I had worked several summers as recreation director at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallman Mississippi. These were some of the best years of my life and I enjoyed every moment. It was the first taste of ministry that I had and although I was pretty young in my faith, God used this time to move me along the path greatly. I still look back on those years, use them in sermons and remember them fondly. One of the memories that I think about quite often is the week Matt came to camp.
On Sunday night, Matt’s youth director came and told us about Matt. Matt was a large boy (much bigger for his age than most kids). He also had an arm that was not form correctly and was curved over. This made him carry it in an awkward way. He also didn’t walk like the normal child. He would shuffle along. Matt was coming to Jr. High camp and his youth director was concerned about how the other kids might treat him and we promised that we would keep an eye on it.
Monday morning came and so did Matt. He also got put into the “cool cabin”. I have worked close to 50 weeks of camp in my life and for the life of me, there is always one “cool cabin” that all the “cool” boys get put in. It’s never done intentionally but it just seems to happen. This was the cabin that Matt was assigned.
It didn’t take long for the jokes and laughing to begin and it went downhill pretty fast. That night, the staff made a decision that if something hadn’t changed by lunch the next day, we were going to intervene and it might mean sending some boys home. We spent time in prayer and asked God to work in this situation especially if we had to send people home.
The next morning, we began to witness what I can only describe as a miracle. The “cool guys” in the cabin had a change of heart and all of a sudden they were Matt’s best friends. No one in camp picked on Matt and if they did, they had to deal with that whole cabin of boys. Volleyball was big that year and Matt really couldn’t play because of his arm, but he could use it to grip the ball to serve it. So, they made him All-Time Server and rotated around him. By the end of the day, Matt was the most popular kid in camp.
On the last night of camp after the dance (we’re Methodist and we can dance), I noticed Matt sitting in the back of the room by himself during the worship service. He had tears in his eyes and I asked him what was wrong. He told me nothing was wrong but I probed a little bit more until he said, “This has been the best week of my life. It has been the first time people have treated me like a human being and not like an animal.” I cried with him.
It was during this week that I witnessed God working through some Jr. High boys and then onto a camp of other youths to impact this young mans life. We as Christians are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. To reach out to those who no one is reaching out to. To love those who are unloveable. To eat with the person in the cafeteria that is dining alone. When we do those things we are becoming more like Christ.