I've been sitting here at my home dining room table thanking God for the powerful and important VBS/Soccer Camp that occurred through my faith community last week. There are many things I would like to share with you about the camp, important things because they are formational…in other words, these deliberate actions by the people in our faith community are shaping what God is enabling us to become as followers of Jesus.
You might be familiar with the following illustration:
It took us as leaders of Peace over a year to attempt to recast the vision of how God wants to shape each of us as His followers. We diligently prayed, discussed, engaged in discussions with people in our faith community and read books and articles in an effort to discover anew the purposes of God. We have passionately embraced a desire to become more and more like Jesus…to be discipled and to disciple others. We have attempted to communicate numerous times our desire to reflect the nature and character of God…a God we worship and serve…a God who uniquely revealed Himself in a "triune" manner…a God who created US in His image to do the same.
It shouldn't be a surprise to you that many of the things that MOST faith communities are about has to do with purely the "UP" value. There's nothing wrong with that…unfortunately, over time, this value causes even the most faithful of communities to get inward, self-righteous and stuck. There are communities that emphasize the other values…each, without the others, leads to problems that can best be summarized this way – NOT being faithful to the call and mission of God.
There are few events within the life of Peace @ Monroe that span and embrace ALL three values that capture the essence of who we are called to be as followers of Jesus. VBS/Soccer Camp is probably THE ONE "thing" we do where ALL THREE values are at play. Children gather for worship and study through bible verses and biblical/revealed/and personal TRUTH (Jesus) on a daily basis…children play together and build relationships with one another. The staff of VBS mentors children in what it means to "love" even in the midst of competition and stress. And finally, VBS/Soccer camp gives us as a faith community to embed ourselves deeply in our community for NO OTHER REASON than simply to love and give grace as we have been loved and "graced" by God. It is true – each of those values were lived out last week – we as a faith community faithfully lived what we have affirmed IS our identity. For that, I'm thankful!
Financially, we invested a lot (at least for OUR faith community) in VBS/Soccer Camp. You should know that roughly 1% of our total budget at Peace was used for the event. In other words, $1500 was invested out of congregational funds to bring VBS/Soccer Camp into existence. In addition to the donations and special gifts of the children and others, we roughly broke even in our debits vs. credits. As I reviewed the financial report, we ended up about $30.00 in the "red". The "participation costs per child" stood at $21.00. We asked for a $10 "donation" for each child knowing we would be subsidizing the effort. Even so, we did the following with every bit of personal and financial investment:
- Involved over 125 kids in our Camp
- Daily fed breakfast to approximately 125 people – feeding members of our community
- We were VISIBLY present in the city of Monroe through our camp at the Elementary School
- We generously did not charge a dime for the Camp but allowed people who were able and willing to give to do so
- We gave each child a soccer ball, water bottle and a t-shirt that they will wear and use for months to come
- We worked with an adult staff of over 35 people – women and men who gave sacrificially of their time and talent to feed the kids…young adults and teens who daily gave of their time and energy to supervise and teach soccer to kids…and a leadership team that organized and administrated an event that has a "life" of its own.
- Over 30% of the children involved came from the Hispanic community in Monroe…word spread quickly throughout that community.
- We had children from many faith backgrounds present
So, that's the report I wanted to give you…as I stated above, we did something significant last week…in fact, it is as significant of an event as any worship experience or any other experience we do at Peace. It made me proud and humbled to know that we were living and acting as followers of Jesus…engaging the community and loving people WITHOUT expecting anything in return. It is that seed of God's love that will bear fruit…whether it bears fruit in "our garden" in terms of worship attendance, who knows. That's God's business…we are called to simply GO and be faithful and let the results be up to the Spirit. I'll stop with these words – you should have seen the faces of the children last week when they held out their hands and hearts and simply received…whether it was food, a gift or an expression of love! It was truly a miracle indeed!