because why not celebrate christmas in july?! ;) ), when the kids come pouring into the dining hall, pounding on the table for their server,  the county fair all set up and ready to go for them as soon as dinner was over… and knowing how their leaders had spent all year talking up and praying for this very week, that very NIGHT in particular… it overwhelmed me in the best possible way.

over the course of the week that kids are at camp, they hear from a camp speaker every day who presents the gospel in a way they can understand. they go over who Christ was and what he came to accomplish, what sin is and what it means in our lives, and ultimately what Christ did on the cross to fix the problem of sin in our lives and make a way for us to be in a right, close relationship with God. there’s a whooooole lot of fun and craziness that happens throughout the week, but every leader knows that you bring kids to camp ultimately so they will have an opportunity to hear the gospel. you pray for your kids to have the best week of their life, and for their hearts to be open to what they hear, to talking with you, and to receiving what the camp speaker is telling them. I got to sit in the club room and listen as 400+ kids heard the ‘cross talk’, and was reminded why I loved this ministry so much. Kids walked out of that room changed. Eternally changed. Praise the Lord!

On a night very similar to this one back in 2006 I was a leader at a camp just like this, and I had 9 of the most incredible high school girls with me for their first camp experience. That night after they listened, considered, and prayed about what they had heard, I had the distinct honor and privilege to sit with 5 of them on a cabin bunk as they made the decision to respond to what they had heard and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their savior. As I sat in the club room this past Saturday night, I couldn’t help but think of my girls back in 2006.  I began to pray over the conversations that were about to happen between leaders and the kids they brought, and begged God that a few other leaders that night would have similar conversations in cabin bunks that I had 7 years ago.

When club ended I walked around camp with Josh and there was a familiarness to the conversation as we processed through club a little bit, just like I was back on his team again. it took him all of 20 minutes from the time I got there to ask me when I was moving down to VA Beach to lead with him again, and I think 20 minutes is a new record! he usually manages to work it in within the first 5! :)  I saw the sun just about to set out of the corner of my eye, and needed to get closer to it so we walked down toward the water and i just couldn’t get over how familiar this whole day had been. Even though I’ve been serving at my church in Community Kids for a while now, and as much as I really do love it, more often than not I still feel like I have no clue what I’m doing and nothing to contribute, but this was familiar. It was easy to jump right back in. but when has God ever called me to ‘easy’ or ‘comfortable’? umm that would be NEVER. and thats okay, there’s only growth when I’m pushed out of my comfort zone, but on this day a familiar escape was exactly what i needed.

Even more than a familiar ministry, I was am thankful for Terresa and Josh, who taught me everything I know about ministry, and how to do it with excellence and never settle for just “good enough”. They always had a way of loving me so well, making me feel appreciated and valued as a volunteer, and at the same time knew how to challenge me to be a better leader than I was the day before.

I will never be able to fully explain what this ministry and these friends mean to me. Clearly I’m still learning from it and seeing the effects this many years later. I’m so thankful that the Lord called me to lead back in 2006 (and that Josh wouldn’t take no for an answer when he approached me about helping him start YL up at a brand new school) and for the incredible purpose that it served in my life…

and for views like this at the end of a perfect day:
 Happy Monday :)

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