See what great love the Father has lavished on use, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason that the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made know. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3
As with most of you, we have met the summer with various feelings. After an early very warm spell in May, followed by quite a cool and wet season, the weather finally turned more summer-like and with it came thoughts of laughter and fun and all the things that come with summer. But these have of course been tempered by corona realities.
We were so very thankful that our summer camp weeks, starting halfway through July, would be able to continue. The Belgian government considered groups of 50 a doable scenario when it came to keeping an eye on who might get sick among young people. This meant that our three weeks of camp - for 15+, Benjamins (8-11 years-old) and Teens (12-14 years-old) would still take place, albeit with some changes.
Looking back on those weeks, we are so thankful for what God is able to do in whatever circumstances. Our youth week was a very valuable time for the older youth who seldom see each other (certainly now) and have little opportunity to discuss the burning questions they are struggling with in their faith. Camp has provided a well-needed oasis where they could broach topics in an atmosphere of understanding and real conversation.
The following week saw more than 25 young campers make good use of our camp facilities. Many are new families sending their kids for the first time to camp. Imagine the trust that this shows in these covid times! I was impressed with the parents and so thankful for the people working to have a great week of learning and growing in faith with these kids. It is exciting to see how God touches so many lives through so many people.
The first week of August was Teen week. By then the Belgian government had pulled back on some of the rules that had earlier been loosened, but they still allowed the youth camps. Our camp commission met and decided to cancel our Family Week at camp, which would follow the teen week. This is the first time we have ever had to make such a decision, but we felt it was the best decision for our families.
Teen camp this year saw 15 campers show up to camp to learn about Joshua and Judges and to grow in faith while having a great time with friends they may only see once a year. Actually this year saw several new friendships made as well. I was cam-leader in name, but was also training two assistent camp leaders. In addition I was the teacher for the week, guiding discussions on the challenging lessons from Joshua’s life and from the ups-and-downs of Judges.
It was interesting to hear some of the conversations and see the struggles with some of the topics. We had two muslim boys (of the 12 boys and 3 girls) which made for even more interesting conversation. The main point of choosing to be real with following God, being courageous and staying true to God as He desires is something that we all need to hear each and every day. God’s message to Joshua is no different than Jesus’ message to us as His followers: Be strong and courageous, for I am with you. Go into all the world and make disciples and see, I am with you.
You can see some of our pictures from Teen Camp here.
That courage and strength is something we all need, every day, even in the very little things. The Sunday after camp we met as a congregation online once again because we had a few members who at that moment were uncertain. Tests returned negative and we are able to meet in person again this Sunday. But each day reminds us of the realities of the world in which we live and how we always need the strength and grace of our loving Father to make it through each day.
ON THE FAMILY SIDE…
We were also blessed in these months with a visit from Sean and Jill. They were able to send a month in Belgium, seeing friends and family and especially getting time to say goodbye to Jill’s grandmother who passed away while they were here. To say that being able to hold a funeral is a blessing seems strange, but in these times it is true. We had prayed that Jill would be able to have time to see her grandma and truly say goodbye.
We were so thankful that we also had time to sit and talk, to walk together (even to go on a bike ride once) with Sean. The day Scott returned from camp we also got to see Sean and Jill in Brussels for a last visit before they headed back to New York the following day. We are always so thankful for every little moment that we get to see our kids in person, to hold them. We are also thankful for the digital blessing of talking over long distances (we come from the generation of airmail letters to one another). We get to talk to Stephan almost every week as well. But it is always good to be able to see one another and hold tight for just a little bit.
It is amazing to me how much this hit me this summer. We are separated, unable to meet as we would wish - even in the same city. And to be honest, this is our reality in this world as well. As children of God, followers of Christ, we know that this world is not our home. We know that there are those who have gone before us who we cannot at this time hold on to. But we WILL see one another - as we are. And we look forward to that time. And in the meantime, we make the most of every moment together, thankful for the hope and promise in God who is always with us.