June 1999. I was a Director of a residential teen outdoor adventure camp, which simply means the kids spent a week or two at camp doing everything from a ropes course and some rappelling to canoeing the river and hiking the hills. It was a great camp. The kids spent their time there living in Native American teepees up on wooden platform. They hiked down the hill to shower or go to the restroom and hiked to the dining hall as well.
The camp was awesome – 700 acres out in the beautiful Texas hill country. How could you ask for more? I had the opportunity to hang out outside all the time, my office was in the loft of a barn, my dogs rode in the back of my truck, I got fed at the dining hall every day and I got to pour into the lives of between 75 and 100 kids a week. It was a dream job…kinda.
My first summer as Director was quite possibly one of the most challenging times of my life.
Within the first three weeks of camp, I had been to the emergency room with a child or staff person no less than seven times for everything from a nose bleed that wouldn’t quit to stitches from a rock to the head. It was a rough few weeks. At the end of week three, one of my staff had a vehicle accident with ten children in the van with him. I will spare you all the details, but all children were alive and well. We just had that one child I got to take to the emergency room for the stress fracture just under his knee. I got to call parents of ten children and explain the circumstances (not really a fun experience) and send that one child home with a cast to his hip and his x-rays under his arm.
It was a rough few weeks. Then the phone call. It was raining and the bus was running late picking up the next group of children to bring them to camp. Using a contracted bus service and the camp being five hours from where we picked up kids, I was not on or with the bus. One mom, though, was none-too-happy about waiting for the bus. There was little I could do except ask her to sit in her car and wait till it arrived. She let me know what she thought of that.
At that moment, I was done. I called my boss (who was four hours from me) and told him I was quitting, he would need to find a new Director. He asked where I was going. I, obviously, had no idea. I was simply going to pack what I could in my truck and leave. His response? Just stay and wait for me to get there.
I did and went to my house (on camp, of course) to sit in the hallway wishing the world away. It was one of the most challenging times of life. I was done with emergency rooms and scared to death that a child might actually lose his life under my watch. The vehicle accident was a bit too close for me. I was done.
But I waited.
He arrived, and for the next few days he simply held my hand. Not literally, of course, but he just told me to hang out with him for the next few days. He made all of the decisions, oversaw all the staff, interacted with children, and answered the phone. Within three to four days, I had built my courage back up and found my footing again.
I finished that summer – a few pounds lighter than when I started, mind you – but I finished.
My boss did not do some miraculous thing. He simply showed up. He became Jesus to me in those days. Here is what he did:
1. He showed up – presence means more than you will ever realize.
2. He loved me just where I was – I was in quite a mess when he got there. he didn’t even look at me like I was a crazy person. He could have, ya know.
3. He believed in me – he saw me where I was but knew that wasn’t the end of me. I still had more in me and he knew it. He knew God wasn’t done with me in that place.
4. He allowed me to breathe – he knew I had more in me, but didn’t expect it in the first five minutes after he got there. Patience, my friends. He had more than I might have.
You know, we can do the same for others. They may not be in the craziness I was, but we all have our own craziness. In those hard times of life, we simply need someone to be Jesus to us, to truly be His tangible hands and feet for people around us. It’s seems like it might be hard, but it’s not really. It all just starts with showing up.