By Jasmine, Summer Intern at Willowtree
I Can’t Do It
Having worked with at-risk youth before, I thought I knew what to expect while running a camp for these kids. I had hoped to use the skills I gained through my education and experience in teaching to make an impact on these kids. I had many ideas for activities and structure that would “change” the kids. I know the importance of structure, routine and consistency for at-risk youth who lack much of that at home and so, I strived to implement ideas that would make the environment perfect for the kids’ development.
To my disappointment, it definitely didn’t produce the results I expected. The kids don’t respond well to rules and unlike most classrooms, which may have a few “misbehaving” kids, all the campers had a hard time following the rules. My expectations and hopes were shattered within the first 2 weeks of camp as I lost patience quickly. I had a hard time getting respect from the kids and I didn’t feel like I could “teach” them at all. And as a matter of fact, I think that was exactly what God was telling me. I can’t change them and so I should stop expecting that I can make a difference. Moving forward, I started to learn what it means to rely on God and to lay our burdens on Him. Instead of yelling at the kids when they don’t listen and feeling very frustrated with their disobedience, I practiced praying and asking God to change their hearts. Surely, God changed my attitude at work. He allowed me to serve joyfully and to experience His work, and not my own.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Is This How I Make You Feel?
The shift in attitude fueled me to continue serving. However, as the weeks passed, I slowly started getting tired of repeating the same things over and over again to the same kids. I was always telling them to stop bullying each other, to stop fighting, to be loving, to forgive . . . yet, over and over they couldn’t do what was right. Their ungratefulness and demanding tone began to drain me as I served them daily. I couldn’t understand how they could be so entitled to the free resources given to them as part of camp. We served them breakfast, planned activities, crafts and even brought them on trips. All this wasn’t enough. They always wanted more, and we never did enough. We couldn’t get as much as a “thank you” as we served them pancakes every morning. It was really upsetting.
This is, however, when God revealed to me my biggest challenge as a Christian. I too, like the kids, am not thankful for what God has given me. He has given me my family, friends, education, a comfortable life, and the greatest of all, my salvation. I always ask for more. I am not thankful for what He has done and all these free gifts He has given me. I find it hard to genuinely say, “Thank you God. I owe everything to you.” He keeps telling me to look to Him, to rely on Him, to love Him wholeheartedly, but I don’t listen. Like the kids, I feel entitled to what God graciously gave to me. I want everything to be about me and what I want. As I learned to show love and grace to the kids, I began to understand the magnitude of God’s love more when I experienced how difficult it was to love people who didn’t listen. God is so patient with me even when I am so selfish. Instead of being frustrated, I hope that I will continue to see God’s love more and be grateful and amazed by all that He has done.
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6)
This summer is Jasmine's first time interning at Willowtree. Jasmine decided to serve at Sonshine Day Camp because she has a growing passion for at-risk youth. She has begun to see the brokenness in her community and she hopes to be a messenger to those who have yet to know Christ.