originally published July 15
I’m sure you’ve run into a few youth groups on trips this summer, at rest stops, MacDonalds… or hospitals… and you may have wondered what was going through the minds of the adults that are with them. I just spent a week at Catholic HEART workcamp (affectionately abbreviated to “CHWC”) with sixteen teens and two brave adult chaperones. We slept on the floor, ate cafeteria food and spent hours each day serving the community through various painting, repair and yardwork projects. We had a blast and of course I twittered the whole time since nowadays, texting people about how much fun you’re having is the only way to authenticate it. I thought I’d share the highlights for those of you who might not be up on micro-blogging and would like to see shapshots of the week, in 140 characters or less:
Saturday: prepping for CHWC camp which we jet-set off for in about 20 hours.... I'm so g-l-a-m-o-r-o-u-s.... the Fergie of youth ministry. You heard me. Fergie. I’m so 3008, you’re so 2000 and late.
Traded my civic for a minivan this week. I am a soccer mom poser. So much for being Fergie. She probably does not jet-set off in a minivan. However, Fergie does not drive 7 high school students, which I am doing. Are we there yet?
Sunday: After a week with middle schoolers... I have a middle school work group at CHWC... There's a lesson here. Patience. Lots of patience. Part of the process of this week is that they put everyone, including adult leaders, with people they don’t know. Our team is made up of sixth and seventh graders and one other adult. We’ve been assigned to an assisted living center to do yard work, painting and power washing. I have just spent a week with middle school students at Bible Camp and have witnessed first-hand their concentration abilities. I’m trying to stay optimistic about their ability to focus through landscaping two developments.
Monday: One of my teens forgot his toothbrush and asked if I would get “the cheapest guys toothbrush”. When did toothbrushes get gender specific? His friends were at the store with me. They picked out a Barbie toothbrush. He refused it. Not sure how this story ended, but he still had all his teeth by the end of the trip.
10:39 p.m. Whoever is chaperoning the boys in the next room better regulate their kid's noise levels or prepare to come to Jesus at breakfast... Come to find out they were playing dodgeball. At 10:39 p.m. The victims were lined up on the wall they shared with us. Where do youth get their energy?
Tuesday: It's taco Tuesday at CHWC which is up there with shark week when it comes to meaningless yet amazing holidays. Tacos are always served for dinner on Tuesday, it’s gone from being a menu item to an all-out holiday complete with sombreros and theme music. Never have tortillas with a spoonful of meat in them brought about such pomp and circumstance.
10:21 p.m. Two whole days into camp... And I'm only holding two confiscated phones. They’re learning. I am the ultimate fun-stealer, but I take away cell phones when the kids use them at times that they’re supposed to be paying attention to talks or programs. They act like they’re dying at first, but deep down, I think they’re finding communicating in person to be its own reward.
Wednesday: we've been at an assisted living home. Its putting life in perspective. Today, lets appreciate walking, eating and dressing independently. I stand corrected about the abilities of my team—they’ve been doing a great job power washing, painting and planting at the request of the residents. We’ve also had a chance to visit with the residents and talking to them is both inspirational and full of personal challenges. Many of them have told us some neat stories about their lives, their hobbies and the advantages of winning bingo (20 wins gets you $5). However, there have also been pieces of advice such as “use those legs while you still can… enjoy your food while you can still feed yourself… I was married to my best friend for 40 years. You kids find that too…” Being here has reminded me that we all have a terminal illness—it’s called life. How are you spending yours?
4:45 p.m. “I just used your hair dryer to dry my feet”... -one of my teens tells me as I walk into our room. I don’t know how to further elaborate. I’m not even sure why her feet were wet.
Thursday: Last day of work. You know what I've noticed? Middle schoolers wear lots of orthodontia. It makes them spit. Especially when they’re excited, which we are since it’s our last day of work! We landscaped, painted and visited but most importantly I watched kids who, despite their awkward orthodontia and initial discomfort at being in an unfamiliar place with new people, were able to be Christ’s hands and feet and love to the community they were sent to. I’m very proud of them.
Catholic HEART Workcamp is located in Jasper County this week so if you see a group of teens out doing servive projects in our community. If you see them, be sure to yell “Holy C.O.W.!” (Catholics Out Working!) and appreciate that these kids have given up a week of their summer to sleep on a floor, eat tacos and use Barbie tooth brushes… And know if the adult’s hair smells like feet… you know why.