I grew up in a church that had vacation Bible school every summer. Looking back, it seemed like more of a discipleship event held for the kids who attended the church. Sure, there would be a few friends and neighbors but it certainly didn’t seem like an outreach opportunity. Many of you who grew up in the church may have had similar experiences. Kamp Karis is a different animal. My wife, Annie, and I were debriefing after the final day of Kamp and she remarked, “It feels like we just got back from a mission trip.” Indeed. I agreed. The crazy thing about that statement is that the mission field was literally three blocks from my home. We didn’t need to go to Brazil or Japan. God has people right here in our own backyard.
Kamp is a missional event for those of us at Karis. We have children that attend Karis every Sunday that need to hear the Gospel again and we have children in the surrounding neighborhood that need to hear the Gospel too. Every person, no matter how young or old, needs to have the Gospel repeatedly shared with them. When we come together as a body and serve with a focused, missional, mindset - three amazing things happen:
Gospel camaraderie When we step out on a limb together for Jesus we grow closer to one another. We find ourselves talking excitedly about what we see God doing at Kamp. We need each other in the most basic of ways. We need help setting up a table, taking out the trash, washing dishes, handing out prizes to kids. In order to do these seemingly mundane tasks, we are forced to act quickly, calling each other by name. Not only do we feel (emotionally) a part of the Body, we see and feel (physically) the Body at work.
Hearts are changed This is a two-fold consequence. We prayed extensively for the hearts of the children who would attend Kamp and we trust that the Lord heard our prayers. But let’s start somewhere else. Let’s begin by examining the changes that happen in our own hearts. When I got home Monday evening I was exhausted. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. All of the ways. I woke up Tuesday morning aching all over. I wondered how God was going to get us through the next two days. But you know what? My heart was FULL. I was feeling the beginnings of heart rejuvenation which would only grow more intense as Kamp went on. I sit here writing these thoughts this morning with a heart that is captivated again by the love that Jesus has for me and for the families represented at Kamp. I know that I’m not alone in this. I’m certain many of our 60-something volunteers are tired, but I also know that they are refreshed in a new way. We are reminded of one of the deep Gospel mysteries: when we empty ourselves, then are we truly filled.
Ripples are sent into eternity Many of us are familiar with Revelation 7:9 which reads:“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,”
One of most exciting aspects of our building at Karis Westside is being physically near Columbia Square and Claudell Apartment complexes. If we say we believe that God is sovereign, we must also believe that he placed us here. These apartments are generally rented to low-income families, the people that live here do not look like the average Karis member. This gives us an opportunity to show our city what the Kingdom of God really looks like: the vision that we get from John in Revelation.
On the first evening of Kamp, kids learned about how Jesus left the 99 sheep to retrieve the one (Luke 15). In a parallel fashion, several of our volunteers went after the “one” child at Columbia Square – fetching them to come to Kamp and walking them home after. Relationships were established through these walks. In fact, three of our staff were invited into a family's home for a birthday party. One of our lead teachers remarked Wednesday evening, “this was the best VBS-style experience I’ve had in a long time. I feel like I’m getting a glimpse of the Kingdom.” She was sitting out on the front lawn, taking in the Kamp Karis Family Dinner Wednesday evening. She saw different people eating, playing, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company.
The Lord is so good. He was faithful to his glorious nature at Kamp this year. I can’t help but hear His call to continue to pursue the work He has started in our neighborhood. Brothers and sisters, so many of you served faithfully at Kamp. Most of you spent numerous hours in preparation. Thank you so much. Let’s reflect on His goodness, grace, and love. Let’s remember what He did this week. May those memories carry us forward as we press onward toward the upward call of Christ to love our neighbors and bring His Kingdom to our city.