Yesterday, I shared a portion of my calling to the camping ministry at First Baptist Church of Pitman, New Jersey. On my drive home I decided that I needed to share some of my story with you. My calling to the camping ministry began when I was very young. Of course, at that time, I did not realize that my future was beginning to take root. As a young boy I attended summer camp weeks at three different camps over three years. The last camp I attended, as a camper, was Laurel Highlands Baptist Camp. My counselor was a man named Tom. Tom was a large round man that had already given many years to serving as a volunteer counselor at Laurel Highlands and had many more to go. As I look back I am convinced that he was a big man because he needed the extra space for his extra large heart! Tom was filled with a love for sharing his faith with his campers and anyone that came close enough to hear him.
I was born into an American Baptist family. I had a lot of good times at my home church and met a lot of very fine people at the church. I had also attended two different Christian camps prior to attending Laurel Highlands Baptist Camp. So I was not lacking for Biblical teaching! Yet, there was something missing even though I did not realize it until I met Tom!
I was a very shy (hard to believe) and backwards boy. Tom quickly understood that and totally took me under his wing and kept me close. Boys at that age can be hard on each other and even cruel to each other at times. But the week I was in that cabin I was protected and safe. No one could hurt me or harm me while Tom was around. Not only did we have a lot of fun, we learned our Bible lessons and more about Jesus. The more I learned about Jesus the more I was convinced that Tom must surely have looked a lot like Jesus! He was a very kind and loving man who cared deeply about my well-being. He desired that I be a better person and assured me that I was loved. Tom showed me a better way to be as a young boy. Tom was the very first person outside of my own family that I knew loved me for who I was! It is that love that I experienced as a boy that I desire to share with others. It became the very beginning of my calling to the camp ministry and eventually lead me to New Jersey and Camp Lebanon.
Tom is not around any more except in my memories and the memories of the many lives that he touched over the years. Our churches and beloved Camp Lebanon need more Tom's hanging around. I know Tom was who he was because of who his Lord and Savior was! Tom loved others because he, too, was loved by the Master, Jesus Christ.
What about you, are you like Tom? If so, I would challenge you to give a week of your life as a cabin counselor. You never know who you will impact or where it may lead them! Maybe, just maybe, Camp Lebanon's future Director will be a camper this summer!