It feels like a year has passed since the childcare workers first arrived and made nametags –
like months have passed since we first unloaded the storage closet –
and like weeks have passed since we first met mamas and babies.
Indeed, a week of Young Lives camp cannot be measured in real time. There are too many joys, too many tears, too much laughter, too much crying, too much playing, too much resting, and too much life to measure in days, hours, or minutes.
A week of Young Lives contains a lifetime of love, hope, friendship, and in the end, family.
The childcare workers (gracious, yes) do indeed fall in love with each and every baby, toddler, and child they care for – not as deeply in love as the mamas (gracious, no), but in love nonetheless.
There are countless circles of love here at Young Lives camp: mamas for the babies, babies for the mamas, mentors for the mamas, work staff for the campers, childcare workers for the babies, childcare workers for each other. Each circle is a community of belonging and a family of hope.
All of these circles matter deeply. It is not just the love for babies that carries the day here at Young Lives – though that love is glorious indeed.
But it is primarily – solely and only, in fact – God’s love for fallen, broken, sorry, and undeserving humanity (each and every one of us) that carries the day. His love is why we care. His love is why we have hope. His love is why we wake each day. His love is why we are here. His love is why we live.
They arrived today – cars and vans and busses of young mamas, babies, and mentors (who are women of courage, strength, and faith that none can describe fully or faithfully).
We are off and running, and the race is going to be exhilarating as these young women are introduced to love, grace, joy, and eternal reconciliation.
This week happens, in large part, because of things that are seen by only a few people, things that are astoundingly and breathtakingly beautiful –
things like moving over 100 strollers from under the rainy skies to under the dry porch to wait for their first passenger to arrive … sometimes the weather is drizzly, you see
things like stacking highchairs and patiently vacuuming a dining hall where 100 tinies and littles just ate dinner with their mamas … sometimes the food flies, you see
things like wiping down sticky booster chairs in which 50 toddlers just ate dinner with their mamas … sometimes the food spills, you see
things like holding a little for the very first time while her mama heads off for an evening of laughter, fun, and whimsical play … sometimes the littles need some encouragement, you see
things like letting a tiny snuggle in close so she can sleep peacefully, safely, and contentedly until her mama returns with a wide embrace … sometimes the tinies just need a safe and warm place, you see
things like comforting a little while he rests in a new place for the very first time … sometimes everyone needs a reassuring presence, you see.
These are the unseen things that make this week possible – these and a thousand others like them.
Our God is a God of grace, and He has surely filled this place and these people with grace unbounding. He has breathed Himself into this air and into these lives.
Tomorrow, 100+ teen moms and their collective 100+ babes, plus 70 or so mentors, will descend on a place in northern Michigan that really doesn’t matter much (there are, after all, lots of beautiful places in the world) except for the fact that it has been consecrated for the Lord’s work. And His work this week is to really truly fully love a population that doesn’t always get loved that way.
Tomorrow is known as Day 1 in camp speak. Which makes today Day 0. Which means today, 84 childcare workers arrive – people aged 16 to 70-something, who pay for a full week of camp in order to love and care for a young mama’s baby for 6 days so the mama herself can be a teenager.
It blows me away every single time I see it happen because, well, 100+ babies and teen moms.
In 24 hours, a thousand things need to get done. Strollers to be lined up. Highchairs to be hosed down. Toys to be sterilized. Nurseries to be organized, stocked, and set up. Carpets to be cleaned. Supplies and clothing and more supplies and clothing to be sorted. Prayer spaces to be created. And that doesn’t include all the other things that need to happen for any other week of camp – cleaning, mowing, prepping, straightening, beautifying, and also maybe a bit of resting.
Today all of this happened (plus so much more):
…so that this could exist (and so much more):
And with only 30 minutes until childcare workers arrived, this was happening:
…because every minute is useful when you are prepping for tomorrow’s arrival of mamas and babies and today’s arrival of childcare workers, who were greeted just as if they were a busload of teenage campers (though they were maybe only 1 or 2 cars of 2 of 4 people)…
…and whose suitcases were carried, even if they were just one person rather than a full cabin of campers:
Humility is a strange thing. It is active. It is visible. It is real. It is earth-shattering.
But mostly, it is obedient – obedient to a Father who loves us so deeply that the only possible response is to love and obey in return. We so often do these two things, loving and obeying, poorly. I pray that this week, we do them well. Not because we are awesome (oh gracious, we are not); not because we want to be noticed (please Lord, protect our hearts against such desires); not because they are the magic cures to a life of difficult trials and problems (love and obedience just as often invite their own trials and problem).
I pray that this week we do them (loving and obeying well) just because we should. Just because God told us to. Just because that is what we are commanded to do. That is reason enough. More than enough. No matter what the situation. But especially when 100+ teen moms and their babies are going to be arriving soon. Oh yes – especially then.
[This post is seventeenth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]
Sometimes when you’re at Young Lives camp with 98 teen moms and 94 babies and and 43 leaders, the weather gets kind of bad.
Sometimes it rains after you get into the dining hall to eat breakfast – and then stops just when it’s time to go outside for field games.
Sometimes it rains (pours, really) when club has started – and then stops just in time for campers and leaders to walk back to cabins for good conversation.
Sometimes the power goes out after club music is done and the talk is about to start (in a room that isn’t very deep, with a speaker who has a very strong outside voice and thinks things like power outages at camp are adventurous and exciting) – and then comes back on just after the closing prayer is finished.
Sometimes it rains when campers and leaders are in the cabins having good conversation – and then stops just in time for them to walk across camp for a sweet dance party.
Sometimes it rains during a sweet dance party – and then stops when the sweet dance party is done, just in time to pick up babies and walk them back to cabins for bed.
Sometimes the power goes out after moms and babies are safely back in their cabins at the end of a long day – and then comes back on just in time to give final bottles and baths before snuggling under the covers.
Sometimes you need 94 extra towels (that you don’t have) for exactly 94 babies (that you do have) – and when you gather and search and compile and count everything you can find in every place you can access, you find exactly 94 extra towels.
Sometimes all of that happens in a single day.
And when I say sometimes, I mean today.
Welcome to Young Lives camp.Welcome to Jesus.Welcome to the miraculous.
An awesome place to be. An awesome God to follow. An awesome thing to see – even (or especially) when it’s dark because the power is out.
[This post is sixteenth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]
Scripture refers to God as “Father” often enough for it to be one of His main names and attributes.
For some people, that’s problematic. “Father” does not always – in some cases does not at all – equate with trust, protection, and love. In such cases, there are emotional hurdles that must be leaped repeatedly before new life in Christ can be embraced.
But God the Father has some motherly attributes that are overlooked at our own peril and loss.
In the poetry of Job, God calls himself the mother of the ice who gives birth to both dew and frost.
God protects his children under his wings just as a mother hen protects her chicks.
God helps his offspring fly on his wings just as a mother eagle helps her eaglets.
God comforts His children just as a mother comforts her children.
God loves and nurtures His people so they can learn to rest contentedly in His arms just as a weaned child rests in her mother’s arms.
God gives us new life. God rebirths us. God welcomes us into the kingdom of his household.
God is Father as only God can be.
At the same time, God births, nurtures, and loves with a mother’s heart.
For teen moms, created in the very image of God, this is beautiful and breathtaking truth.
[This post is fourteenth of a series in which I reflect on spending a month at camp for Wyldlife (middle schoolers) and YoungLives (teen moms). You can follow by subscribing to this blog below. All posts are categorized as ‘Michindoh 2013’.]
Today, this must happen in preparation for tomorrow’s arrival of 100 teen moms and their babies:
unload the storage closet (in which is stacked and piled highchairs, bouncy chairs, baby swings, booster chairs, toys, rocking chairs, changing tables, and so much more);
wash everything that is in said storage closet – maybe twice;
divide and deliver all the cleaned stuff to one of eight different nurseries;
deliver mini-fridges to each camper cabin;
put safety plugs into every outlet in every camper cabin;