A lot of people who knew Ken and me thought of us as the pastor and writer – which is true, but there was another part to our ministry, a part we were passionate about – the camp speaker and story teller. As much time as I spent telling stories to kids, I never once did that as part of my job at Awana except when doing my Storytelling workshops at conferences. Here’s a peek into our other life – a life where we taught hundreds and hundreds of chapel services. Ken did messages on a kid level and I told countless stories relating what Ken taught them about the Bible – to their lives. We had the joy of seeing so many kids trust Christ.
(Oh yeah, there was that one time at Awana. I was giving a tour to some Summit kids and one girl kept staring at me until about halfway through the tour she gave me a big smile, “I knew I knew you. You’re Linda, the storyteller. I remember you from camp.)
I think there must be something in the evening air, something that makes children’s voices crackle and sing as they filter to my open window. Something magical that changes their day-tones to a loud, but mellow smoothness. The nearby park offers that to me.
And immediately I am back at camp. Dinner is over. Ken and I wander to our cabin, get our supplies for evening chapel and then sit and wait as we watch the campers pour out of the dining hall and onto the field in front of us. The counselors are ready with the last-games-of-the day, the kind that are structured to (hopefully) wear out 160 fifth and sixth graders. And as the campers jump on the parachute, tug on the rope, throw water balloons, and chase each other across the grass, their screams and laughter mellow in the late evening air.
Occasionally a few of them pause and run up to our porch, sit on the step and chat for a few minutes and then hurry back to the game.
Because we’re in a deep valley between two Rocky Mountains foothills, the sun quickly disappears and darkness hits suddenly. Counselors tell the kids to get their Bibles and head for chapel. Willingly they do.
Ken and I pick up our supplies and head down the path. Beams from flashlights snake through the darkness as kids come of their cabins, the slam of the screen doors echoing in the night.
Several see us and walk with us. “You doing a quiz tonight, Ken? You finishing your story, Linda?” They giggle and hug us. By the time we reach the building, several counselors are on their guitars, and music is now added to the evening’s sound track.
Why are we spending our time with 160 5th and 6th graders? Ken trusted Christ at camp as an 11-year-old because a counselor helped him wash the dishes (when it was Ken’s turn) and that impressed the dishwashing-hating Ken. Impressed him enough that when the counselor talked to Ken about salvation, Ken was willing to listen. And the very next day the counselor challenged Ken to become a pastor and Ken said, “I will.” And he did and right then his desire was to someday reach other kids with the gospel and challenge them to serve Him. And that’s why he was passionate about camp ministry.
I did not trust Christ at camp, but I spent my summers at camp. Every July our family headed East for three weeks so dad could be the speaker at junior camp. I was there every year from the time I was 2 until I was seventeen. And that was just July. We had other camps we went to in August. I loved camp.
So Ken and I decided camp would be a key part of our ministry and over the years we had the privilege of presenting God’s Word to hundreds and hundreds of kids. We taught at several camps – but mostly alternated between Montana and the UP from the time our kids were little until the summer before Ken got sick.
Evening chapel is now over and the kids head to the Hunger Hut. Some are looking a bit tired, but many seem to have energy in reserve. We sit on a bench and the kids come up to talk, offering us a piece of candy from a grimy hand or asking me to autograph a book they just purchased from the bookstore. It grows darker and Ken and I head back through the now silent night to our cabin. We hear the calming rhythm of the Boulder River as the water tumbles over the rocks and the sound of the children fades in the background.
And now, on this day, I am so thankful we had the opportunity to teach, to love, to befriend so many kids … and to share the gospel.
And I am thankful I live close enough to the park that as evening fades away, I hear the sounds that bring back the memories.