Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Get Across

I spent the first ten years of my volunteer youthworker life working with a program called Christian Service Brigade (and I do mean program... but that's another topic altogether). CSB is a discipleship/mentorship program for boys and young men that is very similar to the Boy Scouts, except it is formulated around the local church. There is a progressive, formal achievement program whereby boys earn patches, much like badges in Boy Scouts. Each local church's specific program has a different look and feel to it. In some areas, there is also a very strong summer camp program through CSB's regional camps.
CSB has a place that is close to my heart because it was thru it that I first heard about Jesus, noticed the difference in people's lives that called themselves Christians, and accepted Jesus. Not only that, my first summer of being a Christian, right after my freshman year in high school, I went off to one of these summer camps to be on junior staff. It was that summer that God got a hold of my heart, that He took a kind of strange suburban Chinese kid, and showed him the wonder of His creation, what it looked like to serve, and the power and energy in the emerging generation.
As a college freshmen, four years later, the leaders of our CSB unit in our local church decided to fold up shop. They were tired, out of ideas, had other priorities. So my roommate M decided, rather to let it die, that he would take it, run with it, assume to grand, guarded title of Captian. I, and a few of us other lads who had come through high school with CSB, were partners in crime with him. Little did we know how formative that experience would be.
Since we were now the leaders, we had been given both the privlege and responsibility of doing pretty much whatever we wanted to, within the limits of the program material. (There is that P word again...) Since our unit was always historically centered around backcountry experiences; camping, hiking, climbing, etc., this opportunity allowed us to basically do whatever exploring like boys liked to do, under the umbrella of a local church ministry. Want to climb at Seneca Rocks in October? Sure enough. Canoe down the Shenandoah in May? Done deal. Hike the AT through Maryland in February? Go for it. (Well, the last one was a bit sketchy.)
One of my favorite experiences was leading a week long backpacking trip right out of the local camp, Camp Hemlock, during one of the summer camp sessions. Three of us leaders, the aforementioned M, E, and myself took 12 high school guys with us, hiking right out of camp, looping through the GW National Forest on either side and eventually, via a short van ride, hiking right back into camp at the end of the week. Included in there was two afternoons of climbing, lots of camp fires, tons of freeze dried food and the gas that goes with it.
We had scouted out the trail the weekend before so we knew what to expect, mostly. Towards the end of the trip, we knew there was a river crossing. The river was maybe 75 feet across, probably about mid thigh depth, nothing crazy. But we wanted to be sure, because, well, we were the leaders. So we planted an inflatable raft on the closer side of the river.
As we brought the kids down the trail head, we told them to stop, do some bookwork for ten minutes, and then continue down the trail. You will see us down there, we said. Then M, E and I continued to hike. After we rounded the corner and were out of sight, we started booking down the trail, as fast as we could, with our big backpacks on our backs. We got to the river, pulled the raft out of the high grass, jumped in, rowed across, jumped out, and stashed the raft.
When our boys came down and saw the river, we were standing on the other side, arms crossed, completely try. M yelled two words from his mouth, slowly, confidently, with a certain amount of pride - "Get across."
Then we watched our boys, like lemmings, wade, jump, some of them saunter, across the river.
That image is what we do wrong many times. We yell, "Get across" to people, to students, to other leaders, to other cultures. Whether its about the crossing to get to Jesus, the difference between helping a leader learn how to do it or them falling on their face, or the student who needs more than just theory about who God is... So many times, we've taken the boat and deliberately chosen not to cross the river with them.

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