It was simultaneously the most exhausting and fulfilling summer of my short life, and I am unbelievably grateful.
Passport Camp is a Christian, ecumenical mission experience for youth in middle and high schools which strive to provide opportunities for campers to have fresh encounters with Christ. Not by prosthelytizing, but by loving and serving without boundaries.
Our theme this summer was Life Together based on the book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, all about community and how we should live for one another. Focusing on this theme was transformative for the campers and for the staffers. I had a bible study of about 20 youth from different youth groups from different parts of the country, and would watch as they were able to actively unpack the idea of community; they built trust and loved each other as if they had been life long friends. Each day we would go out into the community and work on a mission site, and for the first three weeks of the summer my group was with Ms. Simmons.
This beautiful, 70-something woman had been living in her home in Macon, Georgia for 43 years where she had raised five boys. We partnered with her each day to scrape lead paint, caulk, and repaint, but I think she ended up serving us more than we could have ever given. Her kind and giving spirit was so humbling and infused 110 degree days in the sun with joy and laughter.
As youth from different places physically and emotionally joined together with each other and with Ms. Simmons to love and serve, the power of God’s love and acceptance for all was evident.
The staff. My life has been changed by experiencing this community. This group of people who were strangers at the beginning of the summer came to know and accept each other like no other community I had ever experienced… Hey I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my life, friend, so let’s live together and love like crazy. That basically equals this group of incredible people and our summer.
Wise, new friends taught me many things:
1. Don’t let your situation change the status of your heart.
2. You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone. Ever.
3. Laughter is healing.
4. God works in spite of us and through our brokenness.
And much, much more.
Obviously, I feel great passion for the empowerment of girls, and know that working towards the rights of women and girls is a calling of mine, but I always struggled with that calling in relation to my faith. Did I want to be a Christian in this time when many churches and Christians do not act out their faith in love, but with sexism, discrimination, and intolerance? And what about God and the biblically ever present “He” pronoun… If God is a man, what does that say about gender relations? These are questions that I wrestled with and did not know the answer to.
What I realized this summer was that Jesus loved without discrimination and so should we. Jesus accepted and loved in spite of age old difference without regard to gender. God is bigger than gender and calls us to seek justice and equality for ALL of God’s people. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, still struggle and question, but with the awareness that God is in the journey, walking, running, skipping, and crawling with me every step of the way.
This semester is going to be awesome. New stories and videos of girls changing the world and of people working for justice. Living life together with new and old friends, working to love without bounds, and trying to see with eyes that perceive needs and take action.