When I was about 10 years old, my parents sent me off to church camp, like so many Brook Hills parents did just a little over a week ago. I was a typical pastor’s kid. The first word I remember saying was “repent!” (seriously), and I could crush anyone in Bible trivia. But I was also a camp counselor’s worst nightmare. My main goal that week of camp was to get as much attention and as many laughs as I could. Every rule could be stretched, every song was an opportunity to be silly, and every lesson needed a funny punch-line. The last night of camp ended with a testimony time where kids could share how God was working in their lives. I went to the microphone, said something ridiculous, and then laughed hysterically at myself until the camp director gently held me by the shoulder and led me off the stage. My “faith” was all in my head, not in my heart.
I was not any better for my Sunday School and VBS teachers. I’m sure I sent some of them home in tears. But that season of indifference and self-centeredness was not the end of God’s story for me. Several years after that infamous camp testimony time, God began to take the things that I had learned and began to breathe new life into me through them. The songs that had been only an opportunity for silliness, now began to well up in praise inside my heart. The lessons I had giggled through, now came alive in my soul. The verses I knew only as a badge of pride, now crushed me and pointed me to a glorious Savior. God used the very ordinary means of discipleship in the past to do something very extraordinary in my life.
I have thought about this many times over the last few years as I have served with the Brook Hills Kids ministry. Sometimes ministry seems fruitful and exciting, but often times it seems very ordinary and unimpressive. I’ve had the opportunity to chaperone BH Kids camp for the last three years. A lot of people have thanked me for my “willingness to serve," sharing a “rustic” cabin with kids who don’t sleep. But, let’s be honest, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year. If you need someone to do handstand contests with the girls, ANNIHILATE a group of boys in Ga-Ga ball (just kidding guys, I’ll get you next time!), or do a cannonball into the lake, I’m in!
The theme of camp this year was “Snap In,” from John 15:1-5. The kids were challenged during big group worship services and small group Bible studies not to rely on the faith of their parents, but to make their faith their own. During some of these times the kids were laser-focused and engaged in meaningful discussion. And by His grace, we are seeing some immediate fruit! A young man came back with a desire to read God’s Word for the first time, a young lady shared her testimony with her friends, and a group of friends saw relationships healed.
But many of the Bible study times included things like asking Johnny FOR THE TENTH TIME to stop punching his friend, or trying to triage Sally’s suddenly urgent rash. Sometimes the questions they asked made us wonder if they were paying attention at all. Our investment in them seems very ordinary and unimpressive. But we believe that God’s Word will not return void! His work does not begin or end with us. In the small victories that we see from weeks like this, and from the seasons of waiting when we see no fruit, we have the hope that God will use the ordinary to do the extraordinary in His time.
Danielle Renstrom is married to Daniel and is the mother of three girls, Bennett (12), Eden (10), and Mercy (9). Their family has been at Brook Hills since April 2016.