In some ways, Young Lives camp looks entirely different from Young Life camp. The tables are set with these:
Many of the breakfast Cheerios end up here:
There are people pushing strollers all over camp:
There are also tricycles, scooters, pedal-cars, and pedal-tractors at every turn. Add to that pack-n-plays, crates of diapers, changing tables, swings, tiny tables and chairs, napping cots, bottles, sippy cups, diaper bags, onesies, baby wipes, building blocks, exer-saucers, and a thousand other things, and it would be easy to assume that Young Lives camp is nothing like Young Life camp.
But that would be a wrong assumption.
Because at Young Lives camp, things like this still happen:
And that leads to this:
A genuine, bonafide, Young Life carnival, which is the perfect way for a young mama to end a wondrous day because – just like every other teen who visits this sacred slice of creation – she has come to experience the best week of her life. And we are going to do our best to give it to her, because that’s what love does.
In the Young Life camping lexicon, tonight is traditionally called The Night That Never Ends.
In the Young Lives world, The Night That Never Ends does in fact end. Usually by about 10:30. Because, well, the babies.
But still – it is a very long day (though not the longest, for in the Young Lives camping lexicon we have something called The Day That Never Ends, aka SPA DAY which is exactly what it sounds like, so go ahead and be jealous).
Pulling off The Night That Never Ends week after week after week is A Thing Neither Quick Nor Easy. And more than once at least a few people are likely to wonder whether all the work is really worth it.
There are the gravelly rodeo paths to navigate with all those strollers:
There are all the costumes to gather and don:
And then there is a carnival to set up – in silence, in darkness, in 30 minutes flat – while campers are otherwise occupied:
And there is cotton candy to spin. And funnel cakes to dust with sugar. And ice-cream sundaes to scoop and serve. And during all of that, all those babies to be cared for and cuddled and loved and held.
I don’t suppose there is anyone who more deserves a personal rodeo and carnival than a group of young mothers who spend their days caring for a young human being who is entirely dependent upon them. Personal rodeos and carnivals aren’t come by just like that. You can’t order them online or download them as an app.
But here, there are rodeos. And costumes. And carnivals. And a whole lot of state-fair-type food.
And because of almost 100 childcare workers, there are several hours in this Night That Never Ends (But Really Does Because, You Know, The Babies) during which over 100 young mothers can laugh and play like children.
We believe rodeos and costumes and carnivals and state-fair food are worth every ounce of effort because they translate thus: All of this for you. And you are worth all of it.
And it’s true: every young mama and baby here is worth every single ounce of energy and effort and love that is expended, and so much more than that. For just like everyone else that has ever lived, God knit each one of them together before they were born, he knew and loved them before they were conceived, and he came and died for them before they’d ever heard his name.
All of this crazy nonsense on The Night That Never (But Really Does) End is just a tiny overflow of something deeper, richer, wider, higher, and more magnificent than any one of us can ever truly understand. But if rodeos and costumes and carnivals and state-fair food that are presented with excellence and a joyful smile can reflect even just a sliver of that overflow, then we will have done today’s job well.
That is why we do what we do, and it’s an amazing why to be sure.