Coming into the summer I did not know what to expect, but I knew I wanted to share the gospel with kids. Before camp I was working at an elementary school and so deeply wanted to tell them about the hope they could have in Christ, but I was not allowed to. My ears were full of stories about broken homes, split families, basic needs not being met; hard stories told through the mouths of my students. The biggest hope they can have is Jesus, but I could not tell them that. I just had to say it’s going to be okay, but I could never tell them why. I was looking forward to a summer of sitting down with the children like the ones in my classroom, looking them in the eye and saying “Life is hard but what we have hope for is Heaven and we have the Holy Spirit and Jesus to get us through hard things.” And that is exactly what I got to do. I also dressed up like a pirate, a lot. Here is our team:
As I sat and shared the Gospel with kids during the summer, God moved in my own heart (no surprise). I knew that Jesus had died for me, that I was set free, but if I’m honest the list of “read your bible, don’t forget to pray, do the right thing” was on habitual repeat in my mind. As I watched other counselors share with campers again and again JUST HOW MUCH JESUS LOVES them, I realized I had been complicating the Gospel for myself. All of a sudden a switch flicked on in my mind. Something changed and I realized, “OH! This so much easier than I am making it out to be!” I began to believe the gospel in the simple way I wanted these kids to understand it.
The highlight of my whole summer was a camper named Emily*. Have you ever seen someone and just immediately loved them? This happened when I saw Emily. The minute I saw her I thought, this girl HAS to be in my bible study group. We had a busy week, loads of campers, and normally we don’t request specific campers in our bible studies, but I sought our leadership team to see if was possible to move her into my group, they said yes, and I was ecstatic. Emily had down syndrome.
Emily* was so sweet and talked about how much she loved Jesus. Every day, she would tell each person in our group that she loved them. She would look at me and my co-leader and tell us she loved us. She didn’t just say it and move on, she would look us in the eye, say she loved us and mean it. She is a testament to how people with disabilities can perfectly understand and love Jesus. It was so beautiful to see Jesus at work in her life. People with disabilities get underestimated and pushed aside, but each of us are children of God’s and he wants us in his family and has a seat at His table for all. The gospel is simple for me, just like the gospel is simple for Emily*.
As I’m back in school and work I’m applying the lesson I learned at the beginning of the summer, believing the simple gospel. I serve the junior high students where I live and my goal now is: before I talk about reading the Bible to know Jesus, praying to know Jesus, or (God forbid) I say anything regarding that doing the right thing will bring you to Jesus… I’ve begun sharing the most important thing first: Jesus loves us right where we are at no matter what. I’ve learned that is the “why” behind everything in our relationship with Him.