I’ve done a lot of work with branding and marketing over the years. The challenge is the same for every client: distilling a complicated web of people and services down to a single clear idea, centred around an all-important question.
What are we here to do?
When I got involved with the camp, the answer seemed obvious. Most camps share the same mission — loving children.
But as I reflect on what we’ve accomplished and the community that we’ve created around that mission, I feel that we’ve gone a bit further.
What I’d suggest to you is that our camp (along with its extension programs Heroes Academy and Friends & Family Night) is about something deeper and more profound.
The goal, as I see it now, is “loving people into the fullness of life through togetherness, intentional vulnerability, and simple joys.“
As I move on in life, those are the qualities I’ll remember from the beautiful young people I’ve been blessed to have walked alongside for the past few years.
Though I’ve struggled through deep waters and certainly fallen short of what I hoped to offer those people and programs, I also leave with more joy than shame.
Could I have done better? Yes. Emphatically so.
But could I have loved more? Could I have been more vulnerable? Could I have experienced more joy? I don’t think so. And I like to believe that’s meaningful.
To those who laid the foundation for the camp, I have nothing but praise and thanks. Getting a chance to be involved has deeply enriched my life. However failingly, I’ve done what I could to honour and strengthen that legacy.
To those taking on the torch, I want to disclose my full heart:
- The message of Jesus is the spine of everything we have. We must teach it faithfully to those coming up behind and alongside us — and we must embody it. Let us give great care to how that message is lived out. A hug and a listening ear can be the best sermon sometimes.
- As has always been true, the great challenges facing our younger generations all concern relationships. We’re all hard wired to ask the same questions: Who will love us both for and despite our faults? Who will guide us with humility and grace towards the best version of ourselves? Who will create time to walk our journey with us? Who will teach us by their actions that we’re people to be appreciated and enjoyed? Kids will gravitate slowly towards whatever place or people best meet those needs. Let it be us.
- Friends and Family Night is an amazing complement to Heroes Academy, and to the church itself. It offers beautiful potential for the sort of community-building enshrined in our mission. But sitting at a table is not automatically true togetherness. We have a thousand walls and insecurities keeping us from one another’s depths. The measure of our ability to transcend those barriers to allow true bonding and growth will be determined by our intentionality. Who will we sit with? Who will we avoid? What place will we give our fears? Which will we let win: a courageous love or our native preference for comfort?
- Financial challenges are ahead. Many will suffer. To the degree that we’re really as connected as we ought to be, this will cause all of us to suffer. Those in pain will also feel tremendous relational anxiety and guilt during this season. As we lift our hands to help with the practical things, let us not forget how powerful words and time and presence are. As a family, we must suffer together so that we can thrive together on the other side of hardship.
I don’t say these things from an elevated place of wisdom or enlightenment. I’m a young man. Painfully so at times. But I speak with candour about how I’ve been blessed by you, and how I hope and pray that those blessings will continue to touch others.
I’ll leave you with the words of a better writer:
I’ve been told that the most healing thing to do
Is to remind ourselves, over and over and over,
That other people feel this too.
Tomorrow has come and gone
And it hasn’t gotten better.
But I’ve never met a heavy heart
That wasn’t a phonebooth with a red cape inside.
Some people will never understand the kind of superpower it takes
For some people just to walk outside —
Some days I know my smile looks like the gutter of a falling house,
But my hands are always holding tight to the ripcord of my belief
That a life can be rich like the soil.
What I know about living is that the pain is never just ours.
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo,
So I keep listening for the moment that grief becomes a window
Showing me what I couldn’t see before.
Here we are together,
Aching for it to all get better —
But knowing, as bad as it hurts,
That our hearts may have only just skinned their knees
And that there’s a chance the worst day might still be coming.
So, let me say right now for the record:
I’m still gonna be here
Asking this world to dance,
Even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet.
You — you stay here with me, ok?
You stay here with me,
Raising your bite against the bitter dark.
If the only things we have to gain are each other,
My God, that’s plenty
My God, that’s enough
My God, that’s so so much for the light to give —
Each of us at each other’s backs,
Whispering over and over and over:
“Live, live, live.”