Last week we offered our annual “Camp Luke” experience. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the lingo, it’s our version of Vacation Bible School.) It was my eighth year to help lead Summer Splash, and I can truly say it is one of my favorite weeks of the entire year. Over those eight years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. In my second year we re-named the week “Summer Splash” to convey how much fun the week truly is. Then a few years ago we added a separate program for older kids (“Middle School Mayhem”) and an afternoon program to explore Music, Art, & Drama (hence the name of “MAD Camp"). When you put all those programs together, you get “Camp Luke.”
With those additional programs, we are serving more children & teens than ever. This year 416 kids attended one or more of the camp offerings; when you add in adult volunteers our total attendance at all camps topped 550 people! What I love is seeing how diverse this group is becoming, thanks in large part to the work of our community outreach ministries (for example, our work in the Crooked Creek community, and our weekly ENL programs). We’re also seeing more and more children with behavioral or special needs attend our camps, and I’m so incredibly thankful for the volunteers who make that possible!
I’ve had a week to reflect on the experience, and ask myself the question, "What makes it so meaningful to me?" Certainly, it is a lot of fun—we have dance contests and lip sync battles and every day this year someone got a pie or cake or ice cream Sunday right in the kisser! And it is an inspiring week as well—what inspires me most is seeing kids engaged in missions. This year we designated our offering to the Global Interfaith Partnership, which works to provide school lunches to children in Kenya. We started off with what I thought was an ambitious goal of $2,500 (enough to provide lunch for 100 students for a school year). Well, the kids blasted through that goal, raising just over $4,500, which means an entire school in Kenya will be able to provide school lunches for an entire year! Talk about inspiring!
But here’s what I really love about the week. It’s that kids come with such an open heart to God. You see the openness in so many ways. In the way they bring forward their offerings (often just a bag of coins or a few dollar bills) with such pride and joy. In the way they delight in a simple high five or the way they want to show off the new handshake they just created. In the way they sing—our last day, we have this tradition of pulling all 300+ elementary & preschool kids up on the stage to sing for their parents. And while the kids were singing, we had technical issues, the computer kept skipping. So I motioned for the sound booth to drop the sound, and without any accompaniment or words on the screen, the kids just sang on, and the purity of their voices praising God was enough to melt any heart!
So kids come with this open heart. And they are met by an army of volunteers—youth and adults—who receive them with an open heart in turn. And this is the magic—not the fun, not the decorations and crafts and bells and whistles, as great as all that stuff is. It’s the love. It’s every kid knowing, when they walk away from Camp Luke, that they are loved and valued both by God and by our church. This, to me, is what it looks like to an “open community”—a place where our hearts are open to one another and to God.
One of our volunteers sent me a text last week. She was driving home from Camp Luke when her preschool son randomly blurted out: “Hey, Mommy, Jesus is everywhere!” Thank you to everyone who made last week possible, thank you St. Luke’s for being a church that is OK with letting kids take over and transform the place for an entire week! It is so worth it, to open just a single child’s heart to the knowledge that Jesus is everywhere. Multiply that knowledge times hundreds of young hearts, and you see why it’s my favorite week of the year!