I got caught in a downpour on my way home; one of those summer afternoon storms that soaks everything it touches. I’ve lived in Tennessee for fourteen years and I’m still amazed at how the thunder echoes across the mountains. Walking in the house, surrendered to the fact I couldn’t avoid getting wet, I found myself thinking, “This is camp rain.”
I cannot tell you how many summer afternoons we spent at youth camp with the same warm, soaking rain falling out of the skies. Sometimes we played in it, dancing around, maybe even getting a little muddy. Other times I can recall sitting in a cabin, eating smuggled snacks, talking (usually about boys) with the best girls I knew. There are so many great memories I have of being at camp. Actually, so many good memories of being in my youth group.
I had an incredible, crazy-cool, youth group experience. I’m not saying there weren’t rough patches or that everyone got along or that we liked all the changes or programs introduced along the way. But I am saying, I was a very blessed girl to be along for the ride.
Growing up, I was a fairly studious, pretty quiet kid. I had a few close friends but I lived in a world of books. I was comfortable there. I could easily entertain myself for hours. And I did, past my bedtime and wound up being grounded from reading. Yeah, I was that kid. So, when my family moved right before I started seventh grade, I was not happy about it. I did not have a good attitude. It wasn’t so much that we were moving as it was I would have to make new friends- and I was not very good at that. I hadn’t had a lot of practice. I was in the same school with the same kids from first through sixth grade. I never had to meet new kids at church for most of that time. When you are one of the pastor’s kids, everyone gets introduced to you. You are the one who knows the drill and helps the new kid meet everyone else. Plus, I’ve always been what people could consider shy (and I consider taking-my-time-wanting-to-know-if-these-are-people-I want-to-know-my-life-story) around new people.
So, there I was, in a new town, terrified I wouldn’t have any friends. I cried about it a lot. But school started and slowly I met people. Some of them I liked a lot and hoped we could be friends. Time after time, when these new people told me where they went to church they said the same name. My family started church shopping. It wasn’t an easy thing for my parents to find a place that they liked that was also a good fit for their kids ages: 13, 11, 9, and 5. After months of searching, we finally ended up walking into the doors of the place that most of my school friends claimed as their own. During the week after my first visit, an amazing lady and a couple of the students showed up at our house to welcome me and tell me more about the programs for students. I wasn’t home at the time, but their visit made me excited and I think it helped my parents know this would be a good place for me. God knew I needed this youth group.