For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)
Our outdoor ministry theme for summer 2020 was “Generations to Generations” based on Psalm 100:5. In a summer season that was so drastically different than typical or anticipated, this in many ways was a perfect theme. Written in November and published by LOM (Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, our national organization), the curriculum team had no idea what was ahead, but I believe our God who guides us knew there were lessons in these verses for the months ahead. My time was different this season, my time allowed for more reflection spaces throughout a week and moments to linger into deeper conversations with people I was blessed to be able to interact with. Through this summer season amongst a pandemic, we were able to allow small groups of volunteers at Luther Heights Bible Camp and lessons were learned. Here are some lessons I learned from various generations these past 10 weeks.
Observations from the Young:
We had youth two weekends at camp, from 2-16 years old and wisdom and joy were shared. My two-year-old friend, Gracie taught me the value of keeping others safe from our actions and showing God’s love in tangible ways. She wore a mask with little struggle and even toddled around camp with her baby doll wearing a mask, further showing me the value of modeling for others behaviors of love. One Saturday evening for campfire worship, our invocation, a call to worship to help ourselves enter into a space of prayer and acknowledge God’s presence around us, we were going to launch a simple model rocket. A group of 4 youth spent the better part of the afternoon working together to figure out how to build this rocket. They worked together, ages 6 to 13 helping each other, problem solving and even asking for help when they needed it. Something we all can learn from, to lean in those around us and not be afraid to ask for help. So, there we were … waiting for the big launch and as you can guess … it didn’t work the first time or the second. And so, as adults we waited patiently, encouraged, helped a little and they persisted. At one point we broke out into a camp song that goes, “I will call upon the Lord.” But you know what, we laughed, we kept trying, and we did acknowledge God can help us in every moment. And then, finally lift off; the rocket went flying to the sky, there were many shouts of joy from all ages and the kids went running through the meadow to get the rocket when it landed.
Structure & Joy in the Little Moments from the Millennials:
We were blessed by two staff this summer that served focusing on many work projects, hospitality needs for when we had volunteers, and program options to continue to help people in our community connect to camp and our grace-filled God. Early on in our eight weeks together, I saw how much they valued our team meetings. They valued this dedicated time to gather in prayer, check in with each other and plan for the week. They thrived when we set goals together, discussed projects and delegated tasks as needed. When we paused and took some moments to check in with ourselves and each other, we were better able to think about what was ahead. When we had a plan and some structure to our weeks, we were more productive and focused. I find that in myself these days as I try to adjust the fall rhythm, balancing my job demands, virtual learning for my two children, and some moments for self-care that thinking through the week, creating a plan, and setting some goals help greatly. The other piece this generation taught me was how important it was to find joy daily and often, sharing jokes or puns to create a laugh, enthusiastically singing a camp song at the top of our lungs and dancing because we were outside and we could, and finding moments to play, to recreate whether it be a bike ride or looking at the stars or a weekly game night.
Wisdom from our Elders:
Many of the volunteers this summer were older than me, having been around this camp for decades. One Saturday night we sat outside with one of these couples and listened to stories while looking at photos from the past. We all sat listening and wanting more details from the past, details of how cabins came to be or funny stories of volunteer work weekends or unique animal sightings. As I sat there listening, one thing I realized was the joy and community volunteering had brought to these volunteers. Volunteering at Luther Heights Bible Camp for years have given this couple a faith-filled community that helped them be their best selves. It gave them a community to share life with and lean into God through the ups and downs throughout the years. Serving a non-profit whose mission they believed in gave them purpose and meaning. Another experience always looked forward too is when this couple comes to camp we will get to see shiny rocks and gems and learn about where they are from and some geology. One of Chuck and Sharon’s hobbies is rocks and the joy they find in that hobby they share, creating more curious minds about geology. One thing that left me in awe with many of our older volunteers was their dedication to this mission and openness to new ways God will call us to connect with all. They shared a deep hope in the future, of what is to come and of the younger generations with unique gifts who will experience the grace of God here in this special place.
So, the past three months were different than I ever would have anticipated and yet, full of wisdom from the generations. Thank you, LOM, (and God) for the perfect theme this summer; focusing on a God whose love does endure forever. This week connect with someone from a generation other than your own, I promise there will be lessons for both of you.
Let us pray...
God of the present moment, God who in Jesus stills the storm and soothes the frantic heart, bring hope and courage to all who wait in uncertainty. Bring hope that you will make them the equal of whatever lies ahead. Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided, for your will is health and wholeness; you are God and we need you. Amen
New Zealand Prayer Book, #747