All we need is love… and grace

Day Camp 2014 is now over. The amount of stress I experienced never reached an overwhelming level, but I sure had my fair share of angry outbursts. Patience is a virtue, yet it has never been a strong trait of mine. I’m glad there’s grace for that.

As the weeks went by, I started to see an issue with the church leaders who were, supposedly, advising us as directors along the way. In the entire five weeks that Anthony and I have been there, we’ve seen the oldest two pastors perhaps an average of one time per pastor, and the youth pastor overseeing our program perhaps about three times for the duration of camp, with all three times during the last three days of camp. Wendi, the church administrator (a fancier title for the secretary who does everything – seriously, thank God for Wendi), was the only church staff consistently at camp. So much for support from the church staff, yeah? On the days that Wendi went on vacation, Anthony and I were the only leaders on site.

Then there are the demands from the older generation at church to do this, clean that, make this work, improve this, etc. How many of them have actually stepped into the church during day camp hours and watched what the counselors and staff have to do to make the program run smoothly? How many of them can stand with us and say, “I saw you guys working hard, and I appreciate all your hard work.” I’m saying this for all my counselors whom these same church members have deemed “immature” and “unfit as leaders.” I can understand that at that age, they may not have the best problem-solving skills or judgment calls due to their lack of experience, but wouldn’t that be the perfect age for older church members to come in and advise them with love and grace? Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for communication between the older generation and the younger generation at church? Now that I think about it, how many of the older church members actually know the youth involved in the program?

Perhaps I have no real reason to vent. Maybe our lack of church staff on site is their way of saying, “Hey, we trust you both as directors to lead them well.” If this is true, then I appreciate that, and I’m glad they can trust us to a certain degree, but what I’m talking about here is a lack of support. Church leaders started this program, assigned us to the director positions, and simply pushed us out of the birds’ nest and expected us to fly. We received no explanation or guidance regarding what to do… and to be honest, they probably didn’t know what was required of this director position. The one person from the Children’s Education (CE) Board who showed up every day to help us was Auntie Eva; she volunteered (she does so every year, also because her children are in the program), but no one else did. This could be why I have huge respect for her and am willing to take constructive criticism from her. However, criticism from other church members who watch us from afar and point their fingers at us from a distance will be heard but taken in begrudgingly.

About a day ago, Anthony and I got an email from our youth pastor titled “Mess in the kitchen,” complete with pictures of a messy kitchen taken by the Square and Circle Club (who are they anyway?). Apparently, on the last day of camp, we forgot to check the kitchen to clean up, and the club members discovered the mess the next morning and was very upset, taking pictures and sending them to our youth pastor as proof. I know this was an oversight on our part as directors, so I was more than willing to apologize and take responsibility for it, but what upset me was 1) this was the first email we got from our youth pastor after the end of our program to tell us what a mess we made on the last day, telling us how we basically had a “clean record” up until the last day, and 2) how many of these people in the Square and Circle Club (and other church clubs included) cared to ask / talk about our program, our children, and our staff just to check in, when oftentimes, the only correspondence we receive from these people are complaints and disapproving remarks?

I am fighting for the program and the staff, because this program meant the world to me growing up. It is absolutely unfair that this program, meant to show love to the children in the Chinatown community, has been duly noted as one of our church programs but lack so much personal investment from the church community. I want to see more church leadership involved in the program. I want them to know what goes on in the church classrooms so they can share what God’s doing in the building from a first-person experience rather than from probing stories out of the youth. I want church leaders to be familiar with everything that the directors, counselors, and staff are called to do so they have no doubt the responsibilities the day camp staff must uphold every day of the program. I want them to know that as young students with developing minds, counselors and volunteers have a lot of pressure to “perform” for the sake of the church elders’ approval, when they should be more concerned with properly loving and caring for the children in the program. The youth need to know that people in the church, especially the older folks, care about them and what’s going on in the program; they deserve at least that.

But of course, there’s grace for all of this, and I only hope that we as the younger generation can start a new conversation (or continue an ongoing one) with the older generation to bridge this gap that we’ve created over the years. We need more community in this place we call our church. We need more love and grace for one another. We need more Jesus in this place.

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