I’m pausing in my ongoing critique of the 21st century church to brag a little about my kid. He and my daughter have been at camp for almost the last two weeks. This camp, for anyone not familiar, is a Christian sports day camp. The kids learn about putting God first, others second, and themselves third (from Matthew 22:37-40) in the context of playing sports.
The whole camp is divided into teams, similar to traditional “color wars” at camp. They do compete against one another, but they also learn good sportsmanship and how to cheer for and support one another regardless of team loyalty. As this is a Christian camp, the teams are named for books of the Bible—the blue team is the Galatians, the red team is the Romans. (It should be obvious from the photo which team my kids are on.)
Every year, the kids participate in a swim meet and a track meet. This year, the camp staff added some new events, including a relay. My son was on the relay team in his division (boys approximately ages 6 to 9).
Today, he got to be the hero.
He was in the last position, the runner to bring it home. His teammates had provided him with a solid lead, and all he had to do was hang on to it. Well, Jack came through. He gave it everything he had, running the final straightaway to the finish line. The whole crowd—campers, staff, and parents—was on its feet, cheering for Jack and the other boy. I could hear people all around me screaming their names. Yes, kids were mostly cheering for their own team, but I could hear many of them yelling the names of both boys. The camp erupted as Jack crossed the finish line first, to be welcomed by his teammates with high fives and congratulations.
Was I proud of my son? You bet.
But I’m equally proud that the cheering didn’t stop with him. Everyone continued making noise for the other boy (who was really only a few paces behind Jack; it was a very close race). It’s one of the things I like best about this camp. It’s a safe place to play hard without fear that you’ve disappointed everyone if you don’t win.
This morning, my kids dressed in their royal blue. But each of them chose socks with colors representing their friends on the opposing team. They both wanted the people they care about to know they were cheering for them, too. I may be proud of my son for his moment on the track, but I’m even more proud of both my kids for beginning a lifetime of showing love and respect to others.
I’ve been involved, in one way or another, with camp for twenty years. I’ve kept in touch with many people who I met through camp. Over the years, I’ve seen kids who grew up going to camp reach adulthood. Many of them are now living out what they learned there. Some of them have gone into full-time ministry as pastors or missionaries. But the vast majority are doing everyday work, simply trying to live out the motto they learned at camp.
This time that they have at camp is short. It’s only two weeks out of every summer. Their camp counselors and team coaches are planting the seeds. It’s my job, as a parent, to see to it that the seeds are watered and nurtured. My prayer for the kids, my own and the others at camp, is that they will grow in their faith over the course of their lives, becoming the people they were meant to be.
If I didn’t make it clear, I love this camp. If you live in my area (you know who you are) and would like more information about camp for next year, please email, call, message, or stand on my lawn at 2am shouting until I wake up. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) I would love to see all your beautiful kids enjoying this amazing experience.