Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We continue to receive heart-rending reports of the devastation caused by the tornadoes that hit the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area earlier this week. Our prayers are with all who grieve the loss of life, and all who were injured and lost property. We thank God that no GCI members were injured or experienced property damage (see the prayer update in this issue). However, we were saddened to learn that the campground we use for our Crosswalk Camp was badly damaged. As a result, we have cancelled the camp session scheduled for the Memorial Day weekend.
I am reminded of how grateful I am for our young people and the GCI camps that serve them. We sponsor dozens of such camps in the US and abroad, where hundreds of volunteer staffers serve thousands of children and teen campers.
Thinking about these camps reminds me of when I was a camper at S.E.P. in Orr, Minnesota in 1965. “Survival course” might have been a better designation than “camp.” We have learned a thing or two since then. Even so, my appetite for roughing it is not what it used to be.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that as we grow old, some are tempted to sit on the sidelines and let the world go by. Sadly, as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s take hold, some withdraw completely. A friend sent me the following moving account of his mother’s retreat from the world:
My family lived in a big two-story house when I was growing up. My mom was the one who made it a home…cleaning, washing, cooking, decorating, dusting, working in the yard mowing and tending flower beds, etc. She was a whirlwind of activity, sometimes seeming to be everywhere at once. She was so strong, vibrant and full of life.
But, as she got older…my dad died, we kids moved out and started our own homes and she was left to tend the house alone. For many years it looked the same. Grandkids came along and they too had the same wonderful experience I had as a child. But, in time they too grew up and moved on…and things began to slip.
In my visits home I noticed that she was retreating more and more. Dust, which before was never allowed to settle got thicker and thicker. Arthritis was her constant unwelcome companion. She told me once that it forced her to start sleeping with two men. She’d go to bed with Arthur Ritis…and get up with Ben Gay (she always had a sense of humor).
She nailed the windows shut (because she thought she heard someone trying to get in one night) and closed heavy drapes over them. She no longer went upstairs for she could not climb the steps. Eventually she retreated to just a small part of the house. When we came home for visits, she would force herself to go into other rooms. She would notice things and talk about them as if she hadn’t seen them in a long time. The truth was…she hadn’t.
Finally, she was reduced to her kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Then the bathroom and bedroom. Then the bedroom… then only the bed… until she had to go to a nursing home. Now, she is 97… bedridden… unable to care for herself in any way. It was sad to see my mother going down to that. She was full of life and loved it.
Stories like this remind us of the unpleasant fact that our physical bodies do wear out. The same thing can happen to a congregation as its members and pastor age. The focus can turn inward, and we can become preoccupied with ourselves and our own needs. Have you ever asked yourself, “Could we as a congregation get spiritual Alzheimer’s?” Well, we don’t have to. Research has shown that some of the neurodegenerative effects of aging can be diminished if we stay active and involved.
So here’s a suggestion. Although many of our congregations are made up of older people, when we look at the big picture, GCI is by no means an old people’s church. We have thousands of children and teens who are looking forward to attending one of our camps in the months ahead. So my suggestion to our older congregations is this: Why not get involved? Though many of our camp staffers are older adults, your direct physical involvement may not be possible. But why not adopt one of our camps spiritually?
Below is a list of the camps we will be holding in 2013 in the US and links to some of the camps outside the US. Why not pick one of these and contact the camp director (see the camp’s website for information), or email our US camp ministry director, Anthony Mullins (email@example.com) and ask him to suggest a camp. Then you can contact the camp director and let him or her know that your congregation will be praying, as a group and individually, for the success of the camp. Ask for any special needs or concerns. In this way, even our oldest members can participate in our camp ministry, which is making a huge impact in the lives of our young people.
In the US, our Generations Ministries’ camps and mission trips partner with Church Multiplication Ministries and our Pastoral Internship Program under the banner of GCnext. This mission initiative is focused on our vision to multiply all kinds of churches for all kinds of people in all kinds of places. I encourage you to learn more about GCnext at http://mindev.gci.org/GCnext.htm.
Though we are not a large denomination, we certainly have a compelling story. Some of us have had the privilege of taking part in that story for many decades. Let’s not allow our world to close in on us and our perspective to shrink. Though our arteries may harden, our hearts don’t have to. We have been through some fascinating experiences together and the present continues to be interesting and even surprising. Indeed, God’s mercies are new every morning! So let’s be renewed in hope and focus our attention on helping the next generation lay the foundation for what lies ahead.
Your brother in Christ,
Here is a list of our the youth camps that will be held this year in the US. Links are provided to each camp’s website. Below that are links to some of the GCI camps held outside the US.
|Base Camp||Central Tennessee||July 12-13|
|Base Camp NW||Oregon||July 25-29|
|Heartland SEP||N Illinois||July 28-Aug 3|
|Heart O’ Texas||Dallas, TX||July 19-21|
|Higher Ground||North Carolina||July 14-20|
|New Heights||Connecticut||August 11-17|
|Northern Light||Minnesota||July 14-20|
|SEP Florida||N Florida||June 11-14|
|SEP Montana||Montana||July 15-19|
|SEP Rockies||Colorado||July 27-Aug 4|
|SEP So Cal||So. California||June 30-July 6|
|Souled Out||SW Tennessee||to be determined|
|The Mountaintop||Georgia||May 25-27|
|The Rock||North Carolina||June 23-29|
|YES Camp||Louisiana||July 9-16|
For a map showing the US camps, see http://genmin.gci.org/Pictures/camp%20map.jpg (the dates on the map are for 2012; the 2013 dates are shown in the list above). Here are links to some of the GCI-sponsored camps held outside the United States: