By Heather Pancoast
Warren Willis United Methodist Camp and Community UMC
Fruitland Park, FL
At the front of the camp where I work, there is a gate. For many years it was simply a gate that indicated you had arrived on to the camp property. The gate didn’t open or close, it just was. As a child when I would attend camp for a week during the summer, I can remember the feelings, as our church bus would pull through that gate; elation, excitement, joy! I was ready and anticipating an experience that I knew would be forever life-changing. At the time I didn’t really understand why my time at camp had such an impact on me, but years later I deeply understand.
Every Monday, as we await, the campers that are preparing to pull through the gates for their life-changing week, I pray something like this: “God please use us this week in the lives of these campers. We have the opportunity to unconditionally love each child that drives through that gate today. Let us be Your hands and feet, that every child will experience your love and grace.”
The counselors at the camp are amazing for many reasons! The way they help campers to feel accepted, loved, and like they belong, is the most awesome thing I see them do. They have a way of making each camper feel as though they are the most important, coolest, special kid at camp that week, no matter their background, where they come from, or what kind of walls they have built up. For many campers, camp is the first place where they will experience this kind of unconditional love and sense of belonging.
What we believe, as Christians, is that God gives us the power to do this in each other’s lives each and every day. It doesn’t have to be at camp and it doesn’t have to be within a local church (although those sure are great places for this to happen). “Know that the Lord made us and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:4. We are all God’s children; we have been given the ability to love each other, been given gifts to serve each other, and kindness and acceptance in our hearts to make one another feel loved. Today, you will likely encounter someone who needs to feel God’s love, peace and acceptance. I pray that you will treat that person so that they too feel as though they are the most important, coolest, special kid at camp.
Prayer: God, you are our Creator and our Parent. We are your creation, your children. Help us to include each and every child into your fold. Grant us wisdom to see beyond our differences, kindness to forgive hurt, and love to overflow from our hearts towards all people. Thank you for the gift of life, community and relationships through which we can experience Your love and grace. Amen.
1. Think back to a time when you felt like you didn’t belong. How did that feeling affect your relationship and or view of your Creator?
2. Has their ever been a time in your life when someone went out of their way to make you feel included or special like you belonged?
3. How can your church, small group, Sunday school class, etc. work to make those inside and outside of your church feel like the most important, coolest, special kid at camp?