Summer camp is my favorite event of the year. I love planning for it, I love promoting for it, and I love the buzz that comes the week before when our team all comes together to finish off the last minute details. But at the end of the day, there is always something we didn’t plan for, and last year was no exception. Throw together lice, vomit, and an unfortunate incident with some students who thought it would be funny to de-pants some people, and we had ourselves some dilemmas that we did not see coming. You always know they’ll show up — but darn it if they don’t surprise you every time.
It was on one of those crazy, nothing-is-going-as-planned nights that the Spirit decided to descend. Three days before, on the first night of camp, I had stood through our first worship-set and compared it to the year prior. On that night, God had moved and students had already experienced massive life-change. I asked God why he wasn’t doing the same thing now, and I heard a still, small voice amidst the glaring bass and overpowering vocals: “just wait.” So I waited. The next morning, I texted my prayer-warrior parents and asked them to pray for my cabin. “THESE GIRLS NEED JESUS,” was all I gave them in way of explanation. Then Wednesday hit, and with it came all of our surprises — lice, puke, and a wave of the Spirit that I never saw coming.
I didn’t grow up in the Vineyard, so this is still all relatively new to me. But when the night starts out with a girl on crutches dancing around, totally healed, you know you’re in for a treat. It began with two of my girls coming up to me during worship, sobbing their faces off and crying between snot bubbles, telling me that all they could feel was joy. Then, one of my girls, who had accepted Christ the night before, prayed with one of the others to accept Christ, and the conversion experience hit her so hard she also collapsed in a wave of tears and laughter. The first girl left to go pray with another (who also accepted Christ), and so another group of girls surrounded the ones who were experiencing the Spirit and prayed for them. By the end of the night, half of my cabin were telling stories of experiencing God’s love in a powerful way, many of them accepting Christ for the first time, and the other half had prayed for those who did. They laughed and cried well past midnight.
The funny thing was that I couldn’t be there for most of it. Between putting out the multiple fires taking place and my general camp duties, I ended up having to stick my girls with another cabin leader. I didn’t get to hear many of these stories as they happened. I didn’t get to pray with most of them — and somehow, I think that’s exactly how it was supposed to be. All year, I poured into those girls through my small group. I hit walls left and right, trying to get them to fall in love with Jesus, and it was at camp that I learned a lesson that I’m sure more seasoned youth-veterans have learned many times over: that the little things add up, but it’s God who always does the heavy-lifting.
Most of youth ministry is not as dramatic as summer camp. But whether we pastor two students or two hundred, it’s relieving to remember that God has it covered. Even when ministry feels fruitless, even when we’re combing lice out of hair or cleaning puke off of plastic mattresses at midnight, still the Spirit moves. I didn’t receive any parent emails about that crazy, Spirit-infused girl’s night, but I received three others from the parents of the girls who’s hair our leaders spent three hours combing out. Each of them expressed deep gratitude that we would take time away from the big picture to focus solely on their child. In the little and the big, God always finds a way to show up.